What better time than Springtime to get out into nature with a good book? To get you started, here are some recommendations from around the Jewish blogosphere.
Returning will be published on 4 September of this year, which corresponds to the 24th of Elul. A Tuesday, neatly dividing the week between between Parashat Ki Tavo, which many see as prophesying the Shoah, and Parashat Nitzavim, which describes the Ingathering of Exiles. And no, it wasn’t planned that way; the timing was pure serendipity.
Halakhah doesn’t deal so much with rights as with obligations. Men have the “right” to be well and thoroughly taught, and to spend years learning Torah, because they are also obligated to learn; women are not. But a bold halakhic idea may change all that.
Can we do T’shuvah for acts committed under compulsion? Even in the absence of responsibility, the need for atonement can be met. We feel contaminated by being brought to the point of ultimate helplessness, but healing comes from our learning to take responsibility for our own lives from this point on. We feel guilty for living through our own deaths, but healing comes from the ability to partake of life and give life as much and as selflessly as possible. Should a person be denied the healing of T’shuvah, just because he isn’t guilty?
The rabbis of the Talmud sought to anchor Purim in the Biblical tradition, with varying degrees of success. But one of the most striking rabbinic comments appears in a surprising place: in Massechet Shabbat, we find a curious reference to the events on which Purim is based: “’The Jews confirmed and accepted’—on that occasion they confirmed what they had accepted long before.” What exactly, did the Jews living in the Persian exile accept?
We in Israel live in a country with wars raging on all sides, with failed states collapsing into a primordial stew of hatred and nihilism all around us, with suicidal regimes seeking nuclear weapons in order to carry out their expressed goals of obliterating us. We know about death and we know about weapons of war, but we don’t fetishize them. How is it that Americans are so willing to arm the enemy within for the sake of security?
The receiving of the Torah marks the official incorporation of Am Yisrael—the final step in the transition from disparate individuals with a common kinship and history into a people, bound to each other by irrevocable decree. And yet, there is some question of whether the Covenant was a voluntary agreement.
Former Sonderkommando Ovadya ben Malka discusses the nature of evil with Rabbi Ish-Shalom: Was the Holocaust really the work of psychopathic monsters or of people like you and me — people whose choices led them to abandon their humanity, one act of cruelty at a time? Perhaps the single most important statement we can make regarding evil is: “That could have been me”. And that leads to the next stage: Let me act and think and feel in such a way that that will not be me.
This year, Tu b’Shvat, the New Year for Trees, falls only a few days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Here is a poem that encompasses both.
A tribute to Zalman Gradowski and others among the Birkenau Sonderkommando who worked to get word out of what was happening in Birkenau-Auschwitz.