Nostalgia, Memory and the Building of Judaism

Nostalgia, Memory and the Building of Judaism

Jan 26, 2008 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Yitro

As is often the case with buildings in Lower Manhattan, 211 Pearl Street was caught in the sights of a developer seeking to level the property and replace it with a grand modern building.

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The Challenges of Leadership

The Challenges of Leadership

Feb 10, 2007 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Yitro

The paradigms of leadership that emerge from the Bible teach us much about the human quotient in leadership.

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Finding Balance

Finding Balance

Feb 10, 2007 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Yitro

Negotiating personal and professional boundaries is one of the greatest challenges facing working individuals today. We live in a world that prizes productivity over patience and boundless devotion over definitive limits. Store hours lengthen, the banking week extends, and slowly work overtakes one’s life. Given this reality, Judaism is countercultural. It is a system of belief that places boundaries on one’s behavior. Indeed, eating, sex, and economic pursuits are all limited by sacred structures (kashrut, taharat ha–mishpaha [laws of family purity], and Shabbat, respectively). What is striking is that too often, we fail to recognize the need to set limits to our behaviors; classically, it takes an outsider to focus our attention toward constructive criticism.

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Three Mitzvot to Live By

Three Mitzvot to Live By

Feb 18, 2006 By David Rose | Commentary | Yitro

We are each a product of the stories that we carry within us.

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The Power to Serve

The Power to Serve

Jan 29, 2005 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Yitro

Judaism is an elaborate way of relating to God as the source of existence and the provider of ultimate meaning.

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An Earthen Altar

An Earthen Altar

Feb 14, 2004 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Yitro

Revelation is a liminal moment for the Jewish people. It is a moment in which the nation crosses a threshold. Previously, they were dependent on God, just as they had been upon their slave-masters. Now they move toward a relationship based on mutual responsibilities between themselves and the God who cared enough to liberate them. Indeed, these newly freed slaves acquire not only a national but also a personal identity as God addresses them individually.

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Tasting Heaven

Tasting Heaven

Feb 14, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Yitro

It takes a long time to acquire a full appreciation of Judaism. Like most rambunctious kids, I found Shabbat constraining, especially without the support system of a large Jewish community. I looked forward to playing ping-pong after shul in the morning or walking over to the nearby YMCA for a game of basketball and a swim in the afternoon. My ambition as a kid was to show the world that Jews could play sports. 

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The Soul of Torah

The Soul of Torah

Jan 25, 2003 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Yitro

Christianity turns on the doctrine of incarnation as formulated famously by the Gospel of John: “So the Word became flesh; he came to dwell among us, and we saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (1:14). It is a doctrine that Jews tend to identify as uniquely Christian. Whereas both Judaism and Christianity equally acknowledged that at creation “the Word dwelt with God” (1:1) as both wisdom and instrument, Judaism refrained from ever endowing it with human form. Though valid, the distinction does not preclude the appearance in Judaism of the doctrine. For Judaism, the Word became incarnate as book.

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Holy Encounters

Holy Encounters

Jan 25, 2003 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Yitro

Three years ago, my wife, Miriam, and I traveled to Italy. While the art of Florence, architecture of Sienna, and vistas of San Gimignano overwhelmed the imagination and tantalized the senses, our most meaningful experience of that trip occurred in Rome. With only one day to visit the sites of this ancient city, a very special shidukh was arranged between us and a Jesuit priest, Father John Navone (American by birth with deep family roots in Italy). As we quickly discovered, Father Navone knows every nook and cranny of this city that is so beloved to him and his family. He exuded not only a special affection for Italy but also a love for humanity.

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Guilt of the Parents

Guilt of the Parents

Feb 2, 2002 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Yitro

Parashat Yitro is known for the appearance of the Ten Commandments, aseret ha—dibrot, the ten revealed “words” of God. While the majority of demands are straightforward and theologically tenable, a qualification in the second commandment has left generations of Jews wrestling with its implications. God declares, “You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heaven above, or on the earth below . . . You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the Lord your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children (poked avon avot al banim), upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:4—6). How are we to understand this biblical concept of vicarious punishment?

