Matisyahu and the Pitfalls of the Charismatic Leader

“The Jewish blogosphere is a abuzz today with the latest news from the constantly evolving life of the musician Matisyahu. First, Matisyahu shaved off his beard, which to the non-Orthodox community did not seem like much, but to the Orthodox Jewish community represented a significant shift in religious orientation. This was a man who had inspired countless numbers of his fellow Jews to see their faith in a new light and it emboldened those within the Orthodox camp to take pride in their peculiarities and differences from mainstream society as fellow HuffPost blogger Elad Nehorai recently wrote about.”

Read more at The Huffington Post.

The Halakhic Prenuptial Agreement: A Responsible Solution to the Jewish Divorce Crisis

“It was just this past Tuesday evening that a momentous occasion transpired in the conference room of a synagogue in Midtown Manhattan. The event was the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF) conference and it brought together a diverse assortment of its approximately 150-member strong rabbinic body. As with every professional conference for rabbis there were opportunities to learn together, to consult on pastoral or policy dilemmas and to provide ample opportunity for networking, relationship building and collective and shared inspiration. Yet, it was during what is normally the least exciting aspect of an organization’s conference — the amendments and other mundane business of the organization component — that a resolution was passed unanimously that will go a long way in addressing one of the most pressing issues of the contemporary Jewish community: the agunah crisis.”

Read more at The Huffington Post

The Jewish Way In Saying Goodbye

It is that time of year again in the life of the academic environment. During the course of several years relationships are cultivated and built and friendships deepened. You know in the back of your mind that at some point people will part ways and move in different directions. The university is utterly unique in its development of serious, passionate and meaningful temporary community. It is so meaningful that the reality of its transience escapes from the mind during the course of the several years you are all together. Yet, the finality of late May and early June start slowly creeping up on you and finally they arrive and you need to embrace the end and begin the process of saying goodbye.

Read more at MyJewishLearning.com

The Righteous Mind

I recently finished reading Professor Jonathan Haidt’s new book The Righteous Mindand found it to be utterly fascinating. The objective of the book is to present readers with a nuanced psychologically based reason for why people of good will and character differ so sharply and so strongly on critical issues. He specifically draws our attention to the subjects of religion and politics but his theory could be applied to any subject on which people passionately and vigorously disagree…

Read more at Patheos.

Conversion As An Act of Kindness

Conversion to Judaism is noble process that represents a person’s desire to find shelter under the wings of the Divine Presence as manifested through the unique pathway of the Covenant at Sinai.1 For a long period of Jewish history it took quite an exceptional person indeed to seek out conversion to Judaism. Jews lived in bitter and harsh conditions, suffering persecution and discrimination at the hands of almost every country they found themselves in. Hence, the Talmud teaches that when a person comes to convert, one makes it very clear to them how hard it is to be a Jew in the contemporary world…

Read more at Patheos.

The Hunger Games and Divine Concealment

Many have written in recent days about the wildly popular new movie The Hunger Games based on the book series of the same name. There have been those who have written about it from a political perspective and those who have analyzed it from an artistic perspective, and of course, those who have viewed it from a religious lens. In regards to the latter category, many Jewish writers have focused in on its connection to the holiday of Passover, which we are currently in the midst of it. The story line, with its dystopian future, oppressive regime and a people yearning to be free, does bear some remarkable similarities to the narrative of the Exodus celebrated on Passover. However, I believe there is another Jewish comparison that has been overlooked and sheds an even greater depth on the relationship of God to humanity…

Read more at Patheos.

The Exodus and Miraculous Realism

This past weekend Jews throughout the world celebrated the beginning of Pesach, the Passover holiday, by embarking on the ancient rituals of the seder. The seder, with its rich symbolic actions and accompanying powerful text from theHaggadah, is an entryway into the psychological, emotional and spiritual experience of the Exodus. Indeed, this is the very point of having the seder, as the early rabbis taught: “In every generation, one is obligated to see oneself as having left Egypt. (Pesachim 10:5)” What does this immersion into the Exodus narrative cultivate in a person? What sort of world outlook does this bring forth? …

Read more at Patheos.

Conversion: The Need for Orthodox Leadership

In every generation throughout Jewish history there have been people who desired to enter into the Covenant of Israel and join their fate with the fate of the Jewish people. The earliest examples we have of such people are from the Tanach. The story of Ruth and her journey to the People of Israel became the paradigmatic story of conversion for the early rabbis1. Before Ruth rabbinic tradition speaks of Abraham as the first convert2 or of all of the Jewish people standing at Sinai as all converts3. Regardless of where conversion began, there has always been paths open for people who have yearned to convert to Judaism…

Read more at Patheos.

Towards a Sustainable Rabbinic Community

We live in a drastically different world than people even a generation before us did. The modes of communication open to us allow for instantaneous communication between people around the globe. People used to need to wait for the newspaper the next morning to find out what happened somewhere else, but now, all one needs to do is point their web browser to the right address and discover live feeds of current events in every part of our world. Furthermore, this feed is not one directional any longer. Every person now has the ability to comment publicly about the actions of others. The boundaries of geography, nation, culture, language and religion are all disappearing in our ability to project our opinions and thoughts into the global discourse…

Read more at Patheos.