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The Real Historical Balaam
4 July, 2015

This week’s Torah portion is Balak, which tells the story of a mythical non-Israelite prophet called Balaam (Bil’aam in Hebrew – בלעם).

The story of Balaam is one of the most baffling portions in the Torah.  Read more


Talmud and Modern Economics
31 December, 2014

In the following series of video lectures, Professor Aumann an Israeli-American mathematician and professor at the Center for the Study of Rationality in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel makes some very interesting connections between the Talmud and modern economic theory.  Read more


Hanukkah At The White House
18 December, 2014

The White House Hanukkah Party is an annual reception held at the White House and hosted by the U.S. President and First Lady to recognize and celebrate the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. The tradition was established in 2001, during the administration of George W. Bush. The guest list includes hundreds of American Jewish politicians, organization heads, and school and yeshiva deans. Here are President Obama’s opening remarks at this year’s party which took place on Dec. 17, 2014:    Read more


WWI, Balfour and San Remo
28 June, 2014

Many people know the Balfour Declaration of Nov. 2, 1917 and the U.N. Vote on the Partition Plan on Nov. 29, 1947 as the two main international political events that led to Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948.

However, there is a misconception that the Balfour Declaration was just a letter of intent, and not a binding legal document.    Read more


Passover in Egypt in 419 BCE
21 June, 2014

[This article was inspired by a brilliant online course by Prof. Jacob L. Wright]

Many biblical scholars tell us that, so far, there is little or no archeological evidence of Israel’s exodus from Egypt and the periods which preceded it. Some scholars also doubt Joshua’s wars and even the scale of the Davidic monarchy.  Read more


The Origins of Jewish Humor
18 May, 2014

The words “Jewish Humor” may conjure up visions of Woody AllenMel BrooksSeinfeldJackie MasonLarry DavidGroucho MarxLenny Bruce, or many others.

However, Jewish Humor can actually be traced all the way back to the Bible and Talmud, which is what I will concentrate on in this post.      Read more


Israel’s Declaration of Independence
6 May, 2014

Today is Yom Ha’Atzmaut (יום העצמאות), Israel’s 66th Independence Day, which is celebrated based on the Jewish calendar (5th of Iyar) rather than the common calendar date of May 14th, 1948.

Israel’s declaration of independence took place at Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. It has been restored into a museum, and the most surprising thing for me, when I visited it, was how small it is.    Read more


Passover and Jewish Freedom
13 April, 2014

Halfway between Dayenu and the Meal lies the key phrase of the entire Seder:

When we read this in 21st century America, it sounds like a distant metaphor. You can find any number of Rabbinical sermons about “finding your own Egypt”, i.e. freeing yourself of some form of self-inflicted slavery to gadgets, money, peer approval, etc.    Read more


Mordechai and Zionism
16 March, 2014

Today is Purim, so I thought I would explore the connection between the story of Megillat Esther and the revival of Jewish life in Judea and Jerusalem following the Babylonian exile, sometimes called the Return to Zion of 538-444 BC.

Read more


AIPAC Conference 2014 Trip Report
9 March, 2014

This past week my wife and I traveled to DC to experience our first AIPAC conference, and wow, what an experience it was! We started off with a visit to the National Gallery of Art, and even there we met some friends that were headed to AIPAC:

First, you have to try and imagine the size and scope of the AIPAC conference.        Read more


Wannsee Visit
20 January, 2014

Today is January 20, 2014, exactly 72 years since the Wannsee Conference (pronounced Van-Zeh). The Wannsee Conference was a meeting of senior officials of Nazi Germany, held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on January 20, 1942.

The purpose of the conference, called by SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, was to ensure the cooperation of administrative leaders of various government departments in the implementation of the final solution to the Jewish question, whereby most of the Jews of German-occupied Europe would be deported to Poland (“the East”) and exterminated.     Read more


Arik Einstein Translated
15 January, 2014

Here are some songs made famous by the great Arik Einstein, with my own translation of the lyrics.

I chose to stay close to a literal translation in order to match the Hebrew text line-by-line, so that it could be used in a sing-along situation. I did not try to emulate meter or rhyme, except where it came naturally. I originally translated “אני ואתה” as “me and you” instead of “you and I”, but eventually I stayed with the more correct English form.         Read more


Jews and the Land of Israel
30 December, 2013

I will only scratch the surface of this huge subject by pointing out the importance of textual continuity through 5,000 years of Jewish history.

The subject of Jewish textual continuity, or the “textline” (analogous to bloodline), has recently been introduced by secular Israeli novelist Amos Oz and his daughter in a fantastic and innovative joint book called Jews and Words.           Read more


The Miracle of Hanukkah
1 December, 2013

As I mentioned in a previous blog, the four books of Maccabees do not mention the miracle which we celebrate as the main theme of Hanukkah: The oil canister that lasted eight days.

