Is Yom Kippur More Festive; Rosch haSchanah More Awesome?

October 2, 2014

EnglishRosh haShanah is usually thought of as a festive, celebratory day, while Yom Kippur is the day of prayer and aweful, awesome judgment, the day of repentance, prayer and spirituality.

But is it perhaps the opposite way around? Could Yom Kippur be actually more festive than Rosh haShanah, and Rosh haShanah be more aweful and awe inspiring? These themes are explored in the following sermon from 5768 (2007) that gave my German book Ein reissendes lärmendes Wildwasser its name. Read the rest of this entry »

Die Herausforderung, G“tt als König und Richter wahrnehmen zu lernen

September 13, 2013

Auch in der Gegenwart gilt G”tt weiterhin als oberste Richter und König*

DeutschIMG_2955Einer der Höhepunkte des Gebets an Rosch ha-Schana (und in vielen Gemeinden auch an Jom Kippur) ist die Vorbereitung für die Keduschá von Mussáf. Mit der Keduschá verkünden wir die Heiligkeit G“ttes mit den gleichen Worten, die die Engel im himmlischen Reich sprechen, wenn sie G“tt lobpreisen. An Rosch ha-Schana (und in vielen Gemeinden auch an Jom Kippur) geht eine dichterische Einführung der Keduschá von Mussáf voran: das Untaneh Tókef.

In jenem Gebet betonen wir, dass an dem heutigen Tag alle Geschöpfe gerichtet werden, ja sogar die Engel, dessen Worte wir für die Keduscha anschließend verwenden. Vor dem g“ttlichen Gericht kann keiner siegreich sein, denn nur G“tt ist vollkommen, und wir begehen alle Fehler; sogar die Engel beben vor Ihm und fürchten den Rechtsspruch. Weiter heißt es:

Wie der Hirte seine Herde prüft, seine Schafe unter seinem Stab hindurchgehen lässt, so lässt Du vorbeiziehen, zählst, berechnest und prüfst Du die Seele jedes Lebewesens und bestimmst die Grenze jedes Geschöpfes und schreibst ihr Urteil. Am Rosch ha-Schana wird eingeschrieben und an Jom Kippur besiegelt wie viele hinübergehen und wie viele geboren werden, wer wird leben und wer wird sterben.

Das hört sich hart an. Read the rest of this entry »

Light at the End of the Tunnel

January 21, 2009

flag-uk_usa-tinyReflecting upon the Gaza War and the latest ceasefire, I found hope and inspiration in the following sermon, entitled “Now You Shall See,” written in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War. That sermon, as well as one entitled “Jüdische Bitachón” (available only in German, sorry), explore what it means, to put one’s trust in G”d.

Now Shalt Thou See

January 21, 2009

flag-uk_usa-tinyAfter three weeks of heavy fighting, during which the Israeli Defense Forces inflicted heavy losses upon the Hamas terrorrist infrastructure, Israel and in turn, Hamas, declared unilateral ceasefires. On the one hand, the Israeli offensive has been phenomenally impressive, showing how much the IDF and the political leadership have learned from the Second Lebanon War, which was widely considered a failure, even as it did teach Hizbollah not to mess any more with Israel.

However, even today, a few days into the ceasefire, the media report that smuggling tunnels are again in operation. Even now, there is a feeling that the “Cast Lead” military campaign ended inconclusively; Hamas, while very much weakened, is still committed to terrorism (see the concluding paragraph).

So, Israel has come out better than after the Second Lebanon War, but things are still murky.

In retrospect, some words I wrote in the aftermath of the earlier war – in a sermon entitled “Now You Shall See” – seem somewhat prescient, and hence reassuring regarding the future. After rereading those words, I think that it is appropriate to affirm that, despite the lingering lack of clarity, there will be even more light at the end of this tunnel. Read the rest of this entry »

Truly Taking Responsibility

January 3, 2009

EnglishThe first encounter of Parshat Vayigash, between Yehuda, as he takes responsibility for Benyamin, and Yossef in his role of Viceroy of Egypt, is also the story of great moral leadership. Yossef and Yehuda, each in their own ways, display and examplify the great, dearly needed moral qualities of honesty, integrity, repentance, forgiveness and accepting the consequences of one’s actions. In short, they recognize and accept their responsibilities. Read the rest of this entry »

Miracles Alone Do Not Cause Belief

December 6, 2008

English This essay, which was originally delivered in German as a sermons to Parshat Mishpatim, on the 29th of Shevat 5767 (17th of February ’07), explores why biblical miracles were experienced only during, well, biblical times.

