Archive for November, 2009

Jacob’s Complicated Love Life and its Halachic implications

Inevitably, the story about Jacob and his complicated love life raises a number of questions regarding the Jewish attitude concerning concubines and polygamy. Do Jews still practice polygamy? Outside Sephardic circles, polygamy has been banned for well over a thousand years, since the time Rabbanu Gershom outlawed it for Ashkenazic Jews.

Historically, there is no evidence of actual concubinage in the Talmud, nor is there any evidence of it in practice during the Middle Ages. In the responsa of Asher b. ...

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What did Jacob see in his vision at Beth El?

What did Jacob actually see when he had his mystical vision? Was it a ladder? Or was it a ziggurat? It all depends on how one wishes to translate the noun סֻלָּם (sulam).

Classical translations think it is a heavenly ladder, but more modern translations prefer ziggurat. For example, the NJPS translation renders it “He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground”[1] The ladder imagery may reflect a Babylonian and Egyptian influence. The word סֻלָּם (sulam = ...

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Why are so many Jews atheists and agnostics? (revised)

According to Rabbi Levi Brackman in a recent YNet article, attributes the root cause of overwhelming Jewish atheistic tendencies to a tragic ignorance of Judaism’s most profound teachings and ideas; most of these Jews, argues Brackman, have a juvenile understanding of monotheism–as taught in Judaism. In other words, “Its their stupidity, Stupid!”

Well, after reading Brackman’s article on why so many Jews happen to be atheistic or agnostic with respect to matters pertaining to religion, I found myself partially agreeing with ...

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A Thanksgiving Meditation

Once upon a time, some American tourists went to Mexico on a vacation; they toured some hot springs, where they saw the natives washing their clothes! One tourist said to his guide, “My, isn’t it wonderful how Mother Nature provides her children with hot water to wash their clothes?” The tour-guide replied, “So you might think, Senor, but the natives complain that Mother Nature doesn’t provide the soap!”

It’s been said that the hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables ...

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Teaching our children to become “Serious Jews.”

Children never cease to amaze me …This past Sunday, Prof. James Cohen invited me to speak to his Sunday school class to examine whether having a religious  identity is more important than having a Jewish ethnic identity. Personally, I believe that being a healthy Jew involves a mixture of both the religious and the cultural. Of course such discussions often lead to broader issues pertaining to the age-old question: What does it mean to be a Jew today?

In the interest ...

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