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.

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

Taken from

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

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

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

According to this piece in the London Times, the rightwingers in Holland’s parliament are considering passing legislation to ban the burka, which the article incorrectly calls “…traditional clothing in some Islamic societies, {which} covers a woman’s face
and body, leaving only a strip of gauze for the eyes”. First of all, let’s get some terms straight. A burka is a leathery mask used to cover the face in places like the United Arab Emirates, and other gulf countries, as well as Afghanistan. Hijab, (mentioned later on the article as “a scarf”), refers to the manner of dress Muslims deem modest. Why am I being a stickler about terms that bear little or no significance to the general content of the article? The answer to this question is my insistence on correctness is due to my belief that if you’re going to write about something, (whether you be a journalist or author of books), you are expected to be responsible enough to disseminate correct, fatual information. If you don’t, it lessens your credibility. The article goes on to illustrate the supposed toughness of the Dutch right-winger Rita Verdonk by mentioning that she canceled a meeting with leaders of the Muslim community because the men wouldn’t shake hands with her because she is a woman. Observant Jews call that being shomer negia, and it refers to the act of refraining from touching someone of the opposite sex who isn’t a close relative (spouse, sister, brother, mother, father, child). It’s accepted in this country all the time. You don’t think all those Orthodox businessmen and women don’t do things like go to job interviews, meetings with their non-Jewish bosses, etc., simply because their faith forbids them from shaking hands with someone of the opposite sex, do you? Yet, one of the most liberal countries on the face of the planet, one that even allows homosexual unions the status of legal marriages, sells marijuana in its coffee shops and regards prostitution as legal, can’t deal when someone refuses to shake hands due to modesty concerns. And then they make the claim that they’re just worried about terrorism. Newsflash folks, women wearing burkas, (or, for the benefit of the French, scarves), aren’t going to be carrying weapons under them. I can only think of one, maybe two instances where a burka should be temporarily removed, the most important of which would be taking a picture for an ID card or driver’s license. And if Muslim law is anything like Jewish law, (incidentally, there are a lot of similarities, if you exclude those who twist either system to fit their own agendas), there’s a legal way to make those situations work. I could also see it in the case of childcare, as children do get weirded out if they can’t see who’s caring for them. Once again, I’m sure there’s a legal way around that one too. But banning burkas and scarves in public (which is where they’re worn in the first place), especially scarves isn’t based on security concerns, it’s based on ignorance. It’s extreme secularism. Same goes for banning kippot. No one’s wearing a kippah (yarmulke) or scarf screaming “Jihad”.
Wearing kippot or wearing hijab have to do with modesty concerns, not politics.
I’m aware that there exceptions to the rule, but they are just that, exceptions.
There were huge numbers of women wearing hijab during the 70’s and the 80’s in the Middle East as a political statement, but we have yet to see any evidence in Europe of Muslim women doing so.
In fact, I have yet to see anything in the news concerning any of the corrent violence going on in France and Germany being committed by women.
It’s young men and teenagers who are starting the problems.
And lest anyone put forth the asserssion that the women should do their part to bring order to their communities, I would remind said asserter to remember the status of women in most Muslim communities versus that of women in western society.
If something comes up in the news concerning someone who actually figures out how to effectively conceal a weapon under a scarf, turban, kippah or burka, I’ll be the first one to start rethinking my position.
But until then, let’s not over react.

Taken from

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

by Moshe Kempinski
Arutz-Sheva, Israel National News
Sep 12, ’05 / 8 Elul 5765

I made the mistake of listening to the mindless babble of several
media personalities recently. They were talking about the past year’s
trends. One of them picked up the orange band worn by supporters of
Gush Katif.

She said, “Do you know what this orange band is [as if anyone in the
country did not]?” She went on to describe that she looked on the
band and was surprised to see “I Love Gush Katif” on the band. “I
guess we won’t see much of that anymore,” she giggled. The other
individual agreed in good humor and said those orange streamers will
probably be mistaken for support of some football team. The both
giggled in childish glee.

