Rabbi Dostai bar Yannai said, in the name of Rabbi Meir: ”Whoever forgets [even] one word of his [Torah] learning, the Scripture considers him worthy of death.” But why should a person’s failure to remember a detail of Torah that he learned be considered proof that he forgot what he had seen with his own eyes when he stood at Sinai?
The Sages made a number of remarkable observations concerning beauty. The Torah commands the urban planners in Israel to leave 1000 amot (cubits) of untilled land around each of the cities to be given to the Levites, allowing nature to manifest its beauty. The Sages further mandate that one must remove all unseemly objects, and even not plant trees in the immediate vicinity of a city, to ensure that the landscape will always be pleasing.
Beauty – whether in nature, art, or music – can calm us when we are stressed, or inspire our creativity and spur us on to great accomplishments. Jewish educators should encourage our children to study and appreciate natural beauty, art, and music. This should be done within the framework of the school and home, with emphasis on the religious significance of the aesthetic experience. With the proper perspective, visiting an art museum, or taking a walk in the woods, can effect real spiritual growth.
Now that the Supreme Court of the United States has legalized same-sex marriage, we need to ask ourselves why there has never been any discussion about other illegal sexual relationships, such as incest, and why a union as obvious as a heterosexual marriage is actually permitted. This question may sound very strange, even disturbing and shocking, but it is one of the most profound questions we must ask. Doing so will help us understand what is behind the fierce debate that is now taking place concerning the Supreme Court’s decision.
We are currently living in a transitional phase of monumental proportions and far-reaching consequences. Our religious beliefs are being challenged as never before. We are forced to our knees due to extreme shifts and radical changes in scientific discoveries; our understanding of the origins of our holy texts; our belief in God; the meaning of our lives; and the historical developments of our tradition. We find ourselves on the precipice, and it is becoming more and more of a balancing act not to fall off the cliff.
Being religious is fraught with danger. Man is often pulled in directions where he can easily break his neck. To be religious is to allow your neshama (soul) to surpass your body, taking the latter to places where it cannot dwell and is asked to commit suicide.