Sunday, October 22, 2017

Divrei Torah

Blogging R’ Lichtenstein: Explaining the Sufferings of Exile

As I noted last time, I have to fit 23 sermons into 21 weeks, and this week seems as good as any to combine two into one. That’s because two of the sermons deal with the sufferings of exile, trying to understand the possible value in the suffering of the Jewish people. This and other sermons suggest that his community struggled with the

Holy Community


Every year when we get to Parshat Kedoshim, we try to define “holy.” I try to say something clever and meaningful, but somehow I usually feel that I’ve missed the mark. “Holy” is one of the things that’s hard to define, even though we do believe that we recognize it

Blogging R’ Lichtenstein: The RA”L I Found

There is a well-known parable of blind men encountering different parts of an elephant. One was at the tail, one at the trunk, one underneath the belly, one at the wide, round foot, and so on. Each came up with a plausible theory based on what he touched, none glimpsing the whole. (In different versions, when they compare notes, they either

There’s Power in the Matzah

See that title up there? I’m not sure most of us pay attention to titles of the articles we read.  Most of the time I try to be cute or attention grabbing in my titles. Once in awhile, I think that I get it right, but this one is very meaningful to me. It’s a quote from Reb Levi Yitzchak Halevy Horowitz (1921-2009), of course he was

Blogging R. Lichtenstein: Sichot for Pesach

As we did for Purim, and because we’ve completed our summaries of RA”L’s published volumes (the two post-Pesach posts before RA”L’s first yahrzeit will be review pieces), we are pausing here to review some of his sichot, written up after the fact by various students (some checked by RA”L, some not).

What’s Big?

Shabbat Hagadol-5776


Rabbi Walk

Last we asked, “What’s new?” This week we must ask, “What’s big?” By the way, we also really like big. I’m not sure what we prefer, new or big. I remember when I was growing

Bitul Chametz: How It Works and What It Does

Blogging R. Lichtenstein, Pesachim, Week Two


The starting point of RA”L’s discussions of bitul, nullifying, chametz is the Gemara’s certainty that a declaration of one’s disinterest in owning chametz suffices to avoid the prohibition of

Red Cows and Modern Jews

Parshat Para 5776

Someone dear to me, for whom I have great respect, suggested that I write a book about Jewish laws for emergency situations. You know, like when you’re stuck in traffic as Shabbat begins or come very late to shul and want to know how to catch up. The list could go on and on,

Varieties of Jewish Experience: Law, Spirituality and Yirat Shamayim (Fear of Heaven)

Blogging R. Lichtenstein, Varieties of Jewish Experience, Week Two

Two of the essays in “Varieties of Experience” take on such central topics of religiosity that they seemed to me indispensable to any dip into RA”L’s ideas and thought. The



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

Varieties of Jewish Experience

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

Phenomenal Cosmic Powers! Itty Bitty Living Space!

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

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