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Ethics

Ethics

By Dr. Raysh Weiss | Student, The Rabbinical School of JTS

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A representation of the sotah (suspected adulteress) ritual from this week’s parashah (Num. 5:11–31).

See the full-size version of this image.

 

These images were originally posted on the Jewschool blog, May 23, 2010.

By Rabbi Rachel Bovitz | Director of Millennial Engagement, JTS

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In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin describes a personal practice that involved daily focus on 13 moral virtues. Franklin’s memoir, translated into several languages in the late 18th century, became widely influential, reaching even Eastern Europe, where Rabbi Menahem Mendel Lefin of Satanov wrote Heshbon Hanefesh, published in 1808. Rabbi Lefin included justice and most of the other virtues in Franklin’s list when he created his 13 primary middot (moral virtues) to be focused upon in mussar practice (the Jewish approach to cultivating these virtues). Rabbi Lefin’s definition of tzedek

By Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz | Director of Israel Programs, The Rabbinical School, JTS

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In the wake of violent religious extremism that plagues our world today, why are some religious leaders not expressing their opposition to bloodshed in the name of God? By turning a blind eye and silencing their voices, religious leaders tacitly give their approval to the violence—both tarnishing their reputation as leaders and diminishing God’s presence in this world. Leadership, especially religious leadership, demands scrupulousness and accountability.

Our parashah this week, Parashat Emor, underscores this notion.

By Marc Gary | Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer

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A few years ago, my wife and I attended a retreat at Camp Ramah Darom in northern Georgia. The scholar-in-residence for the Shabbat was Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, a widely respected author of popular books on Jewish literacy and Jewish ethics. He suggested that all of us in attendance—approximately 100 adults—commit to one of the most difficult challenges we had ever faced: refrain from talking about other people for the duration of Shabbat. That is to say, for an entire day, we should speak not a word of gossip.

By Dr. Ismar Schorsch | Chancellor Emeritus of The Jewish Theological Seminary and Professor of Jewish History

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This year I will not be celebrating Hanukkah at home. I'm off to Israel on December 6, and will not be back till the seventh day of the festival, just in time to light a full complement of eight candles on the last night in the midst of family. It is hard to capture the beauty of this holiday or any other on your own. Neither synagogue nor prayer begins to exhaust the repertoire of ritual that enlivens the distinctive character of every Jewish holy day. The home is the great aquifer of our Judaism, indispensable but undervalued.

Many years ago I spent another Hanukkah alone.

By Dr. Ismar Schorsch | Chancellor Emeritus of The Jewish Theological Seminary and Professor of Jewish History

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The opening verse of our parasha conveys a degree of finality. "Now Jacob was settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan (Genesis 37:1)." His exile is over. The text depicts a man drained by unrelenting stress who has come home to die. The abuse heaped upon him by Laban, the prospect of facing Esau, the rampage of his sons against the inhabitants of Shehem, and the loss of his beloved Rachel in childbirth has left him groping for the solace and security of home. The words of King Lear suggest the mood:

and 'tis our fast intent To shake all cares and business from

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David Arnow, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, received his doctorate from Boston University. He has extensive leadership experience in the nonprofit world. He served as president of the New Israel Fund and as vice president for volunteer human resource development of the UJA-Federation of New York, and he was selected to participate in the Wexner Heritage Foundation Leadership Program. David is an investor and a writer. He is a scholar of the festival of Passover and the author of many articles and two books on that subject, including Creating Lively Passover Seders: A Sourcebook of Engaging

By Rabbi Joel Alter | Director of Admissions, The Rabbinical School and H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music, JTS

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A rabbi and an astronomer have the middle and window seats on a long-haul flight while the fellow on the aisle is a champion sleeper. As neither of our sophisticated travelers is taking a stroll anytime soon, the astronomer begins to talk: “Tell me, rabbi. What, essentially, is Judaism for?” The rabbi thinks a bit, casting about for a reasonable response. He offers a few broad strokes and believes he’s done about as well as might be expected. The traveler responds, “All these rules and teachings and traditions, rabbi!

By Rabbi Judith Hauptman | E. Billi Ivry Professor of Talmud and Rabbinic Culture, JTS

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When kids in Hebrew School read the story of Joseph, he looks very good. He saves the lives of many Egyptians by storing grain in the fat years and dispensing it in the lean years. But when an adult reads the same verses, Joseph appears unscrupulous. We ask: when the hungry people come to him during the years without crops, does he have to make them sell him all their cattle? And when they come back a second time, does he have to make them sell him all their land and also offer themselves as slaves (Gen. 47:13-26)?

As moving as the reunion between Joseph and his brothers at the beginning of

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