On the Just Use of Force by Our Police

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Shoftim, Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
President, Hebrew College
August 29, 2014

The tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., has focused the nation’s attention once again on issues of justice related to the use of fatal force by police, especially against unarmed African-American men. The death of four black men at the hands of police in Ferguson, New York City, Los Angeles and Ohio this […]

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Where Hope Takes Root

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Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17 / Isaiah 54:11-55:5
August 22, 2014

“Unhappy. Storm-crossed. Uncomforted.” Are you talking to me? Perhaps the prophet Isaiah was speaking to all of us, foreshadowing the awful summer of 2014: Michael Brown gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri… ISIS and the butchering of the Yazidis… Ebola in West Africa… Syria—120,000 innocent civilians dead… Parents and children languishing in the blazing summer heat […]

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Divine-Human Partnership

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Ekev, Deuteronomy 7:12 - 11:25
August 15, 2014

It’s hard to know which should make us more afraid: the notion that the human being or God is the absolute master of history. It is difficult to decide in the name of which of these attitudes more blood has been spilled, or which is more likely to destroy the world first. As I write, […]

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Beyond Tragedy and Despair: Emerging from Tisha b’Av

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Isaiah 40:1-26
August 6, 2014

Death. Destruction. Suffering. Pain. Hate speech. Loss of moral footing. These words just as easily describe the events of the past few weeks, as they do the Book of Eicha (Lamentations), read on Tisha b’Av. Both the tragic war in Israel and Gaza, and the liturgy of Tisha B’av invite us to wallow in despair. […]

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Don’t Weaponize Your Words

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Devarim, Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
July 30, 2014

Far from the fighting in Israel and Gaza, Syria and Ukraine, the peanut gallery reigns supreme. Many of us have anointed ourselves armchair pundits, battling each other in wars of words disturbingly disconnected from the suffering of those in the conflict regions themselves. Rhetoric tears away at rhetoric — or more deafeningly still, is amplified […]

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Hope and Despair

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Masei, Numbers 33:1-36:13
Director of Admissions and Student Life, Rabbinical School
July 23, 2014

The West Wing feels like a long time ago. The critically-acclaimed TV show of the late 1990s and early 2000s portrayed a president and his staff who were both passionate idealists and realistic politicians. Though the show was on the air through much of the turmoil of the previous decade, its spirit was informed by […]

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Hebrew College Expands Its Presence in Israel

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View to Jerusalem old city. Israel

President, Hebrew College
July 18, 2014

Last night I attended a rally in support of Israel hosted by our local federation and Jewish community relations council. It was only a few weeks ago that the community gathered to mourn the death of four teenage boys — three Israelis and one Palestinian — who were brutally murdered. The rocket attacks on Israel […]

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Promises on a Bumpy Road

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Mattot, Numbers 30:2-32:42
July 16, 2014

Soon we will enter the land. There will be bumps in the road. Things we swore we would do may go undone. Things we promised we would refrain from may become commonplace. Here in parashat Mattot, the Israelites are already encamped on the Plains of Moab, having finished their forty years of wandering in the […]

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Reb Zalman: In Memoriam

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Rector, Rabbinical School; Irving Brudnick Professor of Philosophy and Religion
July 10, 2014

Among the countless things I learned from my dear teacher and friend Reb Zalman z”l, is the statement of our shared master and teacher R. Nahman of Bratslav, צריך לעשות מהתורה תפילה, that “you need to turn teachings into prayer.” Zalman especially loved that idea. He would ask about a teaching or wise saying, sometimes […]

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Religious Zealotry, Then and Now

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Pinhas, Numbers 25:10-30:1
July 9, 2014

Hot-blooded anger. Self-righteousness. Unflinching certainty. Extreme measures. These are some of the hallmarks of violent religious zealotry. We see its vicious resurgence all over the world today: the headlines from Iraq, Syria, and much of the Middle East are filled with Islamist jihad, as Sunnis slaughter Shiites and vice versa; Boko Haram, a radical Islamic […]

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