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Fins and Scales: Fish, Children and Scholars
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Duality.  Ambition or integrity.  Scholarship or creativity.  Which of these two qualities should take priority in our lives… and what do fish have to do with making the determination?  As it turns out, fish have a great deal to do with how we understand ourselves and our mission in the world.  But to understand why […]
Who’s the Stranger?
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I´m a stranger in a strange land. – Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter In Parshat Ekev, we are confronted with one of the most compelling – and counter-intuitive – obligations in all Torah.  “You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deut. 10:19)  This mitzvah […]
Who Can Legislate Morality?
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If there is no God, everything is permitted. – Fyodor Dostoevsky No one understands better than the Jew that God is the foundation not only for behavior – how we are to act in the world – but also for morality – how we are to be in the world.  And, while the two, action […]
Kashering and the Art of Living
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Upon returning from the war against the Midianites, the Jews were instructed to purge the non-kosher food taste from each and every pot, pan and food utensil which had been taken as a spoil of battle.   This instruction makes plain a fundamental principle of kashrus as taught in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 75b), that the […]
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 […]