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Sorry, Sylvester. We know that after playing Rocky Balboa for the umpteenth time you were the sentimental favorite for the statuette at this year’s Oscars, but Mark Rylance is just a superior actor. I’ve become a fan of Mark Rylance. He was terrific as Rudolf Abel in “Bridge of Spies,” and my wife and I...

Varieties of Jewish Experience

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Blogging R. Lichtenstein, Varieties of Jewish Experience, Week 1: Reflections of the RA”L

The last English volume of RA”L’s writings is “Varieties of Jewish Experience,” published in 2011, containing 11 essays, eight of which were written in conjunction with RA”L’s participation in YU’s Orthodox Forum.

At this annual conference of rabbis, academics and other interested parties, RA”L came regularly, contributing a paper each year. That fact alone obligates us all to express thanks to the Orthodox Forum; reading through RA”L’s volumes this year (and consulting the bibliography of his writings), it’s become clear to me that writing was not RA”L’s preferred...

Phenomenal Cosmic Powers! Itty Bitty Living Space!

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Vayakhel – 5776

How big a deal is plagiarism? It is, after all, a felony. Theft of intellectual property or literary material is prohibited by Torah law, too. See that cool title up there? I stole it from Robin Williams. He apparently ad-libbed it while voicing the part of the Genie in the 1992 animated film Aladdin, which was recently declared the greatest voice acting performance of all time by Mojo.com. I hope that my more observant readers will have figured out that he was talking about the amount of room in the lamp, but I want to discuss squeezing God into the little building we call the Holy Temple. To do this I’m going to “borrow” ideas from a respected rabbi. And I’m...

The Nature of the Sanhedrin, the Nature of the People

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Blogging R. Lichtenstein, Horayot, Week One

RA”L’s shiurim on Massechet Horayot, delivered in the post-Pesach zman of 5765/2005, largely deal with the remarkable circumstance that underlies the beginning of the tractate: The Sanhedrin rules erroneously on an issue of great significance, and the majority of the Jewish people follow that ruling. Instead of each of those people having to bring a sacrifice (once the error is realized), the Sanhedrin brings one sacrifice, for them and for the people, a par he’elem davar shel tzibbur, a bull brought when a matter is hidden from the community.

The topic–and this volume of shiurim–is particularly meaningful for me, for a few...

The Kohen’s New Clothes

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Tetzaveh 5776

What’s with all the emphasis on the sartorial splendor of the kohen gadol? I mean that I don’t care that much what my religious leaders wear. Maybe if I were a Sephardi, like one of my daughters, I’d prefer my rabbis in gowns and turbans, but not me. I’m not even happy with the uniformity of roshei yeshiva in black frock coats and wide-brimmed hats. But that’s just me. However, the world at large has been moving toward more informality. Think about nuns and how they’ve lost that penguin look over the years. And, yay for dress-down days! Anyway, in this week’s Torah reading we are told, “These are the garments they are to make: a breastplate, an ephod, a...

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