What was so painfully evident was that they were describing their own
inner desire, rather than an objective discussion of the orange bands
and streamers that swept the country. They truly wanted to forget. It
was that nervous frenetic energy that brought about the giggles. They
did not want to remember that they were part of a heartless machine
that destroyed Jewish communities and sent their inhabitants to
wander from hotel to hotel and from city to city. The government, the
media and parts of the population in Israel will do all that it can
to obliterate any memory of what was the power and faith of Gush

Many of the rabbinic leaders have turned to an event described in the
Talmud (Avoda Zara 18). Rabbi Hanina ben Teradion, when he was bound
by the Romans and burnt at the stake, was asked by his students,
“Master what do you see?”

He said, “I see parchment of Torah being burnt, but the letters are
blossoming and floating into the air.”

You can destroy parchment and bricks, but you cannot destroy the
spirit. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is engaged in almost superhuman
efforts to raze the flourishing settlements into the ground. He tried
to destroy the synagogues, despite the pleas of large segments of
Israel’s population and of the Jews of the world. He has become
obsessed with wiping out any remnant of his crime, like the psychotic
franticly wiping his hands of imaginary blood.

Yet, very few people are taking off their orange streamers.

The vast majority of faithful Zionism today is in the midst of
mourning and mutual comfort. They will take the time to heal the
wounds inflicted by an uncaring secular administration; yet, they
will not give up on their vision. More importantly, they will not
give up on the potential for vision laying dormant in the hearts of
the less faithful segments of our community.

Glimpses of that potential were clearly evident in the midst of the
destruction. A policewoman saw that I had stationed myself with a
sign at an intersection near S’derot after being warned by the local
police commander to leave. She called me over to her police car. I
expected another demand or a threat. She said quietly that G-d should
bless us for what we were trying to do, and that if I stood a little
to the right, then I could get away with it.

As my nephew was being dragged out of one the synagogues in Gush
Katif, the helmeted policeman bent over and said to him, “Kol
Hakavod, we are with you. Don’t give up.”

One of the police commanders came up to Rabbi Elon, the dean of
Yeshivat HaKotel, and said to him that the most dramatic and
emotional moment of this period occurred after they had cleared out a
synagogue of protesters. The commander went back into the synagogue
and found several of his men sprawled on the floor in front of the
empty Aron Kodesh (the Ark), weeping.

While it is true that there were examples of cruelty and of hatred on
the part of some of the commanders and their policemen, the instances
of sympathy and even affection seemed to be more the rule.

One might ask: if there were so many stories of brotherhood like
these, then how did these same people also participate in the
expulsion and destruction?

It takes great courage to be what you need to be. It takes a nurtured
and faithful soul to do what your soul truly desires. It takes great
vision to see beyond the fog raised by slogans and half-truths
spouted by the local and world media. It takes a burning Jewish heart
to truly act in accordance with your destiny.

Yet, every single member of the larger Jewish community, which has
survived thousands of years of oppression, recognizes truth when it
burns before them. That explains the heartfelt statements of people
in the midst of them doing things in total contradiction to their
words. That explains the sea of orange streamers in a country the
media likes to portray as being in favor of the expulsion.

The Jerusalem Talmud describes our sages looking over into the
horizon as the dawn began burst into morning. Thus, will be the
redemption of Israel, like the dawn. It will come slowly at first and
then burst into glorious light.

I wonder if, as the sages looked into the skies, they didn’t see a
haze of orange on the horizon.

Taken from

by Paula R. Stern
Arutz-Sheva, Israel National News
Sep 12, ’05 / 8 Elul 5765

Today, as I knew they would, crazed Palestinian mobs are desecrating
25 synagogues in Gaza, setting them on fire and destroying what it
took years to build. I have visited almost all of these synagogues,
prayed in many of them. I cannot even begin to put into words the
pain I feel today, the anger and the sadness.

The world, as I expected, is silent. The United Nations’ Kofi Annan
was asked to protect the remaining synagogues, but we hear nothing.
Empty buildings, they will protest quietly; and what did you expect?
Unspoken is the silent message that while the Christian world and the
Jewish world would respect places of worship, the Muslim world cannot
be held to the same level of accountability. Did you expect any
different? No, I did not, though it would be a mistake to assume that
knowing they would destroy these holy places in any way lessens the

We can’t say that we expected no better, of course, because that
would be deemed racist and wrong. It would be insulting to the
honorable religion of Islam, even though it is the truth. It would
imply that their values are different than ours, even though they
are. It would suggest that their culture is one that lacks respect
for other religions, one deeply embedded in violence and one that
cannot tolerate and respect the beliefs of others. We can’t say all
that, and so the lie will live on, the destruction go unpunished, the
truth left unsaid.

