Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Tzav - Torah Commentary of the Week

This week's Torah portion is Tzav from the book of Leviticus. A powerful commentary on the meaning of the sacrifices and the zealousness with which G-d commands the priests to perfom them is address in a drash by Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger titled "Service As Its Own Reward".

Zil g'mor (go forth and study)

Saturday, March 27, 2004

On Same-Sex Marriage

An excellent article on the question of Same-Sex Jewish marriage by Rabbi Dr. David Ellenson, was recently published. In it, he addresses the various halakhic issues around same-sex marriage and some of the common responses to homosexuality (including an approach to Leviticus 18:22).

Jewish Week

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Palestinians using children with disabilities to be suicide bombers

According to Ha'aretz, this morning a 14-year-old Palestinian boy with learning disabilites was discovered with a 16-pound bomb strapped to his body. For sacrificing his life, he was paid the equivalent of $20.

This is so sad. So sad. Clearly, the situation is very complicated and some on both sides feel desparate. However, is this really the Palestinians' best course of action? No. With the right leaders and the courage of they and their people, peace IS possible. Okay, enough of a sermon-bit from me. Here are some Palestinian reactions'

Here is his family's reaction:
"The family of the boy said he was mentally slow. "He doesn't know anything," his brother, Hosni, said. "He has the brain of a 12-year-old."
His mother, Tamam, told Haaretz yesterday evening that her son had "been exploited and manipulated." She said she could not understand how adults could do this. Her son had left the house in the morning and told her he was going to school, she said, "but afterwards I heard from other pupils he did not come and they didn't know where he disappeared." She said she had no idea with whom he had spent the morning.
"Those who persuaded him to do this must be punished because this is against our beliefs, and we are responsible for him," she said." (from Ha'aretz)

Here is what a Palestinian activist said:
"Dr Said Zidani, director of the Palestinian Organization for Human Rights in Ramallah said last night: "I don't know all the details but I am not surprised that children copy the adults who do such deeds. At all events, as a minor, the boy is not responsible. My personal position is clear: I'm against hurting Israeli or Palestinian civilians and against suicide bombers, adult or minor. But this is a crazy case and anyone who sends a child to carry out a bombing must be punished and the media, schools and organizations must condemn this vehemently."" (from Ha'aretz)

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

On the Yassin killing

As you probably know by now, yesterday Israel killed the founder and head of Hamas, Sheik Yassin. Many people have blogged about it and what it means. I've also been reading news reports and some emails (private) from colleagues who are rabbis in Israel. The consensus from them is that this assasination may well prove to be a big mistake. Was Yassin an evil man personally responsible for the deaths of nearly 400 Israelis? Yes. But, the waves of violence in retailation for this attack may be much much worse. Somehow, perhaps with G-d's help, the leaders of Israel, the Palestinians (hopefully some effective leaders will take power soon) and the US will stop being so stuck in the you-kill-one-of-mine-I-get-to-kill-2-of-yours mentality. This mentality is not only unproductive but immoral.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Torah Commentary - Parashat Vayakeil Pekudei

This week's Torah portion is a double one, Vayakeil Pekudei.
The following commentary is from Rabbi Bruce Kadden and titled "FROM B’NEI YISRAEL (THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL)

Here is an excerpt,

"Exodus begins by recalling B’nei Yisrael, the sons of Jacob, who came to Egypt, each with his household. Although brothers, they were clearly a disparate group, no doubt still bearing the grudges and conflicts that nearly tore their family apart in Canaan. Dina and her family are not even mentioned. Were they left behind or just ignored?

"Now, at the end of Exodus, and for the second time in the Torah, the people are called Beit Yisrael, the “House of Israel.” During the relatively short time they have been wandering in the wilderness, they have already been transformed from B’nei Yisrael to Beit Yisrael, from individuals who happened to share a common history (and some—such as the “mixed multitude” who left Egypt with them—who did not) to a community with a common destiny. They will still have disagreements, conflicts, and even significant rebellions, but nothing that happens can undermine or destroy their fundamental identity as a community, the identity of being Beit Yisrael."

You can find the full text here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


Okay, I am proud that Israel has a high life expectancy. But, Isarel (like other countries) has a problem with domestic violence and abuse. Fortunately, the Knesset’s Domestic Violence Committee seems to be doing somthing about it.

So, it seems to be a mixed news day with things looking up.

Guess: Longer life expentancy in Israel or United States?

Really. Guess.
What do you think?

Life expentancy in Israel is 79.4 years - 14th in the world.
Life expentancy in the US is 77.1 years. (This particular stat. source.)

Overal health score of Israel is 16th in the world and the US is 17th.

I learned about this from Ma'ariv International.

You can read a PDF version of the entire report (except USA state cited elsewhere) here.

Israel also ranked 29th in the mortality rate of children under 5. Israel’s population growth ranked 34th at 3.9% per year with a birthrate of 2.77.

Go Israel!!

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Death Again

Sadly, there was another double so-called suicide bombing in Israel today, killing at least 10 people.

May G-d bring speedy healing to the wounded, comfort to the bereaved and heavenly grace to the murdered.

Some time soon all violence, assault and war must end. May it be soon.

Coming together a year and a bit after the Columbia disaster

Ma'ariv tells of a beautiful visit by the families of the Columbia astronauts to Israel. Apparently, while they were in orbit, they made a pact to visit each other's hometowns/countries.

May their sharing with each other inspire all of us to learn from our friends, neighbors and colleagues and to share with them the beautiful parts of our lives.

Monday, March 08, 2004

This week's Torah portion - Ki Tissa

Hi. This week's Torah portion is Ki Tissa (Exodus 30:11-34:35) and includes the story of the golden calf. When Moses sees the Israelites (who just a short while before had heard the words of the Torah) worshipping this idol, he is so stunned and hurt and angry that he drops the tablets containing the Ten Commandments and the entire Torah. Following punishment, talking and regrouping, Moses returns up the mountain to receive a second set of the tablets.

The receiving of the second set of tablets is a favorite part of the portion for me and the Torah commentary I am linking to this week speaks of it as well. Rabbi Jonathan Kraus of Beth Israel Temple Center (Belmont, MA) writes about the beautiful, famous and powerful words spoken between God and Moses on the mountain. Among Rabbi Kraus's words are,

"Ideally, that's what happens to us in prayer and in life. Our soul's voice resonates to
something it recognizes all around us. We are moved to sing and speak and feel and live in response to that single note, whose frequency, our souls, in moments of encounter, naturally recognizes. We "resonate" and respond to the presence of the Holy One in creation. "

You can find the full text of his commentary (and sign up to receive weekly divrei Torah) here.

Zil g'more now go, and study!

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Happy Purim!

Hag Purim Sameach!
A very joyful and happy Purim to you. On this day when we remember the heroism of Esther and Mordechai who stood up for their Jewish identities and defeated the evil Haman, may you feel the joy of Esther and those who have celebrated her throughout the centuries.

Some places where you can learn more about Purim are:
Babaganews Purim Central
Hamantaschen Recipe - good for kids and parents
Hamantaschen Recipe Index
Hamantaschen Recipes from Jewish-Food.org
Jewish Parent Page (Reform Movement)
Jewish Reconstructions Foundation
My Jewish Learning
Purim in Israel
United Synagogue (Conservative Movement)
Unmasking Esther (from Ritualwell.org)
Vashti - a Feminist Heroine

Thursday, March 04, 2004


Per a reader's request, this blog is now available by XML. The feed is located here and in the link in the right-hand column. Let me know if there are any problems.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Must read magazine

Take a look at Heeb: The New Jew Review, a great magaizne done completely by a volunteer staff and full of great, funny, important and edgy articles and pictures and more on Judaism and Jews. Go and take a look!