I'm a talmudic scholar and former hitchhiker, circumnavigator, and newspaper columnist, living with my wife in St. Louis, Missouri, where I teach, write, and lecture. My forthcoming book, Proverbial Beauty: Secrets for success and happiness from the wisdom of the ages, is due out in July.
Do you think spiritual impurity is hocus-pocus?
Would you walk into a radioactive hot zone just because you can’t see or smell radiation?
Click to watch this 5-minute primer on the nature of purity and impurity, and why it’s still relevant in our times.
Every year, we endeavor to re-experience the spiritual transformation the Jewish people underwent 3330 years ago from the moment they left Egypt to the moment they received the Torah at Sinai. Enjoy these insights:
The Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat allows us to think deeply about how the obstacles we face today will shape the benefits we will enjoy tomorrow.
Thank you to Rabbi Yaakov Berkowitz of the St. Louis Kollel for inviting me to contribute to the Amud Yomi program with this discussion.
I found interesting the juxtaposition between last week’s letters regarding Hillary Clinton’s cover picture and Rabbi Grylak’s weekly insights into the parsha. His essay began with the introduction, “From age three, Avraham was asking questions, challenging the pervading belief system of the time.”
So I’d like to ask some questions of my own. If I can sit across from a woman at the Shabbos table, if I can pass a woman in the grocery store aisle, if I can survive spiritually crossing paths with the secular women who live in my neighborhood or work in my office, why is my neshoma so profoundly threatened by a picture of a modestly attired woman in a magazine?
And, assuming that there is indeed a reasonable answer, then what about this: is it not possible — given the mores of the modern world — that some young women and girls in our communities might interpret the exclusion of feminine images from Torah publications as symptomatic of a society that degrades the value and contribution of women, and who therein find a pretext to reject normative hashkofah? If so, is the gain worth the loss?
I’m no gadol, so these are not my questions to answer. But I’m reminded of what Rav Nota Schiller is fond of saying, that the Torah allows the Jews to change enough to stay the same.
It’s worth at least contemplating which changes will ultimately benefit Klal Yisroel in the future even as we fiercely defend the traditions of the past.
Between Passover and the festival of Shavuos (Pentacost, celebrating the Almighty’s revelation at Sinai), tradition calls for every Jew to count the days and the weeks connecting the freedom of the exodus from Egypt with the responsible application of that freedom.
These seven weeks are a time filled with opportunity for personal growth, beginning with the awareness that little changes can add up to extraordinary transformation.