2012


 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Affirming Life: The Eternal Recurrence.” Jewish Journal. 31 December 2012.

In his work The Gay Science (Aphorism #341), the renowned 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) explained his theory of the “Eternal Recurrence”:
What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.’ Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Looking Back at 2012 – And Forward to Building Communities of Hope in 2013.”Jewish Journal. 27 December 2012.

This week, we close out 2012 and celebrate the start of the New Year. It is worth pausing to reflect upon this past year before we enter 2013. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Lost Art of Small Talk.” Jewish Journal. 25 December 2012.

During airplane travel, not only do I fail in limiting my consumption of bags of airplane peanuts, I’ve also never quite mastered the art of how to successfully avoid long conversations with talkative strangers sitting next to me on the plane. Sometimes these conversations can be forced and awkward, but other times, I must admit, these conversations can be pleasant small task and surprisingly insightful. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Micro-Finance, Kiva, and Uri L’Tzedek.” Jewish Journal. 24 December 2012.

Jewish tradition focuses heavily on the importance of gemilut chasadim, or charity. One way today’s globalized world engages in large-scale charity is through microfinancing, a way of offering financial services to the poor or those without access to typical bank lending. The movement is based upon the belief that low-income people can achieve their goals and lift themselves out of poverty if given access to loans. Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) help people in developing countries as well as in developed ones, including the United States. Microfinance includes a number of financial services, such as microcredit, micro-lending, micro-insurance, savings, and money transfer. Today, anyone with access to the Internet can join and contribute to an MFI. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Fighting for the Innocent!” Jewish Journal. 23 December 2012.

We all agree that a stable society must have a strong, punitive justice system that maintains order and security. One flaw in every justice system, however, is the perpetual possibility of mistakenly punishing the innocent. Unfortunately, in our justice system, this happens too often. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Putting Ethics into Our Celebrations: The Launch of “Just Simchas!” Jewish Journal. 21 December 2012.

Jewish celebrations are not merely about throwing a party but rather can be transformational events that express our core values. For this reason, Uri L’Tzedek, the Orthodox Social Justice Movement, has launched Just Simchas to educate, inspire, and empower others to include more social justice into their lifecycle celebrations. Whether one is celebrating the birth of a child, a wedding, or a bar or bat mitzvah, one can now learn how to add more meaning and impact with a “Just Simcha.” Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Assault on Rabbi Rosenberg: Ignoring Sex Abuse.” Jewish Journal. 20 December 2012.

Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg is a refreshingly bold advocate against child sexual abuse which occurs in the ultra-Orthodox world. He works within his own Satmar Hasidic and other communities across the ultra-Orthodox spectrum, publicizing claims of sexual abuse and providing victims with the strength and support to speak out about what was done to them. This brave and courageous man was recently a victim himself – of an attack in which chemicals were thrown in his face with the intent to harm or kill him. Thankfully, Rabbi Rosenberg survived the attack, and he is in recovery in the hospital. Read More…

 

Hart, Rabbi Ari. “The Weapon’s Shame: A Case for Gun Control in Jewish Law.” Huffington Post. 18 December 2012.

Newtown, Auruora, Tuscon, Littleton: hearing the names of these picturesque American cities once evoked images of the American dream. Now they evoke an American nightmare — mass gun violence. The wounds in Newtown are the freshest and probably the most horrific, but the scars of gun violence run deep throughout our country. Sometimes the media pays attention, bringing light to this horrific problem. Sometimes not: just last Friday afternoon and evening, hours after the Newtown shootings, at least 10 people in my hometown of Chicago were wounded by gunfire. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Addressing Famine: Ancient Egypt and Today.” Odyssey Networks. 17 December 2012.

We do not help others in their time of need by increasing their dependence on us, but by helping them become more self-reliant and independent. This is as true in parenting and primary education as it is in international affairs. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Levinas: On Ritual and Justice.” Jewish Book Council. 14 December 2012.

The great French Jewish philosopher and Talmudist Emmanuel Levinas, in his Difficult Freedom (pp. 176-177), taught about the power of Jewish ritual to inform and inspire our work to make the world more just, which is of paramount importance. He wrote: “The Justice rendered to the Other, my neighbor, gives me an unsurpassable proximity to God… The pious person is the just person….For love itself demands justice and my relation with my neighbor cannot remain outside the lines which this neighbor maintains with various third parties. The third party is also my neighbor.” Thus, when we pursue justice in a Jewish way, we come closer to G-d. This is because “[t]he ritual law constitutes the austere law that strives to achieve justice. Only this law can recognize the face of the Other which has managed to impose an austere role on its true nature…” Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “What Is Fair Taxation?” Jewish Book Council. 12 December 2012.

If one listened only to the avalanche of political ads during the recent election campaign, one might believe that Americans were being crushed under the heaviest federal tax burden ever, and that raising taxes on the wealthy (the “job creators”) was tantamount to national economic suicide. This view, bolstered by much of the record $4-6 billion raised for the Presidential and Congressional campaigns, was heavily supported by a small group of billionaires, perhaps topped by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who reportedly made contributions of a record $150 million himself. In total, billions of dollars were spent by people who claimed that they were forced to spend too much in federal taxes. Read More…

 

Press, Eitan. “Light Up the Night: Hanukah Wisdom and Eight Organizations that Shine Light in the Darkness.” Huffington Post. 1 December 2012.

