Thursday, December 29, 2011

Judaism and modernity
In a recent article, Yoni Goldstein of Toronto wrote that modern Orthodoxy is the only brand of Judaism that encourages people to (a) keep Shabbat according to the letter of the law and (b) check e-mail or turn on the TV once three stars appear. Haredi Orthodoxy is only concerned with “a” – the law – while “Reform and Conservative don’t see a particular need to do ‘a.’” 

The writer thus lumps Conservative and Reform together, as do many people who see no difference between movements that are considered “non-Orthodox.” Without intending to deprecate my Reform colleagues, I must insist that there are differences and that the main difference still consists of the attitude toward Jewish law: Reform officially considers it non-binding, while Conservative/ Masorti considers it binding.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The American Shabbat

The American Shabbat

It’s time to ask: at what cost? When does commercialism without borders or restraints go beyond a momentary boost to quarterly profits and damage the national soul? We may be perilously close to that point if the unspoken agreement to keep Thanksgiving as the American Shabbat is broken.

There was a time when most colonial Americans were forced to honor the Puritan Sabbath — under the so-called “blue laws” of the 1700s, severe punishment could be rendered for even a simple misdeed. Sunday restrictions lasted well into the 20th century, and especially hurt Jewish shopkeepers who observed their own Sabbath on Saturday, and had to forego a weekend’s worth of commerce or risk heavy fines for opening on a Sunday. Bit by bit, states dropped their prohibitions, to increase tax revenues more than anything else, although there still are places where one cannot purchase alcohol on a Sunday (Mississippi), buy a car (Illinois), or hunt (most of West Virginia).

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Why Not Grasp Great Gift That Comes Each Week With Shabbat?

Why are some people able to accept a gift gracefully and others do not know how?

What is it about human beings that we are unable to see the beauty, the necessity, the awesomeness of this natural cycle? What is it about what happens in our lives for six days that cannot benefit from this lovely rest, to be resumed with a restored spirit?

Think of the number of things we seek out in our lives to manufacture a change, a shift, a getaway from it all: recess, vacation, weekend, holiday, TGIF, dress-down day, summer reading.

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