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Rabbi Wein’s Weekly Blog

Ethics

THE ZEALOTS AMONG US 9/9/2018 11:07 AM

A great many decades ago when I was yet the student in my beloved yeshiva on the old west side of Chicago, I remember that one of my great teachers told us an anecdote that points to an eternal truth regarding people and their personal ideologies and beliefs. He said that both the cat and the owner of the house are opposed to rats and mice. The difference however is that the owner of the house...

LEARNING HOW TO LOSE 9/2/2018 12:20 PM

I recently read an article that featured an interview with a famous and gifted American baseball player. Most athletes when they are questioned or interviewed by the media respond almost like robots with clichés and nice-sounding phrases, which mean absolutely nothing. This athlete in the interview was asked what great benefit he derived from his career in baseball. Instead of the usual answer...

GOVERNMENT AND RELIGION 8/19/2018 11:44 AM

Over the span of the millennia of recorded history it is obvious to note that governments of old always either opposed or corrupted religious beliefs for their own benefit or to make religion conform to the politically correct ideas and norms of a time. In the ancient world, governments relied on paganism to strengthen their hold on the people and to create tyrannies. The Roman emperors felt...

HATRED 7/29/2018 12:55 PM

The rabbis of the Talmud have taught us that there are two opposite emotions that distort our thinking and cause human beings – even otherwise capable and talented human beings – to behave in an irrational manner. These two emotions on the surface appear to be polar opposites. They are love and hate. But psychologists have long taught us that not only are these emotions not necessarily...

RESILIENCE 7/22/2018 01:01 PM

Challenges, difficulties and even tragedies in personal and national life are, to a very great extent, unavoidable and in many cases not even preventable. Because of this, the test in life becomes not only how did one deal with the problem but rather how did one recover after the problem proved so devastating. The key to recovery from sad occurrences is therefore resilience – the ability to...

THE ABSENCE OF CIVILITY 7/15/2018 02:13 PM

There was a time, well within recorded memory, when political differences and legislative proposals that people had could be discussed and decided with a modicum of civility and even courtesy. That seems not to be true anywhere in the world any longer. Here in Israel we are accustomed to bitter politics and a great deal of personal venom. Yet, somehow this pales in comparison with the current...

CHARITY 6/24/2018 09:47 AM

Giving charity, helping the needy and acting in a compassionate way towards those who need our help, is one of the pillars of Judaism and Jewish life. We are trained from our earliest days to share our wealth with those who, for various reasons, find themselves helplessly in need. The Talmud places great stress on giving charity and doing so in a regularly, compassionately and in an honorable...

WHAT HAPPENED? 6/17/2018 11:56 AM

I have an acquaintance in the United States with whom I occasionally converse and share ideas. He is a retired Rabbi who for many years was a leading figure in the Conservative rabbinic movement in the United States. Even though we have long agreed to disagree on theological matters, nevertheless all relations are cordial and sometimes even interesting and stimulating. Neither of us are...

GRATITUDE 5/21/2018 12:44 PM

As I have often pointed out in these columns, Judaism is to be seen not only as a system of laws and commandments but, even more importantly, as a system of values and overriding attitudes. It really is the value system of Judaism that determines the application of the laws and commandments of the Torah. Without a true understanding of the underlying values and attitudes of the holy and eternal...

AVOT 5/13/2018 09:57 AM

Both the Mishnah and Talmud are unique in their style of composition for in effect it allows the students thousands of years later to feel as though they have entered into that ancient study hall to hear the discussion of the scholars of Israel. Though most of the text of the Mishnah covers matters of law, ritual, commandments and observances, the tractate called Avot deals almost exclusively...