Some people say Ha-nukha, and some people say Cha-nukah, but it’s holiday season and Hannukah is upon us, which means Jews everywhere are going to be lighting menorahs, playing with dreidels, giving presents and eating latkes. But besides the spinning the dreidel and raking in the Hannukah Gelt, there is a deep message to this holiday that is very relevant to today. Hannukah is called the “festival of lights.” Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Hurricane Sandy, FEMA, and the Need for Big Government.” Jewish Book Council. 10 December 2012.

The Rabbis teach (Ta’anit 11a) that “At a time when the community is suffering, no one should say, ‘I will go home, eat, drink, and be at peace with myself.'” To effectively aid those who are suffering, we need the cooperation and collaboration of each and every individual. We need strong individuals, effective non-profits, and committed states. However, we also need to recognize the most powerful collective body available to address the suffering. In our society, the mechanism that represents the people is the government, and it must be effective. Government does not always have to be big to be effective, but oftentimes it does, especially when responding to disasters on a large scale. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Atrocities in Syria: Standing in Solidarity with the Victims!” Jewish Journal. 5 December 2012.

We are all painfully aware of the genocides of the last two decades in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur, and we have watched the ongoing violence and suffering taking place across the Middle East, but did you know that there is an urgent human rights crisis in Syria right now that demands our attention? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Can Anger be Constructive? A Reflection on Activism & Life!” Jewish Journal. 2 December 2012.

Anger is universally considered a vice. We are asked to emulate the Divine who is “erech apayim,” slow to anger (Exodus 34:6, Deuteronomy 11:22). The rabbis, in fact, refer to anger as a form of idolatry, where one worships oneself. Thus, the rabbis teach that one must be slow to anger and easy to appease (Avot 5:10). Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav taught: “there is no peace in the world because there is too much anger. You can only make peace with joy.” The rabbis teach us, ‘One who sees an idol that has not been destroyed pronounces the blessing, ‘Blessed is He who is slow to anger”‘ (Tosefta, Berakhot 7:2). I would suggest that this wording was chosen because God should be angry at how much evil there is in the world that is unchallenged. Yet God has humbly allowed us to be the ambassadors of truth and the defenders of justice on earth. We can emulate this Divine patience frustrated at an unredeemed world while still feeling a great sense of urgency. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Jewish-Hispanic Relations:Long Overdue!” Jewish Journal. 24 November 2012.

I recall, as a child, overhearing very derogatory and racist remarks about Latino Americans where everyone below the border was referred to as “a Mexican” or as “cheap labor.” Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to do work in Central and South American countries such as Argentina, Guatemala, and El Salvador and had the chance to spend time in Panama, Mexico, and Belize. I learned a lot about these cultures and gained a much deeper appreciation for Latino Americans in my home American community and where they have come from. I also learned a deeper narrative of why and how so many have immigrated to the U.S. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Book Burning: Prelude to Persecution.” Jewish Journal. 22 November 2012.

In July 2012, the Bible Society in Israel [“Messianic Jews”] sent Christian Bibles to all 120 Members of the Knesset. In response, one MK, Michael Ben-Ari, publicly cut his up and threw it in the trash. In December 2001, a teacher in Beit Shemesh led his students in burning a copy of a Hebrew translation of the New Testament that had been given to a student by missionaries. In another episode in 2008, kids burnt hundreds of copies of the New Testaments sent by missionaries, arguing it was a commandment to do so. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Should Jews Celebrate Thanksgiving?” Jewish Journal. 22 November 2012.

In modern times, Jews are often wary of engaging in non-Jewish practices, even non-religious ones, since participation could lead to assimilation or a perversion of our values. In the case of the American holiday of Thanksgiving, not only should we, as Jews, not be hesitant to participate-we should embrace the spirit of this day and lead! Read More…

 

Hart, Rabbi Ari. “Of Prayers and Deeds.” Haaretz. 9 November 2012.

Last week I had the great privilege of joining New Yorkers of every stripe in coming together to and address the profound, human needs left in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In my own synagogue, where I serve as assistant rabbi, we opened our collective doors to hurricane victims, reached out to vulnerable seniors, coordinated meals and places to stay, even temporarily housed a school. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Organ Donation: Holiest of Mitzvot.” Jewish Journal. 8 November 2012.

When we pass from this world and our bodies enter the ground, do we merely wish to be remembered or do we wish to give the gift of life to others? For the medical, economic, and moral wellbeing of our society, the United States must change its policy on organ donation requirements. Read More…

 

Hart, Rabbi Ari. “Sandy: A Spiritual, Scriptual Response.” Huffington Post. 5 November 2012.

This is a powerful moment. It’s our first time together in large numbers as a community after witnessing and experiencing the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Space Travel: Is it Worth It?” Jewish Journal. 29 October 2012.

NASA just embarked upon its most ambitious Mars mission to date, spending a whopping $2.5 billion on this 1-ton rover, hoping to find some evidence as to whether or not Mars once supported life. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Making College More Affordable: Calling for Higher Ed. Reform.” Jewish Journal. 28 October 2012.

Is higher education only for the privileged? Over the last few decades, between rising tuition costs, the ongoing economic determinism in admissions, and the impossibility of paying off student loans, the answer increasingly seems to be yes. As Americans and as Jews, we believe this state of affairs is neither necessary nor desirable, and our advocacy can help bring positive change on this issue. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Buber, Gandhi, and Rabban Gamliel: Human Dignity Over Absolute Ownership.”Jewish Journal. 25 October 2012.

