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Zealotry in Pursuit of Dissension
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We live in a time not just of paradox but of extreme impulses that call to mind Yeats, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”  There seems to be no ballast at the core of our experience, nothing to root us and give us rational context to the […]
To Sing a New Song…
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When I was a principal, I would often walk through the halls of my school during class.  When I did, I would glance in the classrooms and, even with the doors closed and in the relative silence of the hallway, I would be able to identify what I considered a “successful” classroom. It is, of […]
From the Parshah: A Note on Tekhelet
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This week’s parshah, Shelach, contains the mitzvah of tzitzit. The Torah asks us not only to wear fringes on our four cornered garments, but to include a strand of tekhelet among the white strands. Tekhelet is obtained from a dye that is extracted from a sea-creature called the chilazon. For many centuries, the identity of […]
Given Eyes to See
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The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend. – Robertson Davies, Tempest-Tost It is true you cannot tell a book by its cover.  Appearances sometimes deceive.  And sometimes it is our ability to comprehend that which limits our vision. We pass by a young man hobbled by a physical deformity and presume […]
Be’Haalotcha: To Teach, to Inspire
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In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years. ~Jacques Barzun In Parshat Behaalotcha, the Torah speaks of the Kohen Gadol Aaron kindling, lighting the Menorah.  As with much of Torah, this seems straightforward enough.  Of course he would light the menorah.  However, […]
The Numbers Don’t Lie: Balance and Symmetry
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There is perhaps no greater cultural image of Jewish life than the “fiddler on the roof”.  In him, we see ourselves seeking to find the balance between the beauty and grace of our tradition with the challenges and seductions of the world around us. The truth is, we all seek balance in our lives.  As […]
Today. Everyday. Change and the Challenge of Life
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There is nothing permanent except change – Heraclitus It is told of a king who once offered his beautiful daughter and half his kingdom to anyone who could provide for him something that would make him happy when he was sad and sad when he was happy.  Despite death being the consequence to anyone who […]
When in Rome…? Israel and Morality
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We are taught by tradition to observe “minhag hamakom”, the custom of the “house”.  When in someone’s territory, we are to respect and abide by his rules and traditions.  Our rabbis were clear that this is the best path for coexisting peacefully with our fellows.  Writ large, it is this tradition that has Jews in […]
In the Eye of the Beholder?
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What makes a photograph museum worthy? What is it about the photographer’s eye that allows him to take a memorable shot?  After D-Day, tens of thousands arrived in New York, but only one captured image defines the moment.  The horrors of war are beyond counting, yet a single searing image of a child suffering the […]
The Stork and What its Name Means for Us
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Hebrew, filled with beauty and poetic power, is a language in which words carry deep, sacred import in addition to its “plain meaning” and historical context.  Our tradition finds a near-mystical relationship between words and things in assigning numerical values to letters.  By doing so, it suggests that words or phrases that share identical numerical […]