Dor haMidbar: The Singular Generation – by Rabbi Arie Folger

After learning of the great miracles, which the Ribono shel ‘Olam (Master of the World) performed to save our ancestors from their enslavement, and to punish our tormentors, both in Egypt and at the Yam Suf, after His wondrous Revelation on Mount Sinai, where the people “saw” the sounds, one is inclined to expect the wondrous and miraculous to continue throughout history. Indeed The very significance of some of HaShem’s Names and titles conjure His omnipresence, thus: E-lohim, Sha-dai, Adon Kol, Melekh ha’Olam and Ribono shel ‘Olam.

Yet, while miracles aren’t entirely absent from our lives, those miracles are quite different from the miracles Moshe Rabbenu performed at G”d’s command. Read the rest of this entry »

Not all that Glitters is Gold

November 12, 2008

English The following English sermon was originally delivered in German on the first day of Sukkot 5768 (27th of September ’07) in Basel. It develops the Jewish notion of beauty and touches upon the meaning of the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge.

Not all that Glitters is Gold

The Torah commands us to take on Sukkot פְּרִ֨י עֵ֤ץ הָדָר – peri ‘etz hadar.1פְּרִ֨י עֵ֤ץ הָדָר mean and what can its name tell us about the impact and purpose of this mitzvah. I care to add that we can never fully explain a mitzvah. It is, by its nature, a Divine command, and can only be approached by man, not fully understood. Nonetheless, our questions are legitimate. What is פְּרִ֨י עֵ֤ץ הָדָר and what does it stand for? Read the rest of this entry »

Choshen Mishpat, Gift of the Jews

October 13, 2008

EnglishThis essay explores the moral importance of the conflict between Halakhah and temporal civil law. It was presented as a sermon to the Book Shemot, on the 28th of Tevet 5766 (28th of January ’06).

True Freedom of Conscience -by Rabbi Arie Folger

Halakhah is frequently at odds – in monetary matters – with applied Western law, such as, for example regarding the permissibility of charging interest on loans, the permissibility of charging certain fines, the validity of speculative contracts, the definition of unfair competition and more. However, the respective national constitutions are clear, the judicial power belongs to the civil courts and they need to take the instructions of the legislative branch into account. Many of us feel uneasy about the disagreement Halakhah has with the national secular legislative reality, and as a result, the Halakhah is either forgotten, or willfully ignored.

The tension between Halakhah and Western law evokes in us memories of accusations of double standards and disloyalty to our respective countries of citizenship or residence. Hence, many choose ignorance over knowledge, breech over observance. The major question is then: have we served the greater good of general society by adopting the single yardstick of law and ethics which our host society provides us with? Read the rest of this entry »

Financial Regulators Seek Out Choshen Mishpat

October 13, 2008

EnglishThis is just in from Time Magazine. There seems to be a growing interest in Jewish Civil Law (Choshen Mishpat) among economists, politicians and financial regulators, as is evidenced by this Time Magazine article, “The Financial Crisis: What Would the Talmud Do?” by David Van Biema.

I previously explored the conflict between Halakhah and secular civil law, as well as its moral importance, in the following essay:

  • True Freedom of Conscience English
  • Wahre Gewissenfreiheit Deutsch

  • Ist Jom Kippúr festlicher als Rosch haSchaná?

    September 18, 2008

    DeutschRosch haSchaná gilt als richtiger Jomtów, ein Festtag, an dem man besondere Speisen isst und mit Familie und Freunden an dem Festtisch sitzt. Hingegen gilt Jom Kippúr als geistiger Tag, des Sündenbekennens, des Bereuens. Ist es aber vielleicht genau umgekehrt? Ist der Fasttag vielleicht doch festlicher als der Neujahrstag? Die festlichkeit Rosch haSchanás wird in der folgende Predigt, die meinem Buch “Ein lärmendes, reissendes Wildwasser” seinen Namen verleiht, erforscht. Read the rest of this entry »