The first Reform Rabbi will now receive a salary from the State, it was decided last week. Rabbi Benny Lau, a modern orthodox leader, wrote this article in response. It first appeared in Hebrew in Makor Rishon, a newspaper closely identified with the National Orthodox public.
The decision of the Legal counsel to the government, to permit local councils to employ non-orthodox Rabbis on the payroll of the State, allows us to open up the subject of funding for religious services in Israel. It is no secret that the deep connection between politics and religion means that religious services arouse both concern and distaste. The issue of Rabbis’ salaries gives the public an ever-growing feeling that there is no correlation between those receiving salaries and the people who are supposed to receive their services. Too many times we find that someone can be sitting in the office of Community Rabbi, when no one in the neighborhood even knows his name. To Full Post
These conversation guidelines are for you to use at your own discretion. Feel free to use them fully, partially, or to ignore them completely…
So what did the whole thing look like?
In this chapter we will examine how the Jewish community was structured and how the values and beliefs that lay behind the whole Rabbinic system produced an institutional structure that reflected them. We will examine the institutions of the community and we will acquaint ourselves with the main types of personality that could be found in such communities. We will then go on to examine the way that individual communities fitted into a wider structure within a given center and finally we will look at the issue of relations between different centers.
OK, so I’ll admit it, Obama’s speech at the URJ biennial on Friday blew my mind.
If you haven’t seen in it, see it. If you haven’t seen it and you’re not American, see it twice.
Half-an-hour of effortless, seamless rhetoric tying together Jewish, human and American narratives in a beautiful figure-eight loop, that doesn’t seem to be coming untied anytime soon. To Full Post
Spark: The Omer represents the process of Jewish history unfolding. It is a time we journeyed as a people from slavery, to freedom, and to being in covenant with God. But the Omer journey didn’t just happen in the Torah: important events in our history and of Israel happen during this auspicious time. It is a time of appreciating that journey, and looking forward to the next step.
Women at the Temple Margins
If you have been to the Western Wall recently, you may have noticed that the women’s section is markedly smaller than the men’s section, despite the fact that the number of visitors on both sides is approximately the same. This leaves many women feeling disrespected, not to mention uncomfortable, while praying at one of the most holy sites of the Jewish people.
The beginning of Jewish peoplehood occurred in Egypt. This is striking in the first verses of Exodus where the text lists the sons of Jacob who came to Egyptas individual families and then just a few verses later Pharaoh designates them – for the first time ever- as the nation ofIsrael. The birthing process of our people included enslavement, redemption and revelation, all which occurred disconnected from a national homeland. This lesson will explore the historical, philosophical, social, theological and moral significance of that process. Through discussion and comparative sources we will attempt to understand the implications of those particular beginnings: how they imprinted the nation ofIsrael, their consequences, the effects they had on our character, self image and destiny. To Full Post
The Torah – given in the desert – contains a number of laws that restricted our freedom to exploit the land upon our entry into it. These include limits on when we may work the land, what we may sow and how we may harvest – and also taxation on the produce. Since these commandments are only binding on Jews living on their land in Eretz Yisrael, the tradition developed a special attachment to them – as long as we are living in exile, we are denied the opportunity to fulfill these mitzvot, so our religious life is incomplete. These laws therefore came to symbolize the specialness of the land, our connection to it, and our longing for it when we are in exile. Of the various land-based laws, the sabbatical year (shmita) is probably the best known example, and one whose restoration has generated interesting debates over the past century and a half, so we will examine it as a case study in this unit. This exploration will touch on questions about the nature of land ownership, about mechanisms of social justice, and about the relevance of biblical precepts in the post-biblical era.
We will discuss the covenantal view of history and its implications for our reading of the biblical historical narrative and rabbinic texts; does God determine history as a response to our merits/sins? Does this imply we should undertake a passive role when national disasters occur, since they are simply the hand of God dealing out our due punishment? Is there a rational way to interpret the same concept of historical consequences for our actions? How do we relate to and teach this concept after the Holocaust? What does this mean for the modern State of Israel – do we have an unconditional right to the Land, or is it dependent upon our actions?
As mentioned in Lesson 1, this course is based on the assumption that in liberal Jewish education, the three primary texts are the Bible, the Siddur, and the calendar; thus about two thirds of the course meetings focus on study of these sources, with the last third devoted to modern history and current issues. The emphasis in the first third, the Bible section, has been on helping participants maintain their alertness to the opportunities for teaching Israel in just about any Bible lesson. After all, the Bible is a book about God, the Jewish people, and the Land of Israel. However, in recent generations, the land has lost some of its centrality, at least in liberal Jewish classrooms in North America. So, first of all, this course seeks to refocus the teaching of Bible, to keep Israel always within the field of vision; the Bible must be understood and taught as not only the biography of God, nor only the history of the Jewish people, but as the story of the three-way relationship of God, people, and land.
This lesson seeks to present an opportunity to step back and reflect on some of the underlying questions that must be addressed in our teaching of this relationship.