Archive for category Holidays

The Sin of the Golden Calf

Today, the 17th of Tammuz, we fast primarily in commemoration of the events surrounding the destruction of the First Temple.  The origins of the day, however, and of all our suffering, can be traced back to one of the most troubling events in Jewish history:  the sin of the Golden Calf.

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The Price of Disunity

Understanding the natural and spiritual causes of the destruction of the Second Temple.  Excerpted from my book, Dawn to Destiny.

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Shavuos — From Revelation to Rebellion

How could the Jews fall from the pinnacle of spiritual greatness to the depths of idolatry in a mere 40 days?

The compelling answer in an excerpt from my new book.

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Shavuos — the festival of recieving the Torah

Enjoy these insights from previous years as part of your Shavuos preparations.

An uplifting and joyful holiday to all.

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Lag B’Omer — The Illumination of a Good Heart

A spellbinding analysis of this most mystical of holidays, according to the Chassidic classic B’nei Yissosschar.

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The Modern Passover Celebration — Freedom from Accountability

After my rebuttal of an editorial slandering Moses in the St. Louis Jewish Light, the slew of letters denouncing me as uncivil and judgmental prompted me to ask why so many members of the community considered it perfectly acceptable for a congregational rabbi to denigrate Judaism’s greatest leader but unacceptable for me to call him out for character assassination and trampling on Jewish tradition.

I’m still waiting for an answer.  However, one individual who frequently comments on my site (whose comments are less frequently fit to print), responded as I was certain he would:

While you may beleive that Moses was a real person many Jews believe he is a mythical character created by the Priesthood in the 7th to 9th Century before the common era.

In my comments, I replied that this is precisely the point. If you don’t believe in Jewish tradition, then anything goes. There is no reality, no morality, and no accountability.

Is this what we want to hear from our spiritual leaders?

In 2001, David Wolpe, a Los Angeles rabbinical clergyman, posed the question in his Passover sermon, “Why do we continue to commemorate the exodus from Egypt if it didn’t really happen?”

The question, of course, is self-contradictory:  We celebrate the exodus for no reason other than because it did happen; and if we don’t believe it happened, we have no reason to celebrate.

If the Torah is nothing more than a book of fables or inspired literature, then certainly any Bible critic is entitled to his own interpretations, as any critic of literature is entitled his own interpretation of Shakespeare or Milton.  (Then again, one requires credentials as a literary scholar before his criticism will be respected by his peers.)  However, if that is what we believe, then the foundations of Judaism have already disintegrated and we have no hope of restoring them.

Conversely, there is ample evidence supporting the truth of Torah and its historical record for anyone who wants to seek out historical truth. The overwhelming majority of those who dismiss the Torah as myth have made no sincere effort to discover otherwise. It’s difficult to take seriously the opinion of anyone who hasn’t bothered to understand the opposing point of view.

Historical revisionism has become possibly the greatest enemy of the Jewish people.  The historical imperative of the exodus and revelation at Sinai is at the core of who we are as a people, as well as defining the essence of the Passover celebration.  For more on the dangers of revisionist history, see my article from last week, Orwell, Santayana, and Me.

For past Pesach articles, click here.

May the Almighty grant us all a joyous and kosher Passover, and a true redemption from the slavery of our biases and misconceptions.

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Pesach

Insights into the Festival of Freedom.

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The Arba Parshios — Four Stages of Renewal

This week is Shabbos Zochur, the second of the four special Torah readings the lead us through Purim toward Passover. Here are some extraordinary insights from HaRav Nachman Bulman, zt”l, to show us the relevance of these portions in our holiday observance and in our spiritual growth.

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Purim

Insights into the festival of masks and mystery.

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The speech that might have been

Good Afternoon, Members of the Nobel Committee:

I stand before you today profoundly honored and deeply humbled by the distinction you wish to bestow upon me. I recognize this gesture as your endorsement of my goals to create a more cooperative and respectful society of nations, to address the scourges of poverty and ecological irresponsibility, and to work toward the establishment of a global community devoted to freedom, equality, and peace. I truly appreciate your intention of using the long-standing reputation of the Nobel Peace Prize to bolster my own prestige in achieving the realization of these goals.

However, in good conscience I must confess that my stated aims and objectives cannot compare to the concrete and inspiring accomplishments of those other nominees whom you have overlooked by selecting me. While my intentions may be lofty, and may indeed have already contributed to an increased atmosphere of collaboration among the nations of the world, they fail to qualify as true achievements.

It is unfortunate and embarrassing that I am not the first to be awarded this honor without having met the criteria that objective reason demands. Tragically, in recent years the selection of Peace Prize laureates has often failed to reflect the ideals of Alfred Nobel, who created this body so that he might be remembered for his contribution to world harmony rather than as the creator of dynamite – mankind’s first weapon of mass destruction.

Look back at some of the most incongruous winners of the past two decades. Yassar Arafat, arguably the 20th century’s foremost disseminator of terror. Jimmy Carter, whose purported efforts to broker peace with North Korea were revealed as an utter failure only weeks after receiving his award, and who has conflated the unconscionable travesty of apartheid with an Israeli system in which Arabs enjoy full rights as citizens and even hold elected positions in the national parliament. And Al Gore, whose propaganda campaign has turned questionable science and scare tactics into a cottage industry that misleads the public while increasing his own personal profit. Are these truly the heroes of our age?

Perhaps it is not coincidental that this ceremony has fallen out on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, the commemoration of the battle for substance over appearance and for spiritual illumination against the advance of cultural darkness, a festival originating from a people who, having taught the rest of the world the most fundamental values of human morality, remain the most maligned of all nations. If Alfred Nobel’s once-revered institution continues to allow itself to be usurped by proponents for the superficial and disingenuous principles of political correctness, moral equivalence, and social engineering, a great beacon of inspiration will be forever lost to our children.

I hope that by the end of my administration I will truly have earned the award you seek to bestow upon me. However, given that I was nominated within ten days of taking office, and that I have yet to prove myself as a successful leader, I have no choice but to decline this honor in favor of whichever candidate you choose from among the many people who genuinely deserve it.

Thank you.

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