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Rabbi Neal Gold

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Four college students from behind talking and walking along the outside of an academic building

The Talmud (Shabbat 151b-152a) recognizes that people cry different types of tears. There are tears of sorrow and pain, of relief and catharsis. According to the Talmud, some kinds of weeping are beneficial, and some are not.

Today, as Heidi and I bring our oldest child to his first year of college, the Rabbis’ observation seems especially insightful. Of course, we are tearful. But we are well aware that there are many reasons parents may cry when their children leave for college.

Some parents may cry because they realize their family structure will now be different. Sure,...

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Portion of the Israel flag (Star of David on white background with part of the blue stripes visible) on the righthand part of a wooden surface

David Ben Gurion had a problem.

It was May 13, 1948 and the Zionist leadership had announced the new Jewish State would be declared the following afternoon, Friday, just before Shabbat arrived.

The problem was he didn’t have a Declaration of Independence. A first draft had been rejected earlier in the day and needed to be rewritten. There were fundamental issues the committee had to resolve (including the pivotal question: What would be the name of this new state?). But most contentious of all was the dilemma of what recognition, if any, it would give to God.

Of its...

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Woman's hand on the Western Wall next to notes in a crevice

Exile is one of the preeminent themes of the Torah. From the outset of Genesis, Adam and Eve are exiled from the Garden of Eden. Abraham is called by God to “the land I will show you” but famine forces him to seek refuge in Egypt. Joseph is sold off to Egypt, where, at the end of his life, he makes his family promise, “When God has taken notice of you, carry up my bones from here” (Gen. 50:25). The remainder of the Torah – all of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – charts Israel’s pursuit of a path back home.

Jewish history works in similar cycles of dispersion and return...

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Envelope containing a note from Renee and a two dollar bill

Even a poor person – one who is sustained by tzedakah funds – is required to give tzedakah to another person. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah Laws of Giving to Poor People 10:5

My friend Renee was a character. She was well known in our town; you couldn’t miss her. Her frizzy salt-and-pepper hair was often bound in a pigtail like a schoolgirl’s. She drove an SUV that was constantly breaking down, packed to the roof with the telltale possessions of an inveterate hoarder. She had weary eyes that conveyed years of adventures.

She lived on the precipice of homelessness. For a while...

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Picture of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun from the 1950s, when it was located in Newark, NJ

I am one of the Exiles of Newark, New Jersey.

My father was raised on Goldsmith Avenue, became a bar mitzvah at Young Israel, and went to Weequahic High School, class of ’59. His mother was born in Newark; both she and my grandfather spent their careers teaching in the Newark public school system. My great-grandparents’ graves are in Newark, in the McClellan Street cemeteries.

No doubt I would have been there too. Except that, to bastardize the words of the words of Agnon, through an historical accident – the upward mobility of postwar Jews, the riots of 1967—I was born in...

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