The world will quietly offer Israel their condolences and throughout
the world, in places like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and
even in Poland, Romania, Hungary and the Ukraine, people will wonder
if maybe they could destroy a nearby synagogue, too. Why should the
land on which these buildings sit continue to be “wasted” when there
are no Jews around? Could there be a way to rid Europe and Arab
countries of these buildings in which Jews once prayed? The first
step, of course, is to deny.

Palestinian President Abu Mazen has become a rabbi, apparently. He
can now determine the holiness of a synagogue and has issued his
rabbinic decree that these buildings are no longer synagogues, no
longer holy. If you take the wooden pews, the musical instruments,
the Bibles, hymnals, altar furnishings and vestments out of a church,
is it then permissible to burn it down? Does it lose its sanctity
because the inner contents have been removed?

Perhaps others are wondering if they too could use the Palestinian
excuse that a building stripped and desecrated is no longer holy and
can be destroyed. How many Jewish cemeteries are there in Europe? Are
Jews ever likely to return to Iraq? Must Tunisia protect the
remaining synagogues? What of Morocco?

Luckily, our holy places will be saved by the most unlikely source.
Abu Mazen has one problem in making his claim believable. His own
people reject his words. Watch the pictures of them dancing on the
rooftops of these buildings, see how they set fire to these holy

In his mad rush for the border, Ariel Sharon gave the Palestinians
millions of dollars in infrastructure, public buildings, lighting,
roads and more. And yet the pictures in the media are all the same.
The Palestinian mobs are frantic and out of control in their
bloodthirsty quest to destroy the synagogues, because they recognize
that these places are holy to the Jews. Of course they are
synagogues, today as they were yesterday. The ground sacred, the
buildings holy.

What interest would they have in simply destroying a building? They
will scavenge around and take what they can – but the synagogues are
being destroyed. Why burn and damage them if not for the intense
hate-filled desire to destroy something that represents Judaism, a
non-Muslim place of worship?

But it is not only the pictures from Gaza that cause me great pain
today, not just the hatred and destruction that we all knew was
inevitable. Add in a debate going on now in England, civilized
England. At first glance, it seems like it is a different topic
entirely, and yet, in its own way, it is the same debate, albeit in
a more civilized environment. Perhaps commemorating Holocaust Day is
a little too Jewish, say a team of advisors to Prime Minister Tony
Blair. Perhaps it would be more politically correct to call it
Genocide Day, so as to avoid insulting England’s growing Muslim

Words fail me. How many fronts can we fight at one time? How
appropriate that this debate would be raised on days when synagogues
are again being burned and destroyed. Would England deny the unique
place the Holocaust has in world history? Are the Holocaust and the
few days we commemorate it not sacred? There have been many attempts
at genocide throughout the centuries, but none were as systematic, as
civilized and as endorsed as the Holocaust.

Nowhere, never, was the machine of a government focused so totally on
obliterating all traces of a religion or people in such an efficient
and barbaric way, while being accompanied by the silence of nations
who could have, should have, done something.

Not since Nazi Germany have so many synagogues been destroyed. Muslim
intolerance is well known and yet the world continues to be silent.
Why was the world silent when 2,000 Hindi temples were destroyed by
Muslims in India? When will the world finally react to Islamic
religious intolerance? Would the world remain silent if 25 churches
were burned in one day? Where is the Vatican’s voice of outrage as
the synagogues in Gaza burn? I can only imagine what fury there would
be if Israel were to now demolish 25 mosques on Israeli soil.

Just three days ago, I stood in the Yamit Yeshiva in N’vei Dekalim,
the famous synagogue in the shape of a Jewish star. Rabbi Abu Mazen
has promised that this building will be destroyed. Apparently, its
continued existence would be an insult to the Palestinians, who do
not believe in the sanctity of any religion but their own.

As I walked around, there was a swirl of action. Soldiers moved
quickly back and forth removing whatever could be taken. The books
had been removed, the holy Torah scrolls long since taken away so
they would not see the shame of what would come. The High Court had
not yet ruled whether Israel should destroy the buildings in
anticipation of the desecration Abu Mazen and his government was
promising, but the soldiers knew destruction was coming soon.

