There’s an article on Israel Matzav discussing the troubling political atmosphere at Hebrew Union College, and it raises what I think is an interesting question. Should rabbis preach about political issues from the bimah? The answer to this question is, I believe, no. I believe this for a few reasons. First, the synagogue is a place for prayer and worship. If rabbis want to discuss political issues, they should do so outside the prayers. Secondly, I see a problem with the idea of rabbi as political leader. I’m only familiar with what goes on in more liberal synagogues, but I see this kind of political involvement as getting very close to a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Rabbis are supposed to be spiritual leaders, not political ones, and I don’t think the bimah is the place for political discussion. I would believe this way even if I happened to share the political views of my synagogue. I don’t. As a matter of fact, I think I’m the only one in attendance who would classify myself as conservative. For me, this creates issues, because I know that I’m going to be on the other side of whatever gets discussed, and since political discussions can become very heated, I think that kind of divisiveness should be kept on the sidelines. There’s mention in the linked piece of how the Torah supports what are considered liberal points of view, specifically the view that government is supposed to take care of its citizens. This is true, but only to a point. The Torah also supports some very conservative positions, and I don’t think it’s accurate to try to mold the Torah to our political views, because it does support views on either side of the proverbial isle. I also believe that if those of the liberal persuasion have a problem with clergy of the conservative persuasion preaching on issues from the pulpit, then they ought to take a page out of their own book and refrain from such preaching, or, if they are congregants, refrain from expecting their clergy to preach on said issues. I believe that social action/social justice is a very thin disguise for politics, and I also believe that the two should be separated, because people of very divergent political views can often believe in a socially just cause, for very different reasons. And I think that by confusing the two, the waters are muddied in a way they never should have been.

In conclusion: Keep prayer and politics separate, no matter which side you’re on, and I think the congregational prayer experience will be better for everybody.

Charles Taylor, the former dictator of Liberia who is currently imprisoned in the Hague awaiting trial by the special court for Sierra Leone, has decided to convert to Judaism. According to the BBC, one of his wives reports that he is now practicing Judaism, but still believes in Jesus. In other words, he wants to practice both Judaism and Christianity. I hope Mr. Taylor doesn’t think that his newfound faith will somehow lessen the effect or severity of the charges pending against him. Accepting this man as a candidate for conversion feels, on a gut level, the same as accepting a professed Nazi as a candidate for conversion. On the other hannd, I suppose it’s remotely possible that he is actually attemptting to turn his life around and become a better person, although I can’t help but doubt this rather strongly. And I hope that someone takes the time to inform Mr. Taylor that, in order to convert to Judaism, even the most liberal form, he has to forsake all other gods, including Jesus.

Charles Taylor, the former dictator of Liberia who is currently imprisoned in the Hague awaiting trial by the special court for Sierra Leone, has decided to convert to Judaism. According to the BBC, one of his wives reports that he is now practicing Judaism, but still believes in Jesus. In other words, he wants to practice both Judaism and Christianity. I hope Mr. Taylor doesn’t think that his newfound faith will somehow lessen the effect or severity of the charges pending against him. Accepting this man as a candidate for conversion feels, on a gut level, the same as accepting a professed Nazi as a candidate for conversion. On the other hannd, I suppose it’s remotely possible that he is actually attemptting to turn his life around and become a better person, although I can’t help but doubt this rather strongly. And I hope that someone takes the time to inform Mr. Taylor that, in order to convert to Judaism, even the most liberal form, he has to forsake all other gods, including Jesus.

Mirrored from customerservant.com.

Here’s another anti-tech alert. Why doesn’t this surprise me?

Rabbinic Conversion Court judges are more likely to reject prospective converts who were partially trained via the Internet, a senior source in the Conversion Authority said Sunday.
According to the source, about 70% of prospective converts who are interviewed by the conversion court are accepted. However, among prospective converts who were trained in part via the Internet, only about half are accepted, said the source.
The issue of conversions comes to the forefront ahead of Shavuot, which is celebrated with the reading of the biblical story of Ruth, the archetypical convert to Judaism.

According to the above-referenced conversion court source, the court can tell the difference between people who study partially using the internet, and those who study using only books and a face-to-face teacher. I maintain, however, that this isn’t a matter of the internet producing lower-quality students, or the internet providing lower-quality material, but students either not utilizing it properly, or students finding alternative oppinions of rabbis who don’t necessarily hold like the rabbis sitting on the conversion panel, and thus these students are disqualified. During my conversion studies in 1999/2000, if it hadn’t been for the internet, I would have never gotten the information I needed. I devoured JewFaq, and to this day I use it as a partial reference, along with Project Genesis and Aish Hatorah due to the almost complete inavailability of seforim in any sort of accessible format. And until this complete inavailability is changed, I’ll continue to do so, or I’ll have to buy print seforim and then scan them, correct the mistakes that creep in through OCR, and then, finally, read it. So in my eyes, this annti-tech decree strikes me as a luddite one at best.
Hat-tip.

Here’s another anti-tech alert. Why doesn’t this surprise me?