Every year around this time I begin to look forward to the holiday season here in America: spending Thanksgiving with my family, the familiar sounds of ubiquitous holiday tunes on the radio, the crispness in the air after the fresh snow. As I reflect on recent news, social trends, and the thought of admired leaders in justice and Judaism, the spirit and reality of consumerism gives me pause. Perhaps this feeling of ownership the holiday season brings out in us is not the ideal we, as religious people and thinkers, should strive for. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Survivors Guilt After the Flood: Shame and Healing.” Jewish Journal. 23 October 2012.

The flood has ended. The waters have dried up. The survivors completed their aveilut (year of mourning) for all those who passed and leave the ark to attempt to rebuild the world. Noah, the captain and leader, exits and – what does he do? He gets drunk. In fact, he gets so drunk that his sons find him unclothed in his tent. Cham enters the tent, looks at his father naked and then tells his brothers, Shem and Yafet, who walk in backwards, without looking, and virtuously cover their father with a blanket. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Repetition and the Cultivation of Virtue.” Jewish Journal. 18 October 2012.

Repetition is one of the most powerful Jewish tools for the cultivation of wisdom and virtue. We learn this lesson, repeatedly, at this time of year as we finish the reading of the Torah, when we immediately start again from the beginning. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Physical Boundaries: The Social Justice Base for Shomer Negiah.” Jewish Journal. 16 October 2012.

Questions around the boundaries of physical touch are emerging more and more in American legal and political discourse. When has an employer crossed the line with an employee? When has a teacher crossed the line with a student? Which parts of the human body is the Transportation Security Administration allowed to mandate for touching during a security check? What is the propriety of the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” policy? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Clouds of Glory and Human Responsibility!” Jewish Journal. 4 October 2012.

After the spiritual intimacy of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we subversively break from the walls of institutions and the comforts of home into our modest sukkot (outdoor huts). It is in these huts that we rediscover the religious foundation of our human responsibility. Read More…

 

Weiss, Rabbi Ari. “Solving Hunger Means Sharing the Wealth.” JTA. 3 October 2012.

To eat: a cup of black beans, a few ounces of pasta and a bit of tuna. To drink: water.

This was my dinner menu one Friday night last November as my fellow dinner guests dined on standard Shabbat fare: homemade challah, two types of salad, chicken prepared three ways, three bottles of wine, four side dishes, cake and fruit for desert, tea. I generally look forward to Shabbat dinner, but I had decided that week to join rabbis and faith leaders across the country to participate in a food stamp challenge. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “All Jews in One Sukkah!” Jewish Journal. 3 October 2012.

Rabbi Avi Weiss often tells his students that one of the most important traits to be an upstanding Jew, and certainly a Rabbi, is to have a deep sense of “Ahavat Yisrael,” love for our fellow Jew. For many, this can be challenging. To cultivate a love for the values of the Torah, for the holiness of Israel, for the Jews we know is one thing, but can we cultivate a deep love and connection to a random Jew we never met or have anything in common with? What is the origin of this love, and is it genuine? In theory, as a historical construct, it sounds beautiful, but what is its emotional foundation? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Yom Kippur: An Encounter with Death & Life!” Jewish Journal. 25 September 2012.

“Mitah v’Yom HaKippurim Michaprin.” The two ways to truly atone are Death and Yom Kippur. But are the two really so different? On Yom Kippur, we reject food and drink, similar to one close to death. We say vidui (our confessions) just like someone preparing to die. Many wear white on Yom Kippur-the kittel, the same plain shroud that one will be buried in. We remove ourselves from leather shoes, bathing, anointing, and marital relations on Yom Kippur again as though we are mourners. Our lives are lived in our bodies. On Yom Kippur we step out of our bodies as if we were gone. We visit the cemetery at this time to honor those who have passed away and to soften our hearts to our mortality. We ask ourselves on Yom Kippur in Unetaneh Tokef: “who shall live and who shall die.” Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Yom Kippur: Expanding Our Communal Roles.” Jewish Journal. 23 September 2012.

The Jewish community at large is struggling to find common spaces where all can be together. After all, where can we be united as 21st-century Jews? In religious belief? On Israel? In Jewish education? On some type of mitzvah day or day of learning? Only a small fraction of the community shows up to anything or agrees to anything. We have become so fragmented. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Runaway Slaves in the Torah.” Jewish Journal. 21 September 2012.

What would you do if an escaped slave showed up on your doorstep in Canaan in 1400 B.C.E., or in Memphis in 1810, or in Tel Aviv in 2012? The problem of the runaway slave is both ancient and modern.

Slavery plagued America for more than two centuries, beginning with its evolution in the British colony of Virginia. Many people are unaware that the proponents of slavery, beginning in the 1830s, actually increased their militancy and sought further legal sanctions for human bondage. From 1836-1844, Congress was under the “Gag Rule,” which effectively prohibited the discussion of slavery. Southern states routinely intercepted and burned anti-slavery tracts that were sent through the postal system. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Where Are You? Keeping our Dreams Alive!” Jewish Journal. 21 September 2012.

Jews (and the 3,300 year-old project of Judaism) are pretty meshugana! We believe in the most radical way that everything we do matters and that we can and must change the world. Even though there are only about 13 million of us, we believe that every one of us matters in our national and global commitments to transform the world. Is it okay that we are so radically hopeful? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Deuteronomy 31:1-30:A Call for Universal Education.” Huffington Post. 19 September 2012.

Over the last several years I have had the opportunity to teach in classrooms in villages around the world, from Central America to Southeast Asia, and from Africa to the former Soviet Union. One unexpected and saddening phenomenon I have encountered in several poorer countries is empty classrooms. Many students do not show up or are pulled from school by their families due to intense economic or social pressures. There is an education crisis around the world that is at the root of countless other social and economic problems. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Addressing Serious Ethical Issues in Public: Misunderstandings about the Tav HaYosher.” Jewish Week. 3 July 2012.

