Last night Bernie Sanders made history as the first Jew to win a primary in a presidential election, soundly defeating Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary. The question, then, is what to do with this fact.
It is common for groups who are discriminated against or have little power in a society to turn on one another rather than joining forces against the powerful group keeping them down. As far back as the book of Genesis in the Torah, we see Rachel and Leah, two of the matriarchs of the Jewish people, competing over their husband Jacob. The text tells us he loved Rachel and didn’t love Leah. Their father, Laban, tricked Jacob into marrying Leah when he really wanted to marry Rachel, and he married Rachel later, as well. The sisters, instead of being angry at their father, turn on each other as they try to provide sons and get Jacob’s affection.
Now that the Superbowl is over, we can be sure that our media streams will be flooded with chocolate, diamonds and flowers. Valentine’s Day is approaching. Oh joy, oh dread.
One of the more troubling aspects of Tzedakah (charitable giving) is its tendency to be coercive. I often hear people who are turned off by different communal policies of publicizing the names of donors to “encourage” others to give. The practice goes back to the Middle Ages and before. I myself have been disenchanted by these tactics from time to time.
The most popular days to get engaged are Christmas (and I assume Hanukkah!), New Year’s Eve, and Valentine’s Day. That means this time of year is one when rabbis like me get lots of phone calls to officiate at upcoming wedding ceremonies.
My two-year-old is now in the stage where my wife and I are torn between encouraging our daughter’s independence and our need to, say, get out the door in less than four hours.
I remember when my eldest child(now 11) first learned to say the words, “Thank you.” At first, I was happy that he was beginning to learn some manners, but then I realized that perhaps there was more to the feeling than just polite protocol. It occurred to me, in fact, that a sense of gratitude was one of the most important things that my wife and I wanted to pass on to our son.
There is a famous story in the Talmud that describes several rabbis arguing about whether a fellow’s oven is fit for use. In the course of trying to prove his point, the rabbi who holds the minority opinion attempts to convince his colleagues that he is correct by calling upon God to support him. After the river runs backwards and a voice calls out from heaven that he is correct, his colleagues scoff, saying that they do not determine legal matters based upon heavenly voices. They quote God, who told Moses and the people of Israel that the law is “not in heaven,” but in their own hands (Deuteronomy 30:12).
It took a Protestant pastor from Reston, Virginia to introduce me to my Palestinian neighbors. It happened two years ago, but being that it changed my life, I’ll never forget the sequence of events. For 33 years I had lived in Gush Etzion where there are probably nine Palestinians for each Israeli settler, but I had never met a single Palestinian. Of course, I had had workers in my home – gardeners, plumbers, electricians – and I had arrested a fair number of Palestinians when I used to do army reserve duty. But I had never actually met one in a setting that would put us on a equal footing. I had certainly never had any type of serious conversation with one of them, and knew almost nothing about them.
Carolyn is Baptist. She always will be. And she comes to my synagogue regularly.