Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, one of the great Jewish leaders and thinkers of modern times, asks us to take notice of a strange incident in the days of Moshe. After Moshe left Egypt with a multitude of people, his father-in-law, Yitro, criticized him for the way he was administrating the Israelites. “‘What is this that you are doing to the people? Why do you sit alone and all the people stand around you from morning until evening? And Moshe responded to his father-in-law: ‘It is because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they are solicitous about any matter they come before me, and I decide between one person and another, and I make known the laws and the teachings of God.’ But Moshe’s father-in-law said to him: ‘What you are doing is not right, you will surely wear yourself out and these people as well.'” (Shemoth 18:13-21)
Religious and Secular Morality
When discussing matters related to the ethical or religious foundation of sexual behavior, human beings tend to have severe differences of opinion. While up till the second half of the 20th century a more conservative approach was still prevailing, a radical change took place in the second half of the last century. Well established norms were suddenly challenged and often replaced by radical approaches which demanded more “liberty” and “broadmindedness.” This provoked a major confrontation between the conservatives and those who claimed that they were “modern-minded.”
Tolerance and Personal Conscience
In our days, the word, tolerance, has become a highly popular word together with such terms as pluralism and democracy. These words are by now so often used that one would hope that most people have a proper understanding of their meanings. This is, however, far from true. In fact, it seems that the more these words appear in our papers, books or in conversations, the less they seem to be comprehended. Often they are used in ways which oppose the very values they stand for.
Tolerance and Dialogue
In a previous essay on Tolerance, attention was drawn to the fact that personal conscience is of prime value and that one should not confuse tolerance with apathy. For this reason, Orthodoxy’s refusal to compromise on its own principles so as to appease the Reform and Conservative movements should only be honored and respected. Even unity cannot always be the final arbiter.
The Mystery of the Second Day Yom Tov
One of the most puzzling laws in Halacha (Jewish Law) is the requirement to observe a second day Yom Tov (festival) in all Jewish Communities outside the land of Israel.