Boundary of the Wilderness

Boundary of the Wilderness

Jul 10, 2010 By Alan Mintz (<em>z”l</em>) | Commentary | Masei | Mattot

The Torah is replete with lists of every kind: the generations before and after Noah, the enumeration of the tribes and their chieftains in the desert, the catalogs of forbidden foods, the inventories of priestly garments.

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Not Rhetoric, but Reality

Not Rhetoric, but Reality

Jan 8, 2013 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Va'era

One of the more disheartening reports about Israeli society these days is that our brothers and sisters in Israel are simply not as concerned with the struggle for religious pluralism to the degree that we are in North America. Reporting this past week from the JTA, Ben Sales added his voice to the chorus of journalists writing about what many in the Diaspora consider to be of preeminent importance, but what many in the Israeli population are, at best, disinterested in.

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Mah Nishtanah . . . A Seder for Yom Ha’atzma’ut

Mah Nishtanah . . . A Seder for Yom Ha’atzma’ut

May 16, 2014 By Samuel Barth | Commentary | Yom Hazikaron-Yom Ha'atzma'ut

In recent weeks, Medinat Israel (the State of Israel) was celebrated by citizens, residents, and the worldwide Jewish community with an array of observances for Yom Ha’atzma’ut (Israel Independence Day). In synagogues of the Conservative/Masorti Movement, morning minyan included the Hallel prayer and a special Torah reading, affirming the understanding that the establishment of Israel is not merely an item in the political history of the mid-20th century, but a vital step in the spiritual story of our people and, perhaps, the world. The “Prayer for the State of Israel,” included in the Shabbat morning service in almost all synagogues, speaks of Israel as “reishit tzemichat ge’ulateinu” (the beginning of the flowering of our redemption).“Redemption,” here, must be understood as the Messianic Era of universal peace and understanding.

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Yom Yerushalayim—Inhabiting the Land

Yom Yerushalayim—Inhabiting the Land

May 1, 2013 By Burton L. Visotzky | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai | Yom Yerushalayim

Our double Torah portion opens with God’s command to Moses to tell the Israelites, “When you come to the land that I am giving you, and you inhabit the land.” No sooner did I read this verse as I prepared to write these words of Torah, than my own counting of the days flashed back 46 years to my first time ever in Israel, when I was a teenager on Camp Ramah Israel Seminar.

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Israel: Memory and Dreams (Part 2)

Israel: Memory and Dreams (Part 2)

Apr 17, 2013 By Samuel Barth | Commentary | Yom Hazikaron-Yom Ha'atzma'ut

Following the transition from the pain-filled memories of Yom Hazikkaron (State of Israel Memorial Day) to Yom Ha’atzma’ut (State of Israel Independence Day), it is fitting to look closely at the prayer recited in so many synagogues (of all denominations) around the world: Tefillah l’Shalom HaMedinah (the Prayer for the State of Israel). There is a “legend” that the text was composed by Israeli Nobel laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon, but in fact the text was composed by Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog (1936–1949), and a critically important phrase was added by Agnon in a handwritten note.

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Israel: Memory and Dreams (Part 1)

Israel: Memory and Dreams (Part 1)

Apr 10, 2013 By Samuel Barth | Commentary | Yom Hazikaron-Yom Ha'atzma'ut

Yom Ha’atzma’ut, State of Israel Independence Day, is observed on Tuesday, April 16. It is not only a political and national celebration for the citizens of Israel and their supporters around the world, it is also a festival of the Jewish calendar. The Psalms of Hallel are recited, there is a special Torah reading, and there is an additional paragraph in the ‘Amidah of the Conservative Movement, in a style similar to Hanukkah and Purim (see the Rabbinical Assembly’s Siddur Sim Shalom for Weekdays, 42, 50, 343). So this day is not simply the Israeli equivalent of July 4—it is rooted, as is the State of Israel, in the ancient Jewish dream for the perfection of the world.

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The Ending That Wasn’t

The Ending That Wasn’t

Sep 25, 2015 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Ha'azinu

We Jews are not a religious lot. In fact, by a variety of metrics cited in the recent Pew report, Jews are less religious than any other religious group in America. For instance, only one quarter of Jews say religion is “very important” in their lives, compared with more than half of Americans overall. More to the point that I’d like to explore, a belief in God is much more common among the general non-Jewish public than among Jews.

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The Fortitude of the Jewish Soul

The Fortitude of the Jewish Soul

Dec 15, 2001 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Miketz | Hanukkah

This year I will not be celebrating Hanukkah at home. I’m off to Israel on December 6, and will not be back till the seventh day of the festival, just in time to light a full complement of eight candles on the last night in the midst of family. It is hard to capture the beauty of this holiday or any other on your own. Neither synagogue nor prayer begins to exhaust the repertoire of ritual that enlivens the distinctive character of every Jewish holy day. The home is the great aquifer of our Judaism, indispensable but undervalued.

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