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Jared Goldin

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Loose beads of different colors; some strung on a string

We Jews have never been much into beads. Although we may have used them and similar objects at times for counting or marking time, we generally have stayed away from them as a ritual object for prayer. Nonetheless, some people may see parallels between beads, used for religious or spiritual purposes in Africa as long ago as 10,000 B.C.E., and the tallit (Jewish prayer shawl), whose design specifications are detailed in Numbers and Deuteronomy, texts written more than 8,000 years later. While some see similarities, I see differences.

On a tallit, the prescribed tassels, knots and...

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Black and white photo of Isaias W. Hellman at his desk in his California office

In his recent blog post, “The Avengers: Building on a Jewish Comic Book Legacy,” Arie Kaplan, uses the new movie, Avengers: Infinity War, to remind us that almost all the creators – writers and illustrators – of Marvel Comics’ Avengers and Superman and his DC Comics’ Justice League of America cohorts, and the beyond-our-wildest-imagination worlds that they defended, were Jewish. It turns out that this is also an excellent time for a reminder that it was a real life Jewish superhero who almost single-handedly built the city and state where these movies, featuring fantastical characters and...

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worn baseball glove holding baseball in foreground; wooden baseball bat in back

The start of another baseball season reminds me that, as an almost-11-year-old Jewish boy in Southern California in 1965, I thought only one thing when I heard the word “hero”: Sandy Koufax.

Of course, biblical heroes, including Moses and Samson, still held some sheen as did others who were revered and whose accomplishments were celebrated in our staunchly liberal and Zionist household: Adlai Stevenson, the two-time Democratic nominee for president; Golda Meir, Israel’s then-minister of foreign affairs; and Albert Einstein and Al Jolson, each a larger-than-life figure.

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Two people in shadow pushing puzzle pieces together with sunlight in the background

In an earlier essay, I described how the practice of Musar has become for me a gesher (bridge) between what had been, for most of my life and in most ways, two separate worlds: one Jewish, the other not. 

Upon further reflection, I now see how the concept of “dualism” – two contrasted, sometimes cooperative and sometimes opposed, things or persons – is pervasive in Judaism generally and in my personal experience. Until leaving home for college, I lived in a house with one set of dishes for milchig (Yiddish for “dairy”) and another for fleishig (Yiddish for “meat”).  I spent half my...

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Flat gray and black rocks balanced on top of one another

I grew up attending a Conservative synagogue in Long Beach, California, where I discovered many ways to distract myself and pass the time, unaware that I nonetheless was absorbing the prayers, teachings, and moments of silence that made up my “Jewish world.” Although I understood what was being said and chanted, I was so bored I never quite understood how or why any of it would ever be important to me, much less how I might integrate it into my “real world.”

I was, however, always aware of the ever-present plethora of older men (some likely younger than my now 63 years). They...

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