In the end, the Israeli government made the correct choice. We will
not destroy synagogues. We will not send a signal to the world that
it is acceptable to wantonly destroy the holy places of our religion
or another. And so, today, as yesterday and tomorrow, mosques will
be safe in Israel, while synagogues burn elsewhere.

Jews do not destroy places of worship even if the alternative in the
end is the desecration of these Houses of God at the hands of rioting
mobs who worship terror, incite violence and care not for any
buildings or any people, not even their own. The world will not admit
it, it can’t be said or written, but Jews honor churches, mosques and
synagogues throughout our country and in our communities. Since the
Holocaust, the Jewish synagogues in Europe have largely been
protected and public outcries have often resulted when desecrations
have occurred.

Israelis even protect Arab holy sites when they are built on top of
our holy places, as they are on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,
Joseph’s Tomb, Samuel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in

Make no mistake, the face of the future state of Palestine can be
seen in the actions of Palestinians today. There is an impossible
divide between our culture and theirs, our dreams and the nightmares
they would force upon us.

Jews made their stand yesterday by not destroying the synagogues.
Palestinians made their stand today by burning and desecrating them.
The remaining question now is what the Christian world will do. Will
you express outrage at Islamic intolerance or continued silence?

Taken from

Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald

In this coming week’s parasha, parashat Shoftim, 41 new Torah laws–14 positive and 27 negative mitzvot–are introduced. Among the laws that are included
in this week’s parasha is the regulation affirming the authority of the rabbis.

Known as the law of the Zakein Mamreh, the Rebellious Elder, this statute underscores the importance of heeding the authority of the sages. In fact, it
was a capital crime for any judge, even an outstanding judge, to act against the decision of the Great Sanhedrin (the ancient Supreme Court of Israel in

The Torah, in Deuteronomy 17:10, warns the people to do what the judges tell them to do, and to abide by everything that they teach. The very next verse,
Deuteronomy 17:11, then states: “Ahl pee ha’Torah ah’sher yo’roo’chah, v’ahl ha’mish’paht ah’sher yom’roo l’chah, tah’ah’seh. Lo ta’soor min hah’da’var
ah’sher yah’gee’doo l’chah ya’min oo’s’mohl,” according to the teaching that they will teach you and according to the judgement that they will say to you,
you shall do. You shall not deviate from the word that they tell you, right or left. No matter what the status of the person who willfully rebels against
the words of the judges, that person shall die. In this manner, the people of Israel are bidden to eradicate the evil from their midst, and serve as a
lesson for all the people to hear and to fear.

Throughout the long and remarkable history of the Jewish people there were always rebellious groups of Jews who rejected the teachings and practices of
the Torah. Even the famous rebellion of Korach (Numbers 16), which reputedly originated from a political dispute over authority, is couched in the Midrash
as a theological debate over whether a room full of Torah scrolls requires a mezuzah on the doorpost, or whether a tallit entirely of blue threads requires
an additional blue thread (t’chailet) on the fringes (tzitzit).

Toward the end of the second temple period, the priesthood became corrupt, and many priests adopted the beliefs of the Sadducees (Tzidukim), who followed
the written code (the Scriptures) but rejected the oral code (the oral tradition that was later recorded in the Talmud). During the Gaonic period and in
the time of the early Rishonim, the rabbis had to contend with the Karaites, another sect who rejected the oral tradition. Of course, at the turn of the
Common Era, many Jews were attracted to a new religion–Christianity, first practicing as Hebrew-Christians, and then becoming full-fledged Christians.
The Christians believed that the “Old Testament” had been abrogated, and that there was no longer any reason to follow the rituals of Judaism, such as
kosher, Sabbath observance and circumcision.

The question of Jewish observance, of course, goes much further than only believing in the Bible and the Oral Code. In fact, an essential element of Jewish
theology devolves about the acceptance or rejection of the authority of the sages. It is not only the authority of Moses that must be accepted by believers,
but the authority of succeeding sages throughout the generations. For denying the rabbinic tradition is tantamount to abrogating the entire Jewish legal
system. Consequently, the faithful traditional Jew today is expected to accept contemporary rabbinic authority to be as authoritative as that of Moses
and the written law.

