Got Religion? The Challenge of Religion in 21st Century America

Got_Religion

The first synagogue to take root in North America more than 350 years ago was Congregation Shearith Israel. This community of Sephardic Jews hailing from the Spanish-Portuguese community came with their deeply held beliefs of how the world works, how communities are formed and how they are maintained and began to earnestly set out to repeat that pattern on the shores of the Atlantic. Yet, something was very different here than it was in any other context that the Jews had lived in before. The … [Read more...]

History Made Personal: A Book Review of Teach Them Diligently

Wein-diligently

Rabbi Berel Wein is beyond any doubt one of the most profound, prolific and inspired rabbis of the 20th century. I have never learned with him personally or attended any of his lectures but nonetheless I have encountered his teachings throughout my life. Rabbi Wein is a moral voice on societal issues, a contemplator of Jewish history and Jewish destiny and a master educator. It is with that background into the man that I brought with me when I began reading his new autobiography, Teach Them … [Read more...]

Don’t Pray, Communicate! A Book Review of Holistic Prayer

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To understand the newest book by Rabbi Avi Weiss one needs to tell a story that appears in the book, Holistic Prayer: A rabbi was once informed that a crazed woman was in the beit midrash (the study hall, which is sometimes used as a small prayer room). "She is standing in front of the Ark, the Ark is open, and she is babbling and gesturing wildly," he was told. "She seems to be mentally imbalanced. Perhaps you can go in and help her. The rabbi went in. As he sat quietly in the back, he could … [Read more...]

The Righteous Mind

The Righteous Mind

I recently finished reading Professor Jonathan Haidt's new book The Righteous Mind and found it to be utterly fascinating. The objective of the book is to present readers with a nuanced psychologically based reason for why people of good will and character differ so sharply and so strongly on critical issues. He specifically draws our attention to the subjects of religion and politics but his theory could be applied to any subject on which people passionately and vigorously disagree. This is … [Read more...]

The Hunger Games and Divine Concealment

hunger-games

Many have written in recent days about the wildly popular new movie The Hunger Games based on the book series of the same name. There have been those who have written about it from a political perspective and those who have analyzed it from an artistic perspective, and of course, those who have viewed it from a religious lens. In regards to the latter category, many Jewish writers have focused in on its connection to the holiday of Passover, which we are currently in the midst of it. The story … [Read more...]

Abraham and Biblical Intertextuality

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Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot has published a remarkable new book Mikra and Meaning (Maggid Books, 2012) in which he demonstrates his tremendous fluency with the Biblical text and his mastery of the rabbinic tradition surrounding it. Each chapter takes the reader on an adventure exploring the intricate and varied ways of understanding the narratives presented in Tanach and plumbing the depths of the tradition for layers upon layers of meaning. I had the distinct privilege of studying under Rabbi … [Read more...]


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