In the following article of mine, which was published by the YU Lamdan, I explore the question of whether more is always better in religion. I do so through the lense of the halakhic literature on the voluntary fulfilment by women of those mitzvot of which they are exempt, namely a subset of the time bound positive commandments. In the process, I document the high regard halakhic sources have for such piety by women, and also explore some of the key sources of the disagreements regarding whether women ought to recite blessings upon voluntarily fulfilling commandments of which they are exempt. As is well known, Ashkenazim encourage the recitation of those blessings, while Sefardim mostly do not, but I do document a whole slew of Sefardi authorities who sided with the Ashkenazi practice on this issue. Back to the general question, I conclude that more is not always better, and that being stricter or seemingly act more piously is therefore not necessarily better. Instead, we need to weigh in a multidimensional manner the halakhic advantages and disadvantages of any voluntary stricture.
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The following essay of mine was presented at the international peace meeting entitled Peace Without Borders in Madrid in September 2019, an interfaith meeting organized for the last 30 years by the Sant’Egidio Community, a Catholic lay organization. I attended representing the Conference of European Rabbis.
Around 1990, a euphoria filled the Western world. The Cold War had come to an end, the West (which also included many countries in the east) had won, and most of the eastern bloc countries became liberal democratic free market societies. It looked like we were going to enter a permanently peaceful era, termed by Francis Fukuyama the End of History.
Unfortunately, in many regards, it is the competing and generally less appealing prediction of Samuel Huntington that became realized, the Clash of Civilizations. We are witnessing the reemergence of ancient prejudices and feuds as drivers for contemporary conlficts.
As religious people, our natural disposition is to pray, to cry out to our Father in Heaven for a blessing of peace and brotherhood. Surely, in our increasingly secular world, in which the practice of prayer has declined dramatically during the past century,1 religion may just provide such answers to contemporary challenges that were mostly overlooked. So is prayer the answer to our quest for peace? Prayer surely opens gates of inner peace, can it also unleash the loving torrents of brotherhood?
Though I will argue that in some ways, prayer can truly be helpful in this quest, I would like to first warn against the effectiveness of prayer in solving human conflicts. Read the rest of this entry »
Hatred of Jews has been justified because they are poor and because they are rich, because they are powerful and because they are weak, because the are healthy and because they are ill, because they are geniuses and because they are devoid of wisdom, because they are pious and because they are godless, because they hew to high morals and because they are degenerate. In short, Jews have been hated simply because the are.
On August 31st 2017, Rabbis representing the Rabbinical Council of America, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Conference of European Rabbis presented a declaration to Pope Francis, entitled From Jerusalem to Rome, Reflections of 50 Years of Nostra Aetate. That declaration includes a somewhat lengthy theological and historical introduction. To someone not steeped in the fine points of Jewish Christian dialogue, be he Jew or gentile, the finer theological points made in the introduction may be a little mystifying. Here is a short paper about our declaration — How and Why the Declaration From Jerusalem to Rome Came About. Read the rest of this entry »
After two years of work, I had the great honor today of handing over a historic declaration by leading Orthodox rabbinic organizations to Pope Francis. The declaration is the fruit of an international committee I chaired, which included representatives of the Conference of European Rabbis, the Rabbinical Council of America and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
Here is the full text of our declaration, including our philosophical, theological and historical consideration. Read the rest of this entry »
On November 27th, I was privileged to be part of a delegation of Viennese Jews who travelled to the Czech town of Prostejov (Prossnitz in German, Prostitz in Yiddish, population: 44000) to pray at the grave of Rabbi Tzvi Yeshayahu ha-Levi Horowitz on the occasion of his 200th anniversary, and to arouse sympathy among Czech government and civic society to protect that cemetery, which had been destroyed by the Nazis. Three days later we were rewarded with the news of the Czech Culture Ministry rejecting a motion to abstain from re-establishing a boundary for and protecting the cemetery. In other words, Read the rest of this entry »
Wegen populärer Nachfrage biete ich hier die eine Sammlung von Links bezüglich meiner bisherigen öffentlichen Ansprachen, Aufsätze und Interviews zur Flüchtlingsdebatte. Ich bin politisch weder rechts noch links. In bestimmten Fragen neige ich rechts, in anderen links, und so oder so lasse ich mich von meiner jüdischen Erbe informieren und inspirieren. Ich mag diese weder-rechts-noch-links, denn ich hoffe damit ab und zu gegenseitig zu sensibilisieren und sogar manchmal überraschende Blickwinkel zu zeigen. Ob dies mir geling und ob ich damit einen wesentlichen Beitrag leiste, das überlasse ich den Lesern. Read the rest of this entry »