Faith vs. Action in the Jewish Tradition Parashat Mishpatim


In the portion of Yitro, we read the lofty words which describe the revelation of God at Mt. Sinai:  “If you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all the peoples… but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6);  “I am the Lord your God… You shall have no other gods… Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy… Honor your father and mother… You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal” (20: 1-14).  Furthermore, these lofty words were uttered in a very impressive fashion:  “All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blare of the shofar and the mountain smoking” (20:15).

“One Law You Shall Have for the Foreigner and the Native Alike:” Social Justice in the Teachings of the Tannaim


The challenge placed before the Jew who truthfully and wholeheartedly believes in the possibility of having a Jewish State that belongs to all its citizens, is to honestly confront the sources that form the Jewish view of the status of the non-Jew in the Jewish State. At the core of the research presented here lies a dispute between two main schools of thought: of Rabbi Ishmael and of Rabbi Akiva, and extending to the generations of their students, during the compilation of the Mishna.

Do “Repentance, Prayer and Tzedakah Avert the Severe Decree”?


last September, I explained one difficult word – kivinumeron – in the High Holiday poem Unetane Tokef .[note]Insight Israel , Volume 5, Number 1 (September 2004).[/note] This year, I would like to tackle a much tougher topic: the theology of Unetane Tokef.[note]This article is based on a lecture which I gave to the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel, September 5, 2004 and to 450 rabbis via the United Jewish Community's "Torah from Jerusalem" video conference on September 8, 2005.[/note]

Repairing the World Repairing the Soul


Many of us are attracted to the idea of tiqqun olam , “repairing the world”. Some of us see this concept as the essence of the Torah’s message, and the purpose of our lives as Jews. Tiqqun olam ties in naturally to Rosh Hashanah, which according to tradition is the day on which the world was created, the day of God’s enthronement as Sovereign of the world, and the day on which God judges the world and determines its fate for the year to come.

The Jewish Attitude Towards Non-Violent Protest and Civil Disobedience


During the past twenty-five years, Israel has experienced a number of periods of civil unrest, including the evacuation from Sinai and Yamit, the War in Lebanon, the Oslo accords and, more recently, the security fence. These events have led to protests, civil disobedience, and refusal by soldiers to serve in certain areas or to fulfill certain duties.