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A Leadership Checklist

A Leadership Checklist

Feb 2, 2002 By Joshua Heller | Commentary | Yitro

This week we read parashat Yitro, whose primary focus is the revelation at Sinai, and the Jewish people’s preparation for that unique event in the history of the Jewish people. Aside from several spiritual and ritual preparations, the creation of a effective system of leadership is an essential practical component of the readiness for this great event.

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A New Conception of God

A New Conception of God

Feb 17, 2001 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Yitro

My father had a mind that reveled in philosophy. Maimonides, Spinoza and Kant were his lifelong companions. As a kid absorbed by sports, I knew their names almost as well as those of Sid Luckman and Joe DiMaggio, though their stats were harder to come by. I often saw my father pore over an old edition of Samuel Ibn Tibbon’s 13th century Hebrew translation of Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed, written in Arabic. And in 1960 he brought a copy of Solomon Munk’s mid-19th-century French translation based on the Arabic original which Munk had discovered.

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Suffering for the Sins of Others

Suffering for the Sins of Others

Jan 29, 2000 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Yitro

Parashat Yitro is known for the appearance of the Ten Commandments, aseret ha-dibrot, the ten revealed “words” of God. While the majority of demands are straightforward and theologically tenable, a qualification in the third commandment has left generations of Jews wrestling with its implications. God declares, “You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heaven above, or on the earth below… You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the Lord your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children (poked avon avot al banim), upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6). How are we to understand this biblical concept of vicarious punishment? Why should seemingly innocent children and grandchildren suffer for the mistakes of their parents and grandparents? A number of brilliant voices from the tradition shed light on our query.

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Do You Believe in God?

Do You Believe in God?

Feb 6, 1999 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Yitro

Martin Buber tells the story of an unexpected visit by an elderly English clergyman in the spring of 1914. A simple Christian of deep faith, he had done much good for the nascent Zionist movement in the days of Theodor Herzl and Buber knew him well. What brought him to Buber that particular day was his foreboding of an imminent outbreak of war worldwide, based not on any public or secret sources of information, but on his own careful recalculation of the age-old prophecies of Daniel. When the presentation ended, Buber took his guest back to the railroad station. Before they parted, the clergyman grasped Buber’s arm and said to him with utmost gravity: “Dear friend, we are living in a great time. Tell me: Do you believe in God?”

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Advice for Moses, Advice for Life

Advice for Moses, Advice for Life

Feb 14, 1998 By Ora Horn Prouser | Commentary | Yitro

In the portion of the Torah most celebrated for the Decalogue it includes, Moses receives wise counsel from an unexpected source. His father-in-law, Yitro, after seeing Moses sitting for long hours, judging and settling claims among the Israelites, objects to his son-in-law’s administrative style. 

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Judaism As a Relationship

Judaism As a Relationship

Feb 1, 1997 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Yitro

The permanent exhibition of the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv begins with a replica of the relief from the Arch of Titus depicting Jewish prisoners bearing Temple artifacts (a large seven-branched menorah, for example) into exile. Nearby a piece of signage unfurls the Museum’s conception of Jewish history: “This is the story of a people which was scattered over all the world and yet remained a single family; a nation which time and again was doomed to destruction and yet out of ruins, rose to new life.” These stirring words attest to an unbroken national will to live. Exile did not end Jewish history nor fragment Jewish unity. Shared consciousness made up for the lack of proximity.

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The Secret of Judaism’s Vibrancy

The Secret of Judaism’s Vibrancy

Jan 21, 1995 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Yitro

The insignia for a Jewish chaplain in the armed forces of the United States is the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, worn prominently on both lapels. My father, the immigrant rabbi, wore his with pride when he was a civilian chaplain at the Valley Forge Army Hospital during World War Two and the Korean War, as did I when I served a two-year stint as an army chaplain from 1962-64 at Fort Dix and in Korea. The insignia has always appealed to me because of what it represents: the core experience of God by Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai. What could be more central? This is the event that determines the nature of Judaism and the destiny of its adherents

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Yitro

Yitro

Jan 1, 1980

1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I beheld my Lord seated on a high and lofty throne; and the skirts of His robe filled the Temple.

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Yitro

Yitro

Jan 1, 1980

1 Jethro priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people, how the Lord had brought Israel out from Egypt. 

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