Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs
One of the great examples of Reform Jewish thinking, some 2,000 years before there was anything called Reform Judaism, regards the Festival of Shavuot.
In the Torah, Shavuot is strictly an agricultural holiday, a celebration of both the first summer fruits and the barley harvest (Leviticus 23:15-22). Our ingenious rabbinic sages reformed (and I use that word purposely) the festival into the anniversary of our biblical ancestors received the Torah at Mount Sinai. We cannot be sure of exactly how it happened, but I imagine a scenario much like this:
A group of concerned...Read More
In vain I searched the Internet for the words from Yitzhak Rabin seared into my memory but apparently forgotten by Google among his more famous speeches.
It was in July of 1974 when during his first term as Prime Minister Rabin addressed a joint session of congress and eloquently described learning the words on the Liberty Bell in their original Hebrew as a small child: “U’kratem dror ba-aretz l’chol yoshveha – Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all of its inhabitants” (Leviticus 25: 10).
Rabin pointed out that this cardinal foundation of both American and Israeli...Read More
Cafe Spindel is a quaint café in the center of Bad Segeberg, Germany that used to house a wool-processing factory. Because it was an unseasonably warm and sunny late summer day when I visited, our host, Pastor Martin Pommerening, suggested we sit outside.
The setting was pleasant, the conversation was delightful, the food was delicious – and then I looked up and noticed the tall chimney attached to the old wool factory. I shuddered as Israel’s Nobel Prize-winning poet Nelly Sachs’ famous poem came into mind:
O the chimneys On the ingeniously devised habitations of death...Read More
To understand the Exodus narrative, we must view it as a war – a boxing match, if you will – between gods.
In one corner, we have the Egyptian god, Pharaoh. Pharaoh is like any pagan god. One worships him by glorifying him with monuments, pyramids, sphinxes, and garrison cities. If slaves are required in order to build these structures, so be it. If it is necessary to beat those slaves in order to keep them working, or even kill one or two occasionally to send a message, that’s fine, too. And if overpopulation becomes an issue (see the First Chapter of Exodus), simply throw their...Read More
During the 40 years that I served as a congregational rabbi, Purim evolved from a pleasant celebration into what has become, in my view, almost a third High Holiday.
We no longer simply read the M’gillah to cheer Esther and boo Haman. Today, we have come to expect elaborately choreographed and carefully rehearsed Purim spiels with clever lyrics sung to the tunes of popular songs or show tunes. At our congregation, one woman has become a legend for writing such clever lyrics, and other communities have their bards, as well.
How wonderful! As a rabbi, I’m in favor of anything...Read More
Submit a blog post
Share your voice: ReformJudaism.org accepts submissions to the blog for consideration.