Among the medieval commentators there is the dispute concerning what a “Torah-true” Jew must accept as binding. Maimonides (the Rambam, the great Jewish
philosopher, codifier and physician, 1135-1204) deduces from the verse, Deuteronomy 17:11, you shall not deviate from the word that they will tell you
right or left, that every Jew must accept the following: 1. that the Masoretic (traditional) text of the Scriptures is the valid bible text; 2. that the
laws deduced from the Torah utilizing the 13 Hermeneutic principles of Rabbi Ishmael are valid; and, 3. that all decrees (gezairot), ordinances (takanot)
and customs (minhagim) instituted by the sages are similarly valid.

Nachmanides (Ramban, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, 1194-1270, Spanish Torah commentator) accepts the first two principles of Maimonides, but rejects the third,
stating that laws of rabbinical origin are not enforceable, and hence are not a sine qua none for proper belief.

In contemporary times, a related question has arisen regarding the authority of the sages. A difference of opinion has manifested itself between the Modern
Orthodox and the Chareidi Orthodox Jews with respect to what is known as “Daat Torah” or “Daas Torah.” Daat Torah is loosely defined as “an ideology which
teaches that the advice given by great Torah scholars must be followed by Jews committed to Torah observance” (Rabbi Alfred Cohen, Journal of Halacha and
Contemporary Society, Spring 2003).

The parameters of this dispute extend from those who fervently believe that the sages of old and of contemporary times not only possess a wisdom and a breath
of knowledge that helps them be more insightful than normal people in their decisions regarding Torah and even mundane issues of the day, but also believe
that they actually have ruach hakodesh, an inherent power of prophecy, (even though there are no longer any official prophets in Israel). On the other
hand, there are those who argue, particularly Professor Lawrence Kaplan of McGill University, that there is absolutely no basis for Daat Torah in classical
Judaism, and accuses those who promote the notion of Daat Torah of trying to “close and suppress discussion” of viewpoints that the Chareidi community

In his studious and comprehensive examination of the notion and efficacy of Daat Torah, Rabbi Alfred Cohen raises some questions concerning Daat Torah,
including perhaps the gravest question of all, how was it possible for the great rabbinic leaders to advise Jews not to leave Europe before the Holocaust,
and in certain instances prohibiting them from leaving. In response, he cites in the name of Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner (1907-1980 Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta R’
Chaim Berlin in New York), an intriguing parable of two people who are standing on the roof about to jump off. The crowd below is begging them not to jump.
One of the would-be leapers is persuaded by the crowd not to jump, and begins to make his way down a staircase, only to fall and break his neck. The other
person leaps from the roof just as a truck carrying mattresses passes by, and he lands unharmed among the mattresses.

Rabbi Hutner asks if the advice given to the would-be leapers incorrect. Obviously not! The advice was indeed correct for most circumstances. The would-be
leaper who listened to them made the right decision to walk down the stairs, but the circumstances changed. “The guidance of our Torah leaders,” Rabbi
Hutner concludes “is just that–Torah inspired wisdom, but it is not prophecy, and it is not failsafe. Our rabbis are wise men, not prophets.” (ibid page

Rabbi Cohen musters additional arguments in support of Daat Torah, positing that acceptance of Rabbinic authority is crucial in order to insure strong leadership
in the Jewish community, otherwise chaos will prevail. “The Torah has established the principle of majority rule, to promote the unity of Torah observance
and preserve the community. Leaders may err,” Rabbi Cohen argues, “but individual Jews who follow their instructions have done no wrong, that is why only
the leaders bring the sin offering in the instance of error, and not the community.” (page 34)

Can one disagree with the great sages? Rabbi Cohen responds affirmatively to this questions by citing the Rama (Rabbi Moshe Isserles, 1530-1572) who rules
in the Code of Jewish Law, “It is permitted for him [the student] to disagree with some ruling or teaching of his [the teacher], if he can sustain his
position and prove that the law is as he sees it.” (Yoreh Deah 242-3)

Obviously, the concept of the authority of the sages is a statute of very ancient origin. However, the extent to which the authority exists and applies
today is a matter of dispute that is far beyond the scope of this analysis. I suggest that those who wish to pursue the question further, consult their
local rabbis, and argue vigorously with them!

