Re'eh: A Special Place
The land of Israel is a special, holy land and thus, all produce grown on it has properties of holiness. This is the underpinning of such laws of terumah, ma’aser, bikurim, challah, shmitah and yovel. Unfortunately, many of us see the main distinction between life in Israel and in the Diaspora in relation to the laws of agriculture. We often lose sight of the fact that it is only in Israel where all of...Continue Reading »
Sanhedrin 22: A Beautiful Font
Malcolm Gladwell, in his best-selling book Outliers, delineates how much of one's success in life is dependent on when one is born. Thus, the great innovators in computers – Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, just to name the most famous—were all born in the mid-1950s. Had they been born earlier, they would have been too old and set in their ways to switch gears when the computer revolution came along. Born later, they...Continue Reading »
Sanhedrin 21: What is the Reason?
I have long thought that far and away the best introduction to and overview of Judaism is the Sefer haChinuch, the great 13th century Spanish work written anonymously from father to son. Trying to convince his son of the beauty and rationality of Judaism, the author summarizes each of the 613 mitzvoth. He gives a brief definition of each mitzvah, some of the basic laws (and where in the Talmud you can read further on...Continue Reading »
Sanhedrin 19: Cemetery Etiquette
One of the areas of law that even otherwise non-observant Jews tend to observe are those relating to mourning. Perhaps this phenomenon is based on superstition, feelings of guilt or unarticulated expressions of teshuva that a confrontation with death may engender. At the same time, there is little doubt that the psychological genius of the laws of shiva offer much comfort. It is why those whose shiva is truncated due...Continue Reading »
Sanhedrin 17: Where Should We Live?
Marshall McLuhan, the insightful Canadian philosopher, noted that with the rapid advances in technology and communications, we citizens of earth were living in a global village. If this was true in the 1960s when he coined the term, then today we might be living in the same room, as we can literally view almost anything, anywhere, anytime. Our global village allows one to live on one continent and to work in another, shop at stores half a...Continue Reading »