In 1 Maccabees Chapter 4, the eight days of Hanukkah are said to begin on the 25th of Kislev (as we currently celebrate it), and the reason given for the eight day period of celebration is that the Maccabees celebrated “the dedication of the altar eight days”. So, חנוכת המזבח, as it appears in the song Maoz Tsur is given as the main reason for the holiday.     Read more


Readings for Thanksgivukkah #1
30 November 2013

I was looking for something appropriate to read at the once-in-a-lifetime combination of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah dinner.

The letter George Washington wrote on Aug. 18, 1790 to the Jewish Congregation of Newport fits perfectly.
Read more


Readings for Thanksgivukkah #2
30 November, 2013

The second reading I chose for the once-in-a-lifetime combination of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah dinner were two poems by Emma Lazarus.

Most people know that her poem “The New Colossus”, which is printed at the foot of the statue of liberty. What is less known is that she was Jewish Sephardic and wrote most of her poems about Jewish themes.

Read more


The Real Hanukkah Story
30 November, 2013

It is unfortunate that Jews are rarely exposed directly to the books of Maccabees, as these books are the primary sources for one of the most important chapters in Jewish history: the struggle for independence that led to an independent Hasmonean Jewish state which lasted for ~100 years until the Roman conquest in 63BC. It was the last independent nation state ever to exist in the land of Israel until 1948.          Read more


An Interview with Golda Meir 1973
29 November, 2011

Someone recently uploaded a very interesting interview with Golda Meir from 1973.  She initially explains the history of the Palestinian claim to Israel. Then she explains the Palestinian refugee problem.        Read more


Most ridiculous editorial in NY Times
26 November, 2011

I am never surprised to see an anti-Israeli editorial in the New York Times, but the Pinkwashing article this week by Sarah Schulman was probably the most ridiculous one I’ve seen in many years.         Read more


Post-Modern Jewish Theology

The Origins of Jewish Humor
18 May, 2014

The words “Jewish Humor” may conjure up visions of Woody AllenMel BrooksSeinfeldJackie MasonLarry DavidGroucho MarxLenny Bruce, or many others.

However, Jewish Humor can actually be traced all the way back to the Bible and Talmud, which is what I will concentrate on in this post.      Read more


Prayer and Psychology
3 February, 2014

In previous posts I proposed some non-mystical ways of thinking about the Jewish God which may appeal to people who view themselves as atheists or agnostics.

My goal is not to try and persuade people who do believe in God to change their conception. Quite the opposite. My goal is to show Jews who do not believe in God that Judaism has something rich and rewarding to offer them as well.     Read more


Jews and the Land of Israel
30 December 2013

I will only scratch the surface of this huge subject by pointing out the importance of textual continuity through 5,000 years of Jewish history.

Read more


Revelation Revealed
18 December, 2013

What if, instead of the story we all know about how Bill Gates bought the DOS operating system from IBM, a different press-release had been circulated?  One saying that God had revealed himself to Bill, and showed him a field full of glowing faces, and told him that someday all dwellers of the earth would spend 10 hours a day in front of boxes that would make their faces glow, and each of them would pay him a tax for that privilege?     Read more


Take The Fifth!
16 December, 2013

One way of connecting with the Jewish God that appeals to many atheist and agnostic Jews is to think about The God Of Our Ancestors (אלוהי אבותינו – ‘Elohei Avoteinu’ and in reform Judaism we add ‘Ve Imoteinu’ – God of our Fathers and Mothers).

Read more


Abraham and Moses: Abstraction and Morality
14 December, 2013

I concluded in a previous post that the Jewish God is abstract. As an analogy, I offered the mathematical concept of ∞ or the imaginary number i (defined as √-1), which we cannot conceptualize directly based on our experience in the physical world.         Read more


Is God Abstract or Concrete?
12 December, 2013

After Moses gets his instructions from the Burning Bush in Exodus 3 to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he politely asks for its identity, like a secretary might ask on the phone: “Who should I say is calling?”

Read more


The Theology of 4 Maccabees
3 December, 2013

I am starting my discussions of Post-Modern Jewish Theology from an unlikely place.

With Hanukkah 2013 just behind us, this is as good a time as any to present my own way of reading the theology expressed in the 4th book of Maccabees.     Read more


Let’s get started
25 November 2011

 

I have lived half my life in Israel and, so far, the other half in the U.S. (New York, to be more specific).

In this blog, I’m going to capture some random thoughts on issues that seem relevant to me given this background.