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Interesting quotes from famous Jews
My father never lived to see his dream come true of an
I once wanted to become an atheist but I gave up. They have no holidays.
Look at Jewish history. Unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable. So, for every ten Jews beating their breasts, God designated one to be crazy and amuse the breast beaters. By the time I was five I knew I was that one.
The time is at hand when the wearing of a prayer shawl and skullcap will not bar a man from the White House, unless, of course, the man is Jewish.
Even if you are Catholic, if you live in New York, you're Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you are going to be a goy even if you are Jewish.
The remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served us nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.
Let me tell you the one thing I have against Moses. He took us forty years into the desert in order to bring us to the one place in the Middle East that has no oil!
Even a secret agent can't lie to a Jewish mother.
My idea of an agreeable person is a person who agrees with me.
It's so simple to be wise. Just think of something stupid to say and then don't say it.
Don't be humble; you are not that great.
I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in fourteen days I had lost exactly two weeks.
-Joe E. Lewis
A spoken contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.
I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying.
Whoever called it necking was a poor judge of anatomy.
A politician is a man who will double cross that bridge when he comes to it.
Too bad that all the people who know how to run this country are busy driving taxis and cutting hair.
A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.
I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth, even if it costs them their jobs.
Television is a medium because it is neither rare nor well done.
When I bore people at a party, they think it is their fault.
"DAILY JEWISH WISDOM" is found @ Beliefnet.com
Fear builds walls to bar the light. - Baal Shem Tov
Engage in Torah and charity even with an ulterior motive, for that habit of right doing will lead also to right motivation. - Talmud: Pesahim, 50b
The sword comes into the world because of justice delayed and because of justice perverted.- Ethics of the Fathers 5:8
Ever since Rabbi Akiba used the Passover seder to plan a revolutionary struggle against the Roman occupiers, the Jews have used the seder to begin concrete work on tikkun (healing and transformation).
- Rabbi Michael Lerner, the Tikkun Magazine Passover supplement 2006
To work out ends of righteousness and love are you called; not merely to enjoy or suffer.
- S.R. Hirsch, "Nineteen Letters," 1836
“Pessimism is a luxury that a Jew can never allow himself.” Golda Meir
The worship of God, though desirable as an end itself, can somehow never be in the right spirit, unless it impels one to the service of man. - Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan
Concentrate on three things and you will not fall into the grip of sin. Know from where you came, where you are going, and before Whom you will have to give account and reckoning.- Pirkei Avot 3:1
We cannot learn from general principles: there may be exceptions. - Johanan, Talmud: Kiddushin
A truly generous man is he that always gives, whether it be much or little, before he is asked.- Orchot Tsadiqim
The best security for old age: respect your children.- Sholem Asch
A Jew can be Jewish with God, against God, but not without God.- Elie Wiesel
He who promotes his own honor at the expense of his neighbor's has no portion in the world to come.- Judah b. Hanina, Genesis Rabbah
Even if all the world tells you, "You are righteous," consider yourself a sinner. - Rabbi Simlai
Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism and falsehood. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the promise, the hope, the vision.- Abraham Joshua Heschel, "On Prayer"
Lose with truth and right rather than gain with falsehood and wrong.- Maimonides, "Tzavaah"
Seek the good in everyone, and reveal it, bring it forth.- Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1811), "Likutey Moharan"
Just as we love ourselves despite the faults we know we have, so should we love our neighbors despite the faults we see in them.- Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov
A man should never impose an overpowering fear upon his household. - Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 6b
If you add to the truth, you subtract from it.- The Talmud
Love unaccompanied by criticism is not love....Peace unaccompanied by reproof is not peace.- Genesis Rabbah 54:3
Quote of the Day
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What is Conservative Judaism? by JTS Chancellor Arnie Eisen
What does Conservative Judaism stand for?
JTS Chancellor Arnie Eisen
To me, that question is better phrased, "Where do we stand, and with whom?" The answer, to Conservative Judaism, has been clear. We are the heirs to the Jewish story that began, according to Torah, with Abraham and Sarah. We stand at Sinai, with every previous generation of the children of Israel, and reaffirm the promises made there to God, to one another, and to the world. I believe-humbly but firmly-that the Sinai Covenant continues in 2011/5771 through us. Participation in the set of relationships set forth in Covenant adds immeasurably to the meaning and purpose of our lives. The fact that the Covenant at Sinai established a people simultaneously with a relationship to the Holy One stands at the heart of Conservative Judaism today and in the future.