May you be blessed

Taken from

The following prayer was composed by Israel’s Chief
Rabbinate on behalf
of the victims of Hurricane Katrina (See below). Rabbi
Simchah Roth of
Congregation Eitz Hayyim in Herzliya suggested also
that Psalm 69 be read, and had his congregation do so on
Shabbat. I’m including that Psalm as well.

Psalm 69

For the Conductor, on the shoshanim, by David. Deliver
me, O Elohim, for the waters have reached until my soul!
I have sunk in muddy depths without foothold; I have
come into deep waters,
and the current sweeps me away. I am wearied by my
crying, my throat is parched; my eyes pined while
waiting for my God. More numerous than the hairs
on my head are those who hate me without reason. Mighty
are those who would cut me off, those who are my enemies
without cause. What I have not stolen,
I will then have to return. O Elohim, You know my folly,
and my wrongs are not hidden from You. Let not those who
hope in You be shamed through me,
O Adonai, God of Hosts; let not those who seek You be
disgraced through me, O God of Yisrael, because for Your
sake I have borne humiliation, disgrace
covers my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my mother’s sons, for the envy of Your House
has consumed me, and the humiliations
of those who scorn You have fallen upon me. And I wept
while my soul fasted, and it was a humiliation to me. I
made sackcloth my garment, and became
a byword for them. Those who sit by the gate speak of
me, and of me are the songs of drunkards. May my prayer
to You, Jhwh, be at a gracious
time; Elohim, in Your abounding kindness, answer me with
Your true deliverance. Rescue me from the mire, so that
I not sink; let me be saved from my enemies
and from deep waters. Let not the current of water sweep
me away, nor the deep swallow me; and let not the pit
close its mouth over me. Answer
me, Jhwh, for Your kindness is good; according to Your
abundant mercies, turn to me. Do not hide Your face from
Your servant, for I am in distress-hurry
to answer me. Draw near to my soul and liberate it;
redeem me, so that my enemies not feel triumphant. You
know my humiliation, my shame, and
my disgrace; all my tormentors are before You.
Humiliation has broken my heart, and I have become ill.
I longed for comfort, but there was none; for
consolers, but I did not find. They put gall into my
food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Let their table become a trap before
them, and their serenity, a snare. Let their eyes be
darkened so that they cannot see, and let their loins
continually falter. Pour Your wrath
upon them, and let the fierceness of Your anger overtake
them. Let their palace be desolate, let there be no
dweller in their tents, for they persecute
the one whom You struck, and tell of the pain of Your
wounded ones. Add iniquity to their iniquity, and let
them not enter into Your righteousness.
May they be erased from the Book of Life, and let them
not be inscribed with the righteous. But I am poor and
in pain; let Your deliverance, O
Elohim, strengthen me. I will praise the Name of Elohim
with song, I will extol Him with thanksgiving! And it
will please Jhwh more than the sacrifice
of a mature bull with horns and hooves. The humble will
see it and rejoice; you seekers of Elohim, see and your
hearts will come alive. For Jhwh listens to the needy,
and He does not despise His prisoners. Let heaven and
earth praise Him, the seas and all that moves within
them, for
Elohim will deliver Tziyon and build the cities of
Yehuda, and they will settle there and possess it; and
the seed of His servants will inherit it, and those
who love His Name will dwell in it.

Our Heavenly Father, Founder of the world and Creator of
the universe,
compassionate and merciful God,
Please spare and show compassion to Your creatures and
the world You
have created,
And especially the inhabitants of the states along the
Gulf of Mexico
in the United States.
Save them from every calamity, from the winds of storm
and hurricane,
from the waters of the sea, and from every sorrow and
And send deliverance and redemption to all those who
call upon Thy Name.
Save them from the floodwaters and rescue them from the
Lead them to a place of safety, and do not abandon them,
And in Your abundant mercy send them redemption in the
measure of their
And complete healing to the sick and those in pain, and
comfort to
their souls and spirit.
May all the inhabitants of the Earth know and recognize
that You are
the Supreme King,
Who rules the powers of the universe and shows mercy to
His creatures,
who praise Your great Name, amen.

Taken from