Rabbinic Conversion Court judges are more likely to reject prospective converts who were partially trained via the Internet, a senior source in the Conversion Authority said Sunday.
According to the source, about 70% of prospective converts who are interviewed by the conversion court are accepted. However, among prospective converts who were trained in part via the Internet, only about half are accepted, said the source.
The issue of conversions comes to the forefront ahead of Shavuot, which is celebrated with the reading of the biblical story of Ruth, the archetypical convert to Judaism.

According to the above-referenced conversion court source, the court can tell the difference between people who study partially using the internet, and those who study using only books and a face-to-face teacher. I maintain, however, that this isn’t a matter of the internet producing lower-quality students, or the internet providing lower-quality material, but students either not utilizing it properly, or students finding alternative oppinions of rabbis who don’t necessarily hold like the rabbis sitting on the conversion panel, and thus these students are disqualified. During my conversion studies in 1999/2000, if it hadn’t been for the internet, I would have never gotten the information I needed. I devoured JewFaq, and to this day I use it as a partial reference, along with Project Genesis and Aish Hatorah due to the almost complete inavailability of seforim in any sort of accessible format. And until this complete inavailability is changed, I’ll continue to do so, or I’ll have to buy print seforim and then scan them, correct the mistakes that creep in through OCR, and then, finally, read it. So in my eyes, this annti-tech decree strikes me as a luddite one at best.
Hat-tip.

Mirrored from customerservant.com.

Cross-currents has published an article by Rabbi Avi Shafran on intelligent design, which I think is worth a read, whether you agree or disagree with ID.
The Rabbi gives a perspective on the controversy from the writings of Maimonides, one of Judaism’s greatest scholars.
The article was originally published in the Jewish Observer.
La Shawn Barber presents an interesting story that should convince you, (if you’re not already convinced), that NPR is a bastion of liberalism, along with some links explaining ID.
Both Shafran and Barber point out that Evolutionary theory has taken on the defacto status of the state religion, to the extent that some within the scientific community will stop at nothing to keep out any competition in the public arena with their pet theory.

I think, too, that this is one of those situations where traditional Jews and Christians have the opportunity to focus on what we have in common, with neither side compromising on principles.
Enjoy.

As seen at: Third World County, Stray Dog, and Bloggin’ Outloud.

Taken from customerservant.com

Not that I want to bring it up again, but the execution of Tookie Williams has, due to its media attention, rekindled the debate on whether capital punishment is a just penalty for crimes like murder.
Both sides seek to bolster their claims by citing Biblical passages, and it seems the favorite of the opponents of the death penalty is the following: ” … Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord … ” (Romans 12:19).
The verse quotes, (or rather, paraphrases), Deuteronomy 32:35, part of the well-known Ha’azinu.
It is used in the Christian Scriptures as support for the position held by Paul that Christians should not take vengeance against their enemies, and reassuring them that God will do the avenging.
But can this verse be used as a prooftext against the death penalty?
It is my aim, throughout this article, to demonstrate that this verse has nothing to do with the death penalty, and that both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures distinguish between vengeance and state sanctioned punishment of criminals,

Taken from customerservant.com

This post present a proof against the Ducomentary Hypothesis I’ve never considered.
For those who don’t know, the Documentary Hypothesis states that the first five books of the Bible, (the Torah), were actually written by several persons, and then edited together by a redactor at some point.
Proponents of the theory support their assertions by pointing out that different names for God are used in the various sections of the text, and that each author/editor tends to focus on some textual aspect, the author of the “priestly” sources focusing on genaeological material and worship, for example.

The article linked points out that, whereas the Christian Scriptures are admitted by their adherents to have come from litterally thousands of different manuscript sources, Jews view even one letter out of place in a Torah scroll as grounds enough to hold the Torah reading without its accompanying blessings —the blessings are what makes the Torah reading a public act, since the blessings sanctify God’s Name, and one cannot bless God’s name in vain by making blessings over a defective Torah scroll—as well as compares the number of differences (ten or so) between Ashkenazic, Sefardic, and Yemenite texts with the thousands of variations in the Christian texts, illustrates how none of those differences effects the way the Torah is interpreted in the slightest.
Good read.

Taken from customerservant.com

hannahsarah wonders;-{ why it seems that, whenever someone declines an offer of food, (either for him/herself or a child), and sites health reasons, it’s fine, while siting religious reasons creates problems.
I have to ask the same question.
Whe I converted to Judaism, I of course started to keep kosher to some degree, not eating pork, shellfish or any other treif animal.
Sometimes I still have to remind the family about it, and at one point my brother made a comment about my refusal to eat pork being prideful on my part.
To tell the truth it completely baffels me why dietary and other behavioral habits are such a problem for those who don’t practice them.
Nobody’s forcing it on any family member, and we’ll even go out of our way to bring our own food, or just eat the vegetables, or whatever it takes to avoid asking the family to cook extra.
But that’s almost as offensive.
It’s completely illogical, and it doesn’t make any sense on any level.

Taken from customerservant.com

From The Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Dear Friends,
One can imagine the pride that the farmer feels when – after all his hard work – the first fruits of the harvest appear. This pride can lead the farmer
to feel that he is the master and owner of the land, as well as the source of its blessings. The Torah, however, has many mitzvos which remind the human
being that “the earth and its fullness, the inhabited land and those who dwell in it belong to the Compassionate One” (Psalm 24:1). One of these mitzvos
is the following Divine mandate which is addressed to the farmer:
“The choicest of the first fruits of your land you shall bring to the House of the Compassionate One, your God” (Exodus 23:19 – Translation of the Sforno).
The classical commentator, Rashi, cites the tradition that the fruits are to be brought from the seven vegetarian species for which the Land of Israel is
praised, as it is written: “A Land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, and pomegranates; a land of oil-producing olives and date honey” (Deuteronomy 8:8).
In addition to bringing these first fruits, the farmer is required to recite a declaration of gratitude to the Compassionate One for this blessing. This
declaration appears in the following Torah portion that we read this Shabbos:
“It will be when you enter the Land that the Compassionate One, your God gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it, and dwell in it, then you shall
take of the choicest of every (first) fruit of the ground that you bring in from your Land that the Compassionate One, your God, gives you. And you shall
put it in a basket and go to the place that the Compassionate One your God, will choose, to make His Name dwell there. You shall come to whomever will
be the Kohen in those days, and you shall say to him, ‘I declare today to the Compassionate One, your God, that I have come to the Land that the Compassionate
One swore to our forefathers to give us.’ The Kohen shall take the basket from your hand and lay it before the altar of the Compassionate One, your God.”
(Deuteronomy 26:1-4)
In the next part of the declaration, the farmer is to humbly remember how the Compassionate One redeemed us from oppression and slavery:
“Then you shall call out and say before the Compassionate One, your God: ‘An Aramean would have destroyed my father, and he descended to Egypt and sojourned
there, few in number, and there he became a nation – great, strong, and numerous. The Egyptians mistreated us and afflicted us and placed hard work upon
us. Then we cried out to the Compassionate One, God of our ancestors, and the Compassionate One heard our voice and saw our travail, and our oppression.
The Compassionate One took us out of Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, with great awesomeness, and with signs and with wonders. He
brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and date-honey. And now, behold! I have brought the first fruit of the ground
that You have given me, O Compassionate One!’ ” (26:5-10)
The following is a summary of the procedure for bringing the First Fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem:
________________________________

The people of each regional district would spend the night in the public square of the town, and early in the morning, the leader would proclaim, “Arise,
let us ascend to Zion, to the Compassionate One, our God” (Jeremiah 31:5). Those who came from areas near to Jerusalem would bring fresh figs and grapes
(because they would not be spoiled on a short journey); those who came from areas far from Jerusalem would bring dried figs and raisins.
An ox went before them with its horns overlaid with gold, and a crown of olive leaves was upon its head. The flute was played before them until they approached
Jerusalem. On the journey, they would chant, “I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the House of the Compassionate One’ ” (Psalm 122:1).
When they came close to Jerusalem, they sent messengers before them, and they would decorate their first-fruits. The officials of the Temple then went forth
to greet them. And all the craftsmen of Jerusalem would stand before them and inquire concerning their welfare. The craftsmen would say to the pilgrims,
“Our brethren, from such-and-such a place, you have come to shalom!”
Within Jerusalem, the pilgrims would chant, “Our feet stood firm within your gates, O Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:2). The flute was played before them until they
reached the Temple Mount.
Once they reached the Temple Courtyard, the Levites would sing (Psalm 30:2), “I will praise You, O Compassionate One, for You have raised me up, and You
have not allowed my enemies to rejoice over me!” (This may be referring to their gratitude over the fact that the enemies of Israel did not attack the
Land of Israel during this collective pilgrimage to the Temple.)
On the Temple Mount, Psalm 150 was also sung. This psalm describes how we praise God “with the blast of the shofar, with lyre and harp, with drum and dance,
with organ and flute.” And it concludes with the following universal proclamation: “Let all souls praise God, Hallelu-yah!”
(The above description is based on Mishnah Bikurim, Chapter 3, and the commentary of Maimonides to the Mishnah. Maimonides cites the Jerusalem Talmud on
Bikurim 3:2.)
_______________________________________________
The season for bringing the first fruits begins on the Festival of Shavuos – the Festival when we commemorate the giving of the Torah to our united tribes.
The pilgrimage to the Temple during this season reinforced our sense of unity. Imagine the moving experience of seeing many thousands of people from all
the tribes entering Jerusalem with their baskets of first fruits, with the flutes playing, and being led by oxen with “crowns” of olive-leaves.
Our collective memory of this pilgrimage to Jerusalem is one of the reasons why our people have yearned for the rebuilding of our unifying Temple. In this
spirit, we sing at the Shabbos table the following words:
“May the Temple be rebuilt; may the City of Zion be full of pilgrims; there we shall sing a new song, and with joyous singing ascend!” (Tzur MeShelo)
May we be blessed with the contentment, joy, light, and shalom of Shabbos.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

Hazon – Our Universal Vision

Taken from customerservant.com