That double covenant means, first and most importantly, that life as a Jewish human being is given ultimate meaning. For reasons that mere mortals will never understand, but for which practicing Jews are profoundly grateful, the Creator of the universe seeks human assistance in completing the work of Creation. The world is not good enough as it is, the Torah insists, and you and I can make it better. All of us are needed for this task: Jews and non-Jews, men and women, old and young. Everything that each and every one of us brings to the task is required: the sum total of our diverse experiences and learning, our skills and our relationships, our intelligence and our passion, all the arts and all the sciences: all our hearts, all our souls, all our might.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, who spent much of his career teaching at The Jewish Theological Seminary, well captured the wonder and consequence of this divine-human partnership for the meaning of individual lives in the titles of two of his best-known books: Man is not alone. God [is] in search of man. Judaism provides a life-giving answer to what he called the "vital, personal question which every human being is called upon to answer, day in day out. What shall I do with my mind, my wealth, my power?"
There is no doubt that Jews continue to turn to Judaism in search of such meaning and purpose. I am a devoted Conservative Jew largely because, time and again, I have been vouchsafed the precious experience of meaning in Conservative auspices; I have long been shaped by the conviction, central to Conservative Judaism, that the Jewish part of my self need not be-indeed, should not be-separate from the rest of who I am. The Torah demands and offers wholeness; in our day it requires all that 21st-century men and women can bring to the task. Thanks in part to that conviction, imbued in me since childhood, my love of family and friends is inextricably intertwined with love of God and Torah.
A second continuing consequence of Covenant is that Judaism has always been more than religion, even as religion has always been an integral part of Judaism. Jews are not defined as a church or sect. Rather, the Torah establishes Israel as "a kingdom," "a nation," "a people." As important as religious belief is to Judaism, it is not everything, and, arguably, is not the main thing. The Torah aims to impact the entirety of life, individual and collective, not merely the aspect of it that other scriptures and traditions call "religion." It offers a way, called mitzvah, that-if we walk it diligently-guides and impacts all of life.
Mordecai M. Kaplan, another great figure in JTS's history, captured an important truth about Torah's insistence that Judaism is far more than "religion" when he famously defined Judaism as a civilization in his great book by that title (1934). He knew that Judaism had always included aspects of life that went beyond "religion" in the normal sense of the word: history, language, literature, folk-customs, communal organizations, and intimate connection to the Land of Israel. Kaplan wanted to assure Jews whose doubts about God barred the way to faith that Judaism held an honored place for them.
This point bears repeating today. Individuals enter Conservative auspices from differing backgrounds and bearing differing needs. All of our institutions should reflect this, even while offering Jews the pleasure and meaning that come from acting, worshipping, and talking together, as one caring community of Torah.
It follows that Conservative communities must be more than synagogues, and our synagogues must offer more than worship. Our form of Judaism is well-known for the quality of ritual observances and life-cycle celebrations; the tone set for family relations in Conservative homes; the leadership roles accorded to women as well as men both on and off the bimah; and for the distinctive tenor of Conservative conversation as it moves back and forth from ancient sources to contemporary politics, Hebrew to English, Shabbat zemirot to rock music and jazz. There is an intangible but notable warmth in our shuls and schools that comes from comfort with Judaism and one another. At our best, Conservative Jews exhibit a quiet confidence that living fully in this century and its culture at the same time as we immerse ourselves in Jewish tradition is what Torah wants us to do.
That confidence is crucial to our future; it is the key to successful Conservative communities (the topic of the next post in this series) and goes hand in hand with the sense that you and I-every bit as much as Jewish ancestors-are part of a Reality and Purpose far larger than ourselves, longer than our life-span, wider than our mind can reach. Heschel said it eloquently: The Torah poses a question to which our life here and now "can be the spelling of an answer." Conservative Judaism is the most compelling interpretation of Torah that I know, a precious word in the conversation begun at Sinai, guiding covenantal work that only our generation can perform.
On Conversations Between Cousins [June 2011] 
[for we are told to always study Tanach with a study partner]
On Judah, Reuven, Joseph, etc.
Ramona: Dear Adele,
I need your assistance with a Genesis interpretation. Please explain Chapter 49, where Jacob is telling his 12 sons about their future. After first praising his first born, he says to Reuben, "Unstable as water, you shall excel no longer; For when you mounted your father's bed, You brought disgrace - my couch he mounted!" Had Reuben, perhaps as a child, looked at his father's nakedness as Jacob lay sleeping? Otherwise, wow!
Adele: no he had slept with Rachel's handmaid, Bilhah, one of the concubines and mother to a couple of his half brothers. translation is a bit different than the one I am used to, but means basically the same thing
R: No way I could have realized that just by reading the text. How did you know? Or was your text more explicit?
A: [Genesis 35:22. ]............
R: Actually, I thought Reuben was fairly decent. He tried to stick up for Joseph when the latter was in the pit, but he was outnumbered.
A: Judah also tried in his own way to stick up for Joseph. They actually won the argument over lunch, but by the time they got back to the pit, Joseph had been pulled out by merchants and sold to the caravan of Ishmaelites going to Egypt
R: Very interesting. How did you find that out about Judah, since it's not mentioned in the Genesis I read in the most recent (1985?) Tanakh? Anyway, I'm gratified to find out about another upright Israelite of those ancient days.
A: Genesis 37:26+ about Judah. Remember his goal was to save Joseph's life. No he wasn't perfect, but he owned up to his errors [see the story of Tamar] and did found the tribe from which King David and his line came from. He was also protective of his brothers such as of Benjamin in chapter 44 eg verse 18.
Now King Solomon was a mensch... There are many ethical biblical people [at least in parts of their lives we know about- like Tamar, Ruth, some of the Priests and Prophets, and so forth.] The key though is to recognize them as human beings struggling with dilemmas similar to our own...
We are not perfect; they are not perfect. Our role models in life are never perfect. So the presentation is realistic and allows for us to be imperfect even though we constantly strive to be better people [or at least we should!] It is that permission to be imperfect that allows us to have hope when we atone on Yom Kippur. Without hope that we can be better and can be tolerated as imperfect, why bother?
There are many translations and versions of the Tanach - more recent than 1985, too. Still they more or less cover the same territory even though some may use cattle and corn when referring to livestock and grain kernels.
R: I guess I was thinking it was Reuben who tried to save Joseph's life because Reuben was cited first in the saving attempt. But I do remember Judah's kindness to Benj. I'll take a rest before going on to Exodus.
on Tamar and the righteousness of Judah and Tamar:
R: You mentioned that Tamar was a moral person. Please elucidate. I haven't been able to tell about her one way or the other. Sounds like she must have felt diminished when Onan... oh, well.
A: According to the practices of the time, when she married into the family, the family was obligated to make sure she had at least one son either fathered by her husband, or after his death, fathered by a close relative. This was called levirate marriage.
Judah, as tribal leader, violated that practice by not providing her his third son to father that child after her husband and his brother died before she had a son.
Now prostitution was an acccepted profession for women of that time. So that after Judah's wife died, he would visit prostitutes. Tamar took advantage of that behaviour by presenting herself as a harlot along his travel route when he went to deal with distant flocks. She took from him his staff and his seal so that she could prove who had visited with her [as she knew he would have no items with which to pay]. When he sent payment [a goat I believe], she was nowhere to be found. According to the story, she did not act alone, but others in the household helped her in this intrigue.
From this encounter, she became pregnant. When brought before Judah as a harlot to be punished [she was still considered a married and therefor untouchable woman], she produced the staff and seal to show who the father was. Judah proclaimed her more righteous than himself. She had twins, one of whom, Perez, fathered the line from which Boaz and David came. The story of Ruth and Boaz also demonstrates this practice of Levirate Marriage... albeit Boaz was a much more willing partner.
as for feeling diminished... women were taught and therefor expected their worth to be measured by the sons they had in a patriarchal society. Not so in the society that Sarah came from. So did Tamar feel diminished or incomplete? don't know. we also don't know if there were any daughters as the customs speak only of sons and the maintenance of the inheritance [land, property, flocks, etc.] within the family. For despite Moses deciding that women could inherit in sonless families, Judah was way before the time of Moses.
I personally don't think she felt diminished. She sounds like a strong-willed woman who stuck up for her rights as she understood them..
on the Patriarchs and Matriarchs:
R: The people from Genesis appear to be shepherds who have recently emerged from Paleolithic times. They live near Neolithic people, the Egyptians. Those scriptures provide insight into the stories people way back when thought important enough to remember, but I'm baffled as to why they're revered.
A: The family of Abraham and Sarah came from Mesopotamia, from the Ur of Chaldees, where inheritance was matrilineal and a Space/Earth Goddess was worshiped. Priestesses/Princesses of the Goddess tended to the shrines, so there is some thought that Sarah had been one given her name meaning Princess/Priestess. The peoples there were a mix of locals [who had an earth goddess] and people who came in from the seas [who had a space goddess]. Hence the two goddesses were mingled into one. This is the period when nomadic tribes started to join into the culture, each with its own god/goddess. Tolerance of diversity was the rule at the time. This later was destroyed by patriarchal/tyrannical overtaking of the government /palace.
When Nahor, Abraham's father took the family out of the Chaldees and urban life, he settled in an area of agriculture and shepherds. That apparently is where Abraham learned to be a leader not only in shepherding, but also in military tactics and diplomacy. Possibly he had learned the diplomacy and maybe even the military skills back in the Chaldees.
Another salient point is that Abraham was the first creditted with monotheism devoid of solid representations of the deity [idols]. The cultures around had each their own god in conflict with all the other gods/goddesses around. There was also ancestor worship. It was commonplace that the leader of each tribe would have terebinths, idols for a household/encampment shrine which would be prayed to and consulted before any major decision was made. The idols represented ancestors and/or gods.
The Patriarchs and Matriarchs are revered for having broken away from such idolatrous practices and for having provided the basis for the more humane laws that have come down to us. Just reading the laws in Torah does not tell you how they were enforced or interpreted. For instance, except for premeditated murder, capital punishment was seemingly not enforced after the times of the exodus once the system of judges was fully in place.
Yes the characters are all very human- even Joseph with his arrogance and pridefulness. Yet that is what is important to show in an historical record. We do not claim to be better than others, but rather just like all other flawed human beings. So there always will be controversy over why certain things happened the way they did. For instance, you probably view inheritance as a first born right thing. Yet the Mesopotamian matrilineal gave the inheritance to either the youngest or the most worthy. This form of inheritance is consistent with Abraham's treatment of his sons, Isaac's treatment of his sons, and even Jacob's treatment of his sons. We should also note that the stories were being told centuries later to people living in primarily patriarchal environments and hence needed to be justified within the patriarchal viewpoints to a certain extent. The first written versions were probably not until the time of the Kings, 10th century BCE. And YES- the stories have been redacted and editted multiple times over the centuries......
As for the Egyptians, the leaders had technology and skills beyond the people who were quite simple in methodology. This leapt forward around 1500 BCE with the introduction of outside technologies especially the chariot from eastern tribes. However it was the male led theocratic and tyrannical faction that gained the new technology which enabled the overthrow of the woman Pharoah of the time and the attempted forced movement to a montheistic sun worship [never really embraced by the people]. These events would have been during the sojourn of the Children of Israel in Egypt. Within less than 2 centuries then came the Exodus. I suspect it coincided with the massive volcanic explosion of Thera, during which half the island of Santorini disappeared.
on the akeida [almost sacrifice of Isaac]:
R: I'm still baffled as to why the Patriarchs and Matriarchs are revered. For instance, when the Lord requires Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, wouldn't a moral man have stood up to his god, saying, "This I will not do!" He had no way of knowing God would change his intention. Of course, the only moral person I find among the Israelites in Genesis is Joseph.
A: You read within the context of a modern person not within the cultures of the times. Every year at Rosh Hashanah time the question of the story about the request to sacrifice Isaac is discussed. Throughout this time and for centuries earlier and later, sacrifice was the norm for expressing thanks or appeasing the gods. It was commonplace in those times to sacrifice people. Think of the Aztecs and Mayans even Hawaiians. Some say the lesson of the Akeidah, the thought to sacrifice Isaac, was when Abraham was overcome with distress over the impending death of his wife, Sarah, and wanted to bargain with HaShem [God] for her life in exchange for another dear life - something that HaShem needed to demonstrate was not possible and not allowable given that a ram was sent to be used instead.. Others say it was to show Isaac that HaShem would not allow nor desire such a sacrifice given that a ram was sent to be used instead. In other words, a way to keep Isaac from assimilating.
On separation of the sexes:
R: I don't think I read more than the first page of a Koran translation. All Greek to me. However, there are aspects of Islam that remind me of Judaism. One almