Joseph: The Birth of Meritocracy

Judaism came to the world in an age in which hereditary privilege was the way of the world. Princes were poised to inherit their fathers’ monarchical status and become kings, and slaves were doomed to remain subjugated and enslaved for perpetuity. In the Torah, as Nietzsche observes in his book “On the Genealogy of Morals,” […]

Continue reading

Never Stop Growing

The name of our Torah portion is “Vayeshev”, which means: “And he settled down” (התיישב). Jacob settles down in Israel after many decades of living abroad. Jacob achieved many things in his life. He spent years working on his spiritual growth, and became a great Torah scholar. Jacob also went out to the “real world”, […]

Continue reading

The Inevitability of Human Suffering

Jacob loses his beloved wife Rachel in this week’s Torah portion. Rachel died young, while giving birth to her second son Benyamin. Jacob is surely devastated. Jacob’s life was replete with tragedy. He had to leave his parental home, and run for his life. He was exploited and manipulated in business by his crooked uncle […]

Continue reading

Was Noah a Righteous Person?

by Leon Hasson and Marie Altchech We observed the Jewish New Year when we reflected upon our misdeeds during the previous year and resolved to make ourselves better people by incorporating into our lives a few basic tenets of Judaism. It was a time for introspection. The universal story of Noah and the Ark resonates […]

Continue reading

Thanksgiving

We start our morning prayers every single day of the year with the same word. That word is “Hodoo”. “Hodoo” is Hebrew for “Give thanks”. “Hodoo” is also Hebrew for “Turkey”, and “Hodoo” is also Hebrew for “India”.   Christopher Columbus meant to travel to India (“Hodoo”), and because his GPS was out of order […]

Continue reading

The Jewish Condition & the Human Condition

Abraham is a living legend in his own lifetime. He is revered by his contemporaries, who address him as a “Prince of G-d in our midst.” Abraham, with true spiritual humility, describes himself to the local people as “A stranger and a resident amongst you.” This statement made by Abraham is strange and puzzling. How […]

Continue reading

To Be Blessed With Everything

The Torah states that “God blessed Abraham with everything.” One way to understand this statement, is that Abraham lead a multifaceted existence, in which he experienced all the highs and lows of the human condition. On the one hand, Abraham is admired by his contemporaries as a veritable living legend. His neighbors see him as […]

Continue reading

Two Forms of Greatness

Rabbi David Hartman Z”L, was an important figure in the world of Jewish studies. In his youth, Rabbi Hartman was a student of the great Torah giant, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik of blessed memory. When David Hartman was a young student, Rabbi Soloveitchik strongly encouraged Hartman to pursue a master’s degree in philosophy. But Hartman was […]

Continue reading

Noah: The Solipsistic Tzadik

The Chassidic sages teach us that when it’s cold and glum outside there are basically two things we can do. One is to put on a fur coat and just keep ourselves warm. The other is to start a fire – thereby keeping others warm and safe as well. Noah was a tzadik in a […]

Continue reading

Human Nature: A Torah Perspective

Our parashah ends on a somber and dreary note, as the Almighty is allegorically saddened to His core, and regrets having created Homo Sapiens. Why? Because “Man’s inclination is evil from his youth.” The Torah, unlike some other philosophies, does not believe that we are all inherently altruistic and compassionate by our very nature. The […]

Continue reading