The latest stir in America’s modern Orthodox community has come from an article by Jay Lefkowitz in Commentary, called “The Rise of Social Orthodoxy”. Lefkowitz considers himself to be social Orthodox, which means that he largely observes halachah, but not because he (necessarily) believes that God commanded him.
The children and their adult escorts have gathered beneath the long bony neck of Dippy the diplodocus, the giant replica skeleton which stands in the lobby of the Natural History Museum. Sunday morning cheder for these pupils from Belsize Square Synagogue is not going to be in class.
With each of the Ten Plagues, God escalated the attack on Pharaoh, but it was the Splitting of the Red Sea which finally finished off the Egyptian menace. This occurred seven days after leaving Egypt, so we now read this story annually on the seventh day of Pesach. But why did Pharaoh and his army all have to drown?
At the Seder table, we celebrate the fact that every single person can connect with our Torah tradition. We read in the Haggadah that the Torah addresses itself to four types of children who represent a cross-section of the Jewish people. “The Torah speaks to four children: one who is wise, one who is wicked, one who is simple and one who does not know how to ask”.
A twig once delivered an epiphany. One warm Jerusalem evening I was part of an outdoor Friday evening prayer service. I felt a branch, from the tree next to me, brushing against my shoulder. I went to snap it off and stopped. It was Shabbat. On Shabbat I move and the twig lives to bud another day.
The nation of Amalek is presented in the Bible as a nihilistic, destructive force that attacks without mercy and without reason. Saul, Israel’s first king, had an opportunity to exterminate Amalek entirely but, whether because of compassion or because of greed, he stayed his hand and was punished for his hesitancy.
The language of Judaism is ritual and, as quintessential moderns, we Jews have lost our appreciation for its expressive power. For one thing, we’re not very good at it and like normal adults we don’t like doing what we don’t do well.