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Editorial & Opinion | Musings

05/13/2015 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

When Jacob wrestles with the angel until sunrise, the angel tells Jacob to release him as the dawn breaks. Jacob insists on a blessing. The angel asks Jacob his name, and then tells him he is no longer Jacob, but Israel [Genesis 32:25-33].

05/06/2015 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

A famous philosophical principle comes to us from Immanuel Kant: “ought implies can.” In other words, you cannot suggest that someone ought to do something unless in fact, they can do it. This same principle is expressed by the Rabbis when they state that one is not allowed to make a rule that the community cannot abide.

04/29/2015 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav once told of a prince who suffered from delusions and thought he was a turkey. A wise man cured him by emulating his behavior: Crawling under the table, pecking at his food and behaving just like a turkey. Gradually, he began to ask the prince — “Can’t a turkey wear a shirt?” And, “Can’t a turkey eat with utensils?” In that way the wise man gradually brought the prince back to acknowledging his humanity.

04/22/2015 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Readers of the Gilgamesh epic are often struck by its similarity to the Bible story. There is a man created from earth who loses paradise, who accepts food from a woman, who is clothed after nakedness, a massive flood, a perfidious snake and much more. Gilgamesh tells of a quest for immortality, and in that quest we see an important distinction.

04/15/2015 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Once Rabbi Lev Yitzchak of Bereditchev went to the marketplace in the middle of a busy weekday. There he stood and proclaimed lessons from the Torah. One of the men in the market said, “Rabbi, with all due respect, we are trying to conduct business here.” “I’m sorry,” replied the Bereditchever. “I just thought that since you always talk business in the synagogue, I could talk Torah in the marketplace.”

04/08/2015 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Why is the Torah compared by our sages to a marriage contract, to a ketubah? 

One might suppose that they both limit freedom. Each constrains what a person may do, imposing obligations and restricting choices. But to see it this way is to misunderstand freedom. Freedom is the expansion of opportunity not the absence of obligation.