A common way to manage apparently irreconcilable difference is to find the middle ground, but compromise rarely satisfies either position. There is another way. Imagine the two different positions as offshoots on two branches of a tree. If the tree is large there could be a considerable distance between these two offshoots. Imagine further that all you see is the offshoots, not the rest of the tree. These two offshoots appear to share nothing in common. As soon as you see the context in which these two offshoots live and grow, however, you realize they are part of one tree and share a com..
There are so many things I would like to do but don't because I don't have the time or resources to do them. I hear myself so often saying, if or when I have the time and the resources I will do such and such. Some of the things I postpone or even eliminate from the realm of possibility are important to me, they are things I want to do and believe I should but just don't have the time or resources. So often I feel trapped by the limitation of resources. I have a sense that I am not the only person trapped in the limited time and resource conundrum. Many of us eliminate exci..
Life events are often sandwiched between two spiritual experiences: prayer and praise. We pray for our aspirations and we praise Him when they are fulfilled; we pray before a challenge and celebrate our success with gratitude. From a linear perspective, prayer for the future precedes praise for the past; first we request, then we thank. However, like prayer, praise and appreciation is a mighty spiritual force that can impact success. How, you may ask, can something that we do after the completion of an event, affect that event's success? The answer is that the way we respond to an event, ..
Halacha: Responsive to Change or Reactionary Fundamentalism? Rashi Shemot 21:1 Change and Masorah (Tradition) When it comes to change, Poskim (renowned Halachik decision-makers) go only so far and no further. They walk the difficult tension between changing social norms and needs, and adherence toMesorah (the tradition of Jewish conduct handed down from Sinai and transmitted orally throughout the ages). On the one hand they have significantly accommodated changing situations throughout the ages. On the other hand they often seem fiercely reactionary! What ar..
The Freudian Slip The story of the Megillah, always on the edge of tragedy, is nevertheless peppered with poignant moments of hysterical comedy. The bulk of the comedy however is found in the pages of Talmudic and Midrashic material. This material gives even more life to the fairly brief recounting of the story as told in the Megillah itself. One such moment occurs when Queen Esther has set the stage for her dramatic revelation of Haman’s complicity in the plot to exterminate her and her nation. Both her husband the King and Haman have arrived at her dinner party. The King is in a joyf..
Shemot, 35:2 The Way we Celebrate Shabbat In our lonely, too busy and alienated world, socially vibrant Shabbatot often attract people to religious observance. However, the way we observe Shabbat has sidetracked us far from the intention of the Architect of Shabbat and the Artist of its majestic beauty. Our Shabbatot are often glorious days of social networking, entertaining, sumptuous kidushes and meals (with sometimes exotic and over-abundant drinking). Many Shuls are full on Shabbat not because of the charisma of the rabbi, the wisdom of his derashot nor for the..
Fear and Faith are Feelings Fear is an intuition; it is a feeling, an emotion. Fear is not the product of data or intellectual process. So, when someone feels afraid, it is not helpful to tell them not to worry, that there is nothing to fear. The way to counter fear is with Faith. Faith is also an intuition, it is also an emotion : faith in yourself, faith in your G-d. Like Fear, you will not experience Faith through the mastery of data or of intellectual process. You access faith through intuitive feeling, not through rational proof. The feeling of fear in the pits of our stom..
Vayikra, 1:2 Serving G-d or serving Man? Often we confuse G-d’s will, Halachah, with the will of the communities in which we live. Religious fashion and style become confused with fundamental Halachik requirement. We do things because they are expected of us. But, expected by whom? Expected by Hashem, by Chazal or Poskim (authentic Rabbinic authority); or expected by a group of self-appointed religious bullies? Do we know enough to know the difference? Are we learning how to discern the differences between Halachah, religious fashion, and religious bullying? It ..