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Showing posts from September, 2012

Yom Kippur 5773: HaMakom

​When Batya and I were first married, we drove across country, from California  (where we had been living for our rabbinic studies) back home to the East Coast.  We stopped on the way for a visit to the Grand Canyon.  There was a ticketing area that exited to a wooded pathway that led to the rim of the canyon.  As we started out on the path, cranky after hours in the car, we got into one of those typical first-year-of-marriage little spats; some disagreement over a petty issue--the kind of disagreements that couples who have been married a few years don’t have anymore.  She wanted to go camping and I wanted to stay in a hotel (I have long since learned, when my wife wants to go camping--we go camping!)  The argument didn’t end quickly.  It got more and more frustrating, and we decided to stop on the pathway and stand off to the side to see if we could just finish the discussion before continuing, so as not to spoil the whole visit.  Well, the argument just didn’t end as quickly as we …

Rosh HaShanah 5773: Are We the Victims?

Last month, an angry group of Jewish teenagers, some as young as 13 years old, brutally attacked and nearly killed a 17 year-old Arab boy right in the middle of Jerusalem.  The Jewish kids were shouting “Death to Arabs.”  While the Arab boy was in critical condition in the hospital, one 15-year-old Jewish suspect said, “For my part, he can die.  He’s an Arab.”  Israel’s vice prime-minister, Bogie Ya’alon, courageously spoke out in response to this attack, deservedly labelling it an act of “terrorism.” These developments are a tragedy.  They are tragic in a way that is deeper than political, ethnic, and ideological divisions.
We all may remember the reports and images a few months back of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men spitting at women and little girls because of their dress, or because they were walking on sidewalks that they had forbidden to women.  Last June, the Sephardi Chief rabbi of Israel declared that Reform and Conservative rabbis--that I--am no better than a terrorist because I a…

Kosher Deceit?

At what point did deceit become kosher in our society? It's true that American political campaigns have a long and ignoble history of finger-pointing and aiming low and twisting the facts. But there's something new afoot. The degree of deceit that is acceptable to us is now vastly greater. Ads and campaign speeches and interviews are full of bold-faced lies. What's new is that in the name of winning and of power, any degree of manipulation of truth is now acceptable. News media organizations that specialize in spinning facts to reflect a political agenda are now mainstream. On the Internet, we can build ourselves up by finding arguments in favor of any idea, despite the validity of the facts. Candidates have figured out that facts matter less than the need to appeal to people's baser fears and angers in order to get votes. We're living in a time that goes overboard with relativism. We have developed a postmodern mind-set after the violent upheavals of the 20th cen…