How do we make sense of two terrible acts of violence in Israel yesterday, perpetrated by murderous Jewish extremists in Jerusalem and Nablus? The Talmud interprets a verse from this week's Torah portion of Va'ethanan - a well-known verse that is recited every time the torah is lifted: 'Ve-zot ha-torah asher sam moshe lifnei b'nei yisrael.' אמר רבי יהושע בן לוי מאי דכתיב (דברים ד, מד) וזאת התורה אשר שם משה זכה נעשית לו סם חיים לא זכה נעשית לו סם מיתה (יומא דף עב עמוד ב) "Ra bbi Joshua ben Levi taught: what is the meaning of the verse, 'This is the Torah that Moses placed [before the people of Israel]'? [The Hebrew word 'sam,' meaning 'placed,' can also mean 'drug.'] For one who has merit, the Torah becomes a drug that sustains life. For one who does not have merit, the Torah becomes a drug that brings death.' (Babylonian Talmud, tractate Yoma 72b) The rabbis knew that a powerful drug can bring healing when used as dir
Showing posts from July, 2015
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My letter to members of my congregation regarding the Iran deal: Dear friends, Maybe like many of you, I have spent the last week consumed by news of the Iran nuclear deal. It is an issue about which I have many passionate feelings, for many reasons including my strong commitment to Israel, my hope that my children and grandchildren will inherit a safer world, and my Jewishly-reinforced desire to promote values of peace and justice in the world. What follows is adapted from my comments to the congregation from this past shabbat. As usual, I expect that whatever your perspective, you will find something in what I have written with which you will disagree -- and you will also find something with which you will agree. I have no special expertise in global affairs or the science and politics of nuclear arms negotiations. If I can claim any special expertise that has bearing on this global situation, it is in the variety of distinctive ways that Jews approach the world.