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Disloyalty: The deep roots of an anti-Semitic accusation

September 2, 2019

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Our American Jewish community has been much agitated in 2019 by accusations of disloyalty. These charges have come from different quarters of the political spectrum, and they carry various nuances. But what do they have in common? For this, we need to understand the deep history of this anti-Jewish trope. The permanent and salient fact [...]

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An awesome season

April 19, 2019

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The Biblical account of the celebrated Exodus from Egypt became the leitmotif of rabbinic theology, perceiving in the Israelites’ redemption from a House of Bondage, God’s greatness, guidance, and goodness. Thus, the Shalosh Regalim, the three Pilgrim Festivals of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot—revolving around the common theme of the Exodus, point at the divine gifts [...]

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Purim’s message remains true today

March 4, 2019

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urim’s extraordinary fun-making masks and matches the extraordinary seriousness of the life and death issues behind it—while allowing for a healthy release of pent-up tension and emotion. After all, a threat of genocide hanging over the Jews with a plot in place in the vast Persian empire was not to be taken lightly. The salvation [...]

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Lech-Lecha

October 22, 2018

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Noah was destined to be neither the father of the Jewish people nor the founder of our faith. Though the most righteous one in his corrupt generation, he failed to reach out and save human lives besides those of his family. Thus, the rabbis who were aware of Noah’s disturbing limitations in the terse, yet [...]

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Not the neighbor’s Yom Kippur

September 14, 2018

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The first Jews were part of the Ancient Near East. They knew the habits of thought, the default assumptions, of their society. But as Jews, they were revolutionaries, rejecting the depravity and the inhumane expressions of Bronze Age life, with its murderous despotism in the political realm and its debasement of human life in a slavery-based social system. This combination of indebtedness to, and protest against, the traditions of the neighbors characterizes Biblical religion in virtually every domain.

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The Year of the Pen

September 7, 2018

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In services on the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, tradition requires us to recite the masterwork of prayer U-netaneh Tokef on both Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. These awe-filled days are times of questions. There are the spiritual questions that teshuva, repentance, demands: Who am I? Am I on the right path? Have I [...]

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The past

June 22, 2018

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Rabbi J. D. Gordon was the rabbi of B’nai Israel Congregation of Norfolk until 1947. He gave some spirited sermons in his time and published a collection of his High Holiday addresses for future rabbis to learn from and emulate. One year, Rabbi Gordon spoke about the past. He reminisced about the days when people [...]

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Passover, Yom Hashoah, and Yom Ha’atzmaut

March 23, 2018

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The Biblical account of the celebrated Exodus from Egypt became the leitmotif of rabbinic theology, perceiving in the Israelites’ redemption from a House of Bondage, God’s greatness, guidance, and goodness. Thus the Shalosh Regalim—the three Pilgrim festivals of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot revolving around the common theme of the Exodus—point at the divine gifts of [...]

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Why Passover is about a lot more than good food

March 2, 2018

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(My Jewish Learning via JTA)—What is the essence of Passover? On the one hand, it seems obvious: Passover is about gathering together with loved ones to recall, through sumptuous home rituals, the exodus from Egypt. We gather round our seder tables and quickly become engulfed in the warmth of family and friends, the culinary delights [...]

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Purim: A timeless holiday

February 16, 2018

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Purim’s extraordinary fun making often masks and matches the extraordinary seriousness of the life and death issues behind the holiday—while allowing for the healthy release of pent-up tension and emotion. After all, a threat of genocide hanging over a vulnerable people with a plot to terminate Jewish existence in the vast Persian empire of antiquity [...]

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