As mentioned in our last essay (here) the Torah is not a text to be read as a book—rather, it is to be seen as a divine “notebook” containing succinct summaries of a greater lecture or series of lectures. Moshe first heard the lecture in its “sum total” when God delivered a series of lectures […]
The text of the Torah can be quite misleading when read in a vacuum. The casual reader may encounter what he deems to be errors, stylistic inconsistencies, grammar and linguistic anomalies, and more.
However, prior knowledge – and primarily a basic understanding of what the Torah text truly is and what the goals of its divine author are – are the keys to properly understanding any and every word of the sacred text.
Winter – bleak, dreary and cold – often has a negative effect on our moods and even outlooks. The message of Sukkot, The Festival of Tabernacles, must be continued into this period of darkness and, indeed, into our lives.
The Sukkah is a structure that is quite plain and feeble by definition and requirement, and yet it interior and significance are tremendously beautiful and solid. Our lives can be greatly enriched and understood and even assigned deep purpose when we understand the Sukkah.
Traveling through a desert is journeying through a lonely place, completely forsaken. There is neither food nor water, nor any other form of sustaining substance. There is only the unbearable sun and its heat. There is no grass and there are no trees. The only signs of life are deadly snakes and scorpions. In a […]
I was asked to eulogize an acquaintance from my childhood and youth in Holland—the mother of friends of mine. As I prepared the eulogy, I realized how much she and her family, and other devout Christians I knew, had influenced me. Despite the clear and definite differences between our religious outlooks, their sincerity and intent inspire me.
Serving in the Israel Defense Forces is an act like no other. It is an act that serves the State of Israel and all its citizens, the Jewish People, and all of mankind.
Moreover, the soldiers serving in Israel’s army are entirely enveloped by the army – their entire bodies and beings are involved in this sacred task.
Words on my Grandsons Enlisting in the Israeli Defense Forces – the tremendous significance of the Israel Defense Forces surpasses the mere defense of Israel’s citizens. The joy and honor of joining Israel’s army relate to 4,000 years of Jewish history, morals, and ethics, and the universal good.
A private response to the many who asked for illumination concerning my personal religious struggles Coming from a totally secular background, like I did, has many challenges and drawbacks, and yet, also some great advantages. When I became interested in Judaism, at 14-15 years old, it was not an easy time—neither for my parents, my […]
A God Who is good, yet the existence of evil, is an age-old dilemma. Authentic faith leads to questions and even indignation at perceived injustices. It is the true believer who reacts to realities that seem unjust and that result in suffering – remaining complacent is unacceptable! Simultaneously, one must remember the very little he can fathom about our world.
When I met my Dutch atheistic friend, who I discussed previously (The Blessing of the Religious Atheist in Haarlem), in the city of Haarlem several times after I had met him in the synagogue, he became very outspoken. It was clear that his observations were expressed with great sincerity and with an ongoing respect for […]
At the age of 15 when I first experienced observant Judaism, I encountered the anomaly of the observant non-believer. After approaching this person to discuss his views, his perspective enlightened me and accompanies me to this day.
Non-belief does not dictate complete severance from everything that is Jewish and religious – in fact the non-believer has much to gain from Judaism, even as a non-believer!
Approaching the question of the “existence” of God is almost impossible. Western thought and science has successfully analyzed and understood a myriad of aspects of our universe. However, applying these disciplines and proof by empirical evidence when attempting to “prove” anything about the divine proves futile. Were God to be a “thing,” this would not be the case; God is not a “thing.”
Religious experiences can be few and far between. It is essential to translate religious experiences into a significant and lasting realities. All religions are born out of the intense feelings, often panic-filled astonishment, that follow such an experience. Jewish Law is a successful “recipe” for maintaining and incorporating religious experiences into our lives.
Belief in the divine and religiosity most certainly have biological bases, however this does not mean that the biology of the human mind cause belief. The root of religiosity lies outside science and biology, while biology enables us to “tune in” and experience faith.
The bond, a marriage, between the People of Israel and its land stretches far back prior to the Declaration of the State of Israel in 1948. This marriage weathered wars, conquest, and exile – and now more than ever it is our duty to maintain and fortify the relationship of every Jew to the Land of Israel and the Jewish State.
The seder on Pesach night opens with a mysterious practice – dipping a vegetable, “karpas,” in salt water and then eating it. This is done immediately following Kiddush, and just as the recital of the Haggada begins. Why was this practice instituted and what does it teach us about the Exodus? Understanding karpas holds the key to understanding Judaism’s approach to Pesach and the universal significance of the Exodus.
Atheists and agnostics often feel a certain void in their lives, a certain lack of meaning or awareness of something higher, or a different dimension. This is awareness is part of the human condition and is something that offers an opening into the search for meaning.
On beginning the investigation of the “God” concept, one must accept that God cannot be fully grasped: doubt is not merely a “hazard” but an integral and fundamental part of basic belief!
Purim is a festival of tremendous grandeur, splendor… and stupidity! The story of Purim as told in Megillat Esther reveals the arbitrary acts that at once were dangerous and fraught with large risk, and yet concluded as a move of courage and wisdom. Using this unusual strategy can be quite successful in chess…
The Purim story, as depicted in Megillat Esther, is miracle-less. Certainly as the events were unfolding the hand of God is absent, and it is only the keen reader who will identify the divine intervention as the drama that threatened the very existence of the Jewish People unraveled. God’s covert involvement in the world is extremely difficult to ascertain, and yet it surrounds us every moment of every day, and like the Festival of Purim, will be celebrated for all eternity.
The Jewish Calendar is an intricate, complex and complicated system that requires the input of the greatest sages, astronomers and mathematicians in order to have a calendar based on the lunar year yet coincide with the solar calendar and seasons. Seemingly, it would be far simpler to follow either the lunar or solar calendar. The secret of the Jewish calendar is the creation of a constant awareness of God’s presence.