“Tav HaYosher (the ethical seal for kosher restaurants) issued by Uri L’Tzedek has expanded rapidly. We just celebrated awarding the Tav to our 100th restaurant. There has been widespread support across the spectrum of the Jewish community for this seal certifying nothing more or less than the adherence to American labor laws around minimum wages, overtime, breaks and abuse. Kosher restaurant owners with the Tav have shared that they have earned thousands of dollars more through increased business. The Tav has been accepted and supported by proprietors from across the spectrum of Orthodoxy. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Is All of Jewish Leadership Work Holy? The Notion of Meta-Holiness.” Jewish Journal. 27 June 2012.

We often think of clergy, scrolls, and the synagogue as the realm of the holy. But is the work of all Jewish communal leadership holy? What does it even mean to do holy work?

In searching for a compelling Jewish notion for the holy, we can review many different approaches. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Numbers 19:1 – 27:1:The Case for Humility.” Huffington Post. 26 June 2012.

The market is on the rise!” “We will win the playoffs!” “As President, this nation will be rebuilt.” Whether it is politics, business, medicine or sports, there is little news that we read every day that doesn’t propose certainty of belief. In the news, we hear politicians and analysts speak with surety about world events, the effects of proposed policies, and the potential outcomes of war. We have been plagued in all sectors of society by a surfeit of confidence and certainty.
The Torah takes a very different approach to human knowledge. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Culture of Bullying:It’s Not Just Kids!” Jewish Journal. 25 June 2012.

ABC News reports that close to 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and around 160,000 kids stay home from school every day out of fear of being bullied. Up to 10 percent of students either drop out or transfer to another school due to bullying. In the Internet age, cyberbullying has become a significant additional problem. According to research on cyberbullying by the PEW Research Center Internet & American Life Project, 88 percent of students surveyed have witnessed peers being mean or cruel online. This translates to 2.7 million students being bullied by 2.1 million other students, according to 2010 statisticsRead More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Addressing the Plight of the African Refugees in Israel.” Jewish Journal. 22 June 2012.

A few days ago, 120 refugees were sent back to South Sudan, where they will face existential danger in the shape of hunger and threat of war. Things have been getting worse in Israel, with militant violence. There is some hostile, intolerant language coming not just from crowds at protests, but also from politicians. Authorities are arresting refugees and deporting them. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society has termed this anti-foreigner wave “the largest one in scope and severity” in Israel’s history. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Present and the Future: Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle!” Jewish Journal. 21 June 2012.

In 1927, Werner Heisenberg set the world of quantum physics on its ear with his Uncertainty Principle. In relation to a subatomic particle (e.g., electron), Heisenberg stated that the more precisely we measure its location, the more imprecise becomes our calculation of its momentum, and vice versa. Thus, in a physical seesaw, we cannot measure both an electron’s location and momentum simultaneously, for measuring one thwarts the measuring of the other. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Religious Value of Rest and Leisure.” Jewish Journal. 21 June 2012.

We are immersed in responsibilities and commitments to work, family, community, society, and the world. I do believe that a primary purpose for human existence is to toil, work, and serve. The value of work is expressed throughout Jewish sources: “Great is work because even Adam did not taste food until he had performed work” (Avot d’Rebbe Natan, ch. 11). But we might ask: is there a religious value to rest and leisure? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Why I am Fasting Today!” Jewish Journal. 18 June 2012.

Today and tomorrow, I am fasting as an individual in solidarity with tens of thousands of American individuals in solitary confinement. I am also fasting in solidarity with hundreds of faith leaders across the country calling for an end of solitary confinement. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Is College Working? The Decline of the Humanities.” Jewish Journal. 13 June 2012.

As a campus educator who has taught students on more than 30 campuses around the country, I see how stressed students are to compete for grades, jobs, and organizational positions. Most students seem more focused on achievement than on their personal life search and intellectual journey. They are, of course, not to blame as a transactional culture has become overwhelming but we have much to fear for the future of the university and the intellectual culture of our country. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Exposed Roots: The Importance of Faith-Rooted Spiritual Activism.” Jewish Journal. 12 June 2012.

The other day my wife and I walked passed a massive tree and marveled at how its roots were exposed above ground. These roots can still fulfill their function to absorb water, store nutrients, support the tree, and prevent erosion of the soil, but the tree seemed exposed, perhaps even naked. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Is Our Labor System Broken? A Jewish Call for Minimum Wage Increases.”Jewish Journal. 11 June 2012.

Lessening the gap between the rich and the poor is one of the most crucial moral issues to address in America today. Much of the problem has to do with fair wages. Some progress has been made. At the beginning of 2012, eight states raised their minimum wage, yet the federal wage floor for most workers today remains at $7.25 an hour. The integrity of our labor system is broken and we must respond. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Rabbi Herschel Schachter’s Chumra on Milk: Abuse in the Dairy Industry.”Jewish Journal. 7 June 2012.

It is prohibited by Jewish law to consume the milk of a terefah (a sick or injured animal (Exodus 22:30; Bekhorot 6b; Chulin 116b; Hilchot Shechitah 10:9; Shulchan Aruch YD 81:1); the Talmud lists eighteen different organic diseases or conditions, and the Rambam has 70 (Hilchot Shechita 10:9). However, since milk from different cows is all mixed up, as long as we know that the majority of the milk (“rov,” Exodus 23:2) comes from healthy cows, then we may consider it all kosher without any examination (Chullin 11a-12a). However if there a frequently encountered minority (mi’ut ha’matzui) of the cows that are sick then Jewish law requires that we must examine the animals to confirm there is no problem (Hullin 11a, 12a; Bi’ur ha-Gra YD 1:4). Milk production has generally not been considered a problem and thus we have been lenient on consumption. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Dishonest Kiruv! The Building of Responsible Jewish Outreach Movements.”Jewish Journal. 6 June 2012.

I have been serving as a Jewish outreach professional for the last 2 years as the Senior Jewish Educator at the UCLA Hillel. I am so fortunate to be able to spend my days talking and learning with students about their life journeys. At its best, Jewish outreach provides a student alienated from Judaism with a warm, inclusive, sophisticated, honest entry point into finding his or her voice and place within the Jewish tradition and community. At its worst, outreach is deceptive, closed, and arrogant. It can be hard to tell the difference, because both types of outreach are done with a smile and bowl of cholent. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Problem of Frum Hedonism.” Jewish Journal. 4 June 2012.

Is there anything that we will not put a heksher on? Has pleasure become the guiding religious principle? Many pockets of the American Orthodox community have become so consumed with Jewish law that values and limits on pleasure have been dismissed. Read More…

 

Weiss, Rabbi Ari. “A Nazir’s Guide For The Activist.” Jewish Week. 29 May 2012.

There are young people who become becomes disillusioned by the world, looking for meaning over and beyond the conformity of the workplace with its codes of how to look and what to be. They find no comfort in the illusory escapism of strong drink. Instead, they intend to dedicate themselves to a noble purpose, to a transcendent life, to a sacred calling. Today they might become an activist or a rabbi. In the days of the Temple, they might take vows and become a nazir. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Jewish Social Justice in Post Apartheid South Africa?” Jewish Journal. 28 May 2012.

I have been full of curiosity since arriving in Cape Town two weeks ago as scholar-in-residence. What would an Orthodox Social Justice movement look like in post-apartheid South Africa? What unique opportunities does the Jewish community have in 2012 to address the racial and economic dynamics that still plague the region? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Becoming Builders of Jerusalem: The Model Just Society.” Jewish Journal. 20 May 2012.

his morning I was honored to deliver the Cape Town, South Africa, community-wide keynote address for Yom Yerushalayim. Hundreds gathered together in a powerful celebration of the liberation of Jerusalem 45 years ago (28th of Iyar 1967). I was reminded of the power of Jerusalem to unite the Jewish people. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Who Wrote the Torah? Committed Theolgy in the Age of Skepticism.” Jewish Community Voice. 16 May 2012.

It is the question that so many wonder but few investigate, about which we are long on opinion but short on fact: “Who wrote the Torah?” One might think this would be the most basic question in Jewish learning and thought since of the three primary theological paradigms of religion-creation, revelation, and redemption-revelation most profoundly captivates our human lived experience. How in an age of skepticism can we fully embrace the Jewish tradition? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Religious Freedom:Should the 10 Commandments be Promoted in Public?”Jewish Journal. 13 May 2012.

One of the great debates in America today is over the role of religion in the public sphere. To what extent is the United States government embracing religion? Are we “one nation under G-d?” Most concretely, should religious teachings such as the Ten Commandments be allowed on the walls of courthouses and classrooms? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Meant to Reflect Jewish Values, Kosher Food is Often Unethical.” Haaretz.com. 10 May 2012.

Four years ago, on the morning of May 12th, 2008, dozens of federal agents descended on the small town of Postville, Iowa for the largest workplace immigration raid in American history. At the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant, the main employer in Postville, agents arrested nearly 400 undocumented workers, and promptly deported 300 arrestees on false identity charges. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Bible and the Los Angeles Riots:Role of Religion in the Public Sphere?”Jewish Journal. 9 May 2012.

In the 21st century, there is one primary role for religion in the public sphere: Radical Spiritual Intervention.

Riots sometimes occur when people within a community become so enraged at authority that they unleash their fury. This often overflows into an indiscriminate attack on anyone in the rioters’ path. It takes enormous courage to face this uncontrolled violence. As Fidel Lopez, an innocent victim, was being viciously beaten, cut, and burnt in the streets during the Los Angeles riots, Reverend Bennie Newton entered the dangerous streets waving a Bible in the air, warning the attackers: “Kill him, and you have to kill me, too.” Risking his life, the holy reverend saved the innocent victim’s life as the attackers backed away. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Torture, War, And Bin Laden: A Jewish Perspective.” Jewish Week. 8 May 2012.

For those of us far removed from the torture cell and battlefield, it is all too easy to be misinformed about intelligence gathering and its efficacy and morality. But to maintain our national integrity, we must all gain clarity on this crucial moral and political issue. Torture is ineffective, illegal and immoral, and it makes us less safe. It must be stopped at all levels. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Ari Hart, Maria Corona, and Flaum: A Big Win For Worker Justice.” Jewish Journal. 8 May 2012.

Last month I accidentally bought a barrel of Flaum pickles. My wife Shoshana’s mouth dropped when she saw it in the house, knowing that my organization Uri L’Tzedek was leading the campaign to end Flaum’s labor violations including wage theft, overtime violations, and more. We gave the pickles away to a gentleman working valet. Tonight, I would like to celebrate a massive social justice victory with a Flaum pickle. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Is the Torah political? Thoughts on the Nature of Language.” Jewish Journal. 4 May 2012.

One of the most common and polarizing debates in America today is about the relationship between religion and politics. To what extent should church and state be separate? Should our religious values and principles influence the way we participate in civil society, and should our texts and laws inform how we vote? These questions assume that religion and politics are completely separate entities, a notion this article will challenge. Is it, perhaps, that the Torah not only addresses the political but is fundamentally political? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Caged and Traumatized: A Closer Look at the Egg Industry.” Jewish Journal. 29 April 2012.

For years, my favorite Sunday morning breakfast was scrambled eggs. Once I learned about what was going on in the egg industry that breakfast lost its innocence, and I found egg alternatives. Do you know where your eggs come from? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “An Obesity Problem in the Orthodox Community?” Jewish Journal. 25 April 2012.

It is beautiful how much emphasis there is on Shabbat and holiday celebration in American Orthodoxy. However, the celebration of the values of health and exercise are sorely lacking in the community. Parents often do not stress health and exercise for their children, and day schools fall short on creating rigorous health programs. Happily, religious celebration need not compromise our commitment to health. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “I’m Coming out of the Closet!” Jewish Journal. 19 April 2012.

Last night I spoke on a campus interfaith leader panel about the subject of LGBT and religion. One of the questions we were asked was, “When did you come out of the closet or when did you come out as an ally?” As the only heterosexual panelist, I announced: “I’m coming out right now!” I’m coming out of the closet right now as an Orthodox rabbi who is a proud ally with those of LGBT orientation. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Actualizing Democracy:Can Change Really Be Bottom-Up?” Jewish Journal. 19 April 2012.

New York Times columnist David Brooks, writing about today’s social reformers, argues that “it’s hard not to feel inspired by all these idealists, but their service religion does have some shortcomings. In the first place, many of these social entrepreneurs think they can evade politics. They have little faith in the political process and believe that real change happens on the ground beneath it.” Is Brooks correct that we can only create bottom-up change if we address the political process? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Gadamer, Nozick, & the Splitting of the Sea: Choosing How to Interpret the World.” Jewish Journal. 19 April 2012.

In one of the most dramatic scenes of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Jean Valjean, a former prisoner who has become beloved mayor of his adopted town, is faced with the challenge of throwing away the life he has built for himself to defend an innocent man. Jean Valjean, standing in the courtroom, asks himself: “Who am I? Can I condemn this man to slavery. Pretend I do not feel his agony. This innocent who bears my face. Who goes to judgment in my place. Who am I?” Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “A Smoke-Free World: A Jewish Ban on Tobacco.” Jewish Week. 18 April 2012.

We have been very aware of the addictive nature of nicotine and the serious health risks of lung cancer (which kills more Americans than any other cancer), cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (eventually leading to emphysema). About 20 percent of Americans still smoke, around 450,000 Americans die prematurely every year from smoking, and researchers have shown that a smoker losesan average of 14 years of life. Even though we have over 1,200 Americans dying every day from smoking, for every death, two more people under the age of 26 takes up smoking. One in five American teens smoke and 80 percent of them will remain addicted as adults. Cigarettes are also the most frequent cause of fires that lead to death in homes. And these numbers do not even account for the harm of second-hand smoke. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Building Healthy Communities: What Type of Congregant Are You?” Jewish Journal Blog. 11 April 2012.

My rabbinic colleagues often remark to me how much they care about and even love their congregants. In particular, they appreciate the compliment-givervolunteer-giver, and the humble servant. The compliment-giver feels deep appreciation for all the community provides and likes to express this gratitude. The volunteer-giver does not just make suggestions for improvements but jumps at the opportunity to contribute to improve the community. The humble servant is rarely seen in public leadership but is consistently contributing behind the scenes to ensure that things operate smoothly. Serving these individuals makes the strenuous work of rabbis an utter delight. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “‘I am Seeking my Brothers: The Lost Jewish Virtue of Friendship.” Jewish Week. 11 April 2012.

“And a man found him, when he was wandering in the field, and the man asked him, ‘What are you seeking?’ And he said, ‘I am seeking my brothers'” (Genesis 37:15). This story about Joseph strikes me so deeply. As a child who moved to different cities every few years, I constantly felt like I was seeking “my brothers.” To some degree, we are all wandering in search of our “brothers.” Friendship is a challenging virtue to cultivate, even more challenging in our transient times. Yet, in an age that is increasingly interdependent our culture strangely is moving toward an illusion of independence. Cultivating spiritual friendship ensures we remain grounded in the types of human relationships that cultivate virtue. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Become an Inspiration Addict.” Jewish Journal Blog. 5 April 2012.

In my senior year of high school, I drank the juice of inspiration, and all of a sudden everything in the world started to matter. I used to think inspiration could be found anywhere, but I learned there are indeed bad books, pointless movies, and invites worth turning down. These comprise the “cold zone.” They take energy from you, as compared with the “hot zone” people and activities that you leave with more energy. Our task is to fine tune our spiritual antennae to detect the hot zones that charge us. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Revolutions of Chabad and AJWS!” Jewish Journal Blog. 4 April 2012.

This is the story of two Jewish organizations. Neither receives the proper credit they deserve for the global diaspora revolutions they are inspiring.

Chabad-Lubavitch is politically right-wing, religiously ultra-Orthodox, and prizes Jewish ritual above all else, working to raise the profile and increase observance of mitzvot. The American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is politically left-wing, not religious, and prizes universalism, working to alleviate poverty around the world. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Shoes We Wear: A Statement of Identity and Values.” Jewish Journal Blog. 3 April 2012.

A few days ago in the Argentinian shantytown where we were volunteering, a four-year-old boy said he liked myzapatos (shoes). Our shoes can reveal much about our socio-economic status, as I have been told many times while traveling in developing countries. While I am always surprised by this, since I think of my shoes as utterly basic, never have I been as affected as I was this time. This boy, who is not wearing shoes today and is unlikely to be wearing them anytime in the future, opened up my heart. Read More…

 

Hart, Ari. “A Passage Song About…the Food System? Dayenu!” Huffington Post Blog. 3 April 2012.

If God had provided for our needs in the wilderness for 40 years — dayenu!

If God had fed us manna — dayenu!

It’s arguably the most famous Passover Jewish song. Each year, sing-song verses and repetitive chorus stick in my head almost as long as the matzah sticks in my stomach. But here’s a twist you might not have heard about: when singing the song, some Sephardic Jews take long stemmed green onions or leeks and use them to playfully whip each other on the head! Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Establishing Community Medicine Banks Around the World.” Jewish Journal Blog. 30 March 2012.

Did you know that about 30,000 individuals die every day from curable diseases? Some evils are entirely dreadful because they are not preventable; there is little we can do in the face of a hurricane or tsunami. But it is even more tragic when we ignore preventable human suffering. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “AMIA and Minority Insecurity: How Do We Attack Corruption?” Jewish Journal Blog. 29 March 2012.

A few days ago, I took my students to visit AMIA, the Jewish community center of Buenos Aires, Argentina, that was bombed in 1994, leaving 85 killed and hundreds injured. It was heart-wrenching to hear the personal stories only a few days after the attack at the school in Toulouse. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Living and Leading with Soul.” Jewish Journal Blog. 27 March 2012.

Since the beginning of time, humans have sought to discover the essence and location of the soul, the Divine essence constitutive of our humanity. Some scientists today claim that le siege de l’ame (the seat of the soul) is in the temporal lobe of the human brain (“the God spot”), and V.S. Ramachandran demonstrated in the 1990s that patients with temporal lobe epilepsy were particularly affected by religious experiences. Others reject the claim that the soul has a physical location, thus preserving its mystery. But more important than knowing the soul’s location is to understand the soul’s value. Today, in a world flooded with external stimuli, we often forget the greatest treasure we have access to-the depths of our own souls. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Transformative Power of Ritual.” Jewish Journal Blog. 26 March 2012.

I wake up to an inbox full of dozens of emails, global news demanding reaction, and a daily agenda triple the size of what will prove achievable. How am I to pause to turn inward? When I put on my tefillin each morning, I consider what I need to become liberated from in order to fully return in servitude back to my highest callings. The straps bind me to that mission. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Is the Synagogue a Relic of the Past?” My Jewish Learning. 23 March 2012.

Many Jews today claim that they are “spiritual not religious,” that organized religion is not relevant, or that they would rather spend their free time alone than with others. Those who attend synagogue weekly often reserve the service, especially the sermon, for a special naptime. Others prefer a 20-person basement setting for a quick prayer service rather than a formal, large gathering at shul. Around two-thirds of Americans claim to be members of a house of worship, which is more than 25% higher than Jewish synagogue membership. Is the synagogue becoming extinct? If so, should we seek to prevent extinction? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Do We Prioritize the Vulnerable in Justice?” My Jewish Learning. 21 March 2012.

In Jewish law, we are told that it is unjust to be biased and be swayed by poverty, to favor the case of the poor over the rich in a dispute. Within the realm of a formal court’s judgment this is crucial (Exodus 23: 3, 6). However, does this notion still apply today, where the disparity of wealth between the poor and the rich has become so large that the poor often can no longer properly advocate for themselves? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Is Prayer for Activists?” My Jewish Learning. 19 March 2012.

Our basic premise as activists is human responsibility. We, not someone else, must step up to create change in the world. To turn to others before ourselves is for cynics and critics, not change-makers. What about prayer? Is it a cop out? I would suggest that prayer offers us three vital opportunities as activists: 1) Reflection and Self Awareness, 2) Reminder of Values and Recharge, and 3) Humility. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Sex Education in Orthodox High Schools.” Jewish Journal Blog. 13 March 2012.

Yesterday, I sat in on a sex education course at an Orthodox high school. The class was for seniors, the first one they had been offered on the subject; they were understandably full of questions. I realized, based upon the nature of their questions, how vital this course is. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Judaism’s Value of Happiness: Living with Gratitude and Idealism.” Jewish Journal Blog. 9 March 2012.

The weekly reader of the Jewish news might come to believe that Judaism opposes happiness and favors worry, guilt, and conflict. We seem to be so down and obsessed with our problems: anti-Semitism, anti-Israel propaganda, assimilation, intermarriage, scandals, and on and on. But actually, Judaism very much embraces the importance of happiness. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Challenge of Offering Moral Rebuke in the Workplace.” Jewish Journal Blog. 7 March 2012.

At work, we consistently offer positive reinforcement and constructive feedback to others to improve the quality of our collective efforts. From a Jewish perspective, we are not only concerned with the efficacy of our work but also the ethics of the workplace. In addition to personal accountability, all Jewish workers have a sacred duty to be a moral presence as well. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Jewish Education – Teaching Emotional Intelligence.” Jewish Journal. 6 March 2012.

For centuries there has been an ongoing debate as to where ethics are grounded as universal attributes in the human condition. The philosopher Immanuel Kant grounded ethics in reason, whereas David Hume looked toward emotions such as sympathy, empathy, and compassion. Today, neuroimaging may offer a new way to resolve this issue. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Purim: The Importance of Democracy.” Jewish Week. 05 March 2012.

One year ago, Libyan dictator Muammar Kaddafy’s troops were marching toward Benghazi, the unofficial capital of the Libyan rebels. Kaddafy was calling the rebels “rats,” and a 10,000-person massacre seemed inevitable. But on Purim itself, in Libya (historically part of the Persian Empire), NATO made the decision to intervene, saving the pro-democracy rebels. “Nahafoch hu“-the opposite of the tyrant’s plan occurred. Fortunately, Purim has been a bad time for tyrants in modern as well as ancient times. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Are Taxes Good, Fair, or Jewish? A Defense of the Progressive Taxation.”Jewish Journal. 5 March 2012.

For several months, the whole nation has been intensely debating what constitutes a fair system of taxation. It is very peculiar that there are American Jews today who adhere to the Tea Party mantra that all government is bad, that taxes should always be reduced, and that a flat tax should be embraced. While Jewish law cannot be applied to the U.S. tax system to advocate for an individual policy, it is clear that Jewish values support taxation to achieve a just society. A flat (regressive) tax system will harm the middle and lower classes, so we are obliged to embrace a progressive system. Read More…

 

Hart, Ari. “King Ahasuerus’ Tax Lesson.” Haaertz. 02 March 2012.

The concluding chapter of the Scroll of Esther is three verses long. Two of them, not surprisingly, celebrate the triumphs of the Jews. The other verse reads: “And the king Ahasuerus laid a tax upon the land, and upon the isles of the sea.”

What a strange ending to our triumphant story. Why are taxes included in the Megillah’s triumphant coda? Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Who Wrote the Torah? Committed Theology in the Age of Skepticism.” Jewish Journal. 24 February 2012.

It is the question that so many wonder but few investigate, about which we are long on opinion but short on fact: “Who wrote the Torah?” One might think this would be the most basic question in Jewish learning and thought since of the three primary theological paradigms of religion-creation, revelation, and redemption-revelation most profoundly captivates our human lived experience. How in an age of skepticism can we fully embrace the Jewish tradition? Read More…

 

Hart, Ari. “Is the Iphone Kosher?” Huffington Post. 23 February 2012.

I bought my first iPhone in January. After only a few short hours, I was hooked by the sleek design, ease of use, and power. After a few weeks, I couldn’t remember life without it. And then, on my iPhone, I read the following email from SumOfUs. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “A New Look at Idolatry and Slave Labor.” Jewish Week. 21 February 2012.

Idolatry (avoda zara) is one of the gravest sins in the Torah. In fact, it is one of three sins for which one must accept death before succumbing (Yoma 82a). But is it merely an ancient relic? As 21st-century Jews who have demythologized the world, we simply cannot relate to the worship of trees, rivers, and statues. Nonetheless, today’s desire for idolatry is as strong as ever, clothed deceptively in new forms such as slave labor and unethical consumption. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The American Jewish Vote: Not All About Israel.” Jewish Week. 14 February 2012.

Whether or not a candidate for public office supports the state of Israel is important to American Jews, but it is not the only issue we care about.

Indeed, in 2012 it is highly likely that all major Presidential candidates will be pro-Israel, so American Jewish voters can concentrate on voting for the candidate who best embodies the principles of the Torah and the American republic. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “A Moral Case for Brit Milah.” Jewish Week. 06 February 2012.

Brit milah (Jewish ritual circumcision) may be uncomfortable to watch, and naturally makes many of us ambivalent in a time of celebration. But is it cruel? Living in California, where calls for the outlawing of circumcision have recently proliferated, I have not heard anyone make the moral case for circumcision. TheShulkhan Arukh says that “this commandment (milah) is greater than (all the) other positive commandments,” (Yoreh De’ah 260). As someone who believes strongly that mitzvot have an ethical foundation, I will attempt to make the case for the moral benefit of brit milah. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Most Important and Dangerous Jewish Value: The Messianic Impulse.”Jewish Week. 01 February 2012.

“We want Moshiach now!” Have you sung it? What did you mean?

The Torah teaches us about the 4 stages of redemption (Shemot 6). Through God’s miraculous interventions in the world (the 10 plagues), there was a mass exodus, perhaps the greatest story of liberation and redemption in human history. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Jewish Law on Texting While Driving.” Jewish Week. 23 January 2012.

The Orthodox community has been in a panic about the recent news that observant teenagers are texting on Shabbos. However, we must address a much greater life-and-death concern. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Gambling: More than A Fun Game of Cards?” Jewish Week. 16 January 2012.

Anyone who has held a lottery ticket knows the thrill of taking a gamble. Personally, I recall the emotional intensity of the poker games in the basement of my friend’s house as a child. With money on the table, even as a 12 year-old, this friendly get together was no longer a game. Five years later, I recall passing through an Atlantic City casino on a family trip shocked to see it full of yarmulke-wearing Jews. I wondered if gambling was an acceptable Jewish sport. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Jewish Imperative for Child Adoption.” Jewish Week. 9 January 2012.

Millions of children fall asleep every night hungry, wearing an unchanged diaper, and with no one to hold them as they cry themselves to sleep. There is perhaps no greater suffering than to feel unloved, unwanted, and uncared for by anyone. This is the story of the orphan. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Spiritual Transformation Through Our Dream Interpretations.” Jewish Week. 4 January 2012.

Every night of our lives, we enter the dream state. Sometimes we are very aware of our dreams upon waking, sometimes not at all. I often wonder about the theological implications of our unconscious thoughts that occur while we dream. How are we to interpret these ideas and how can those interpretations help us to grow to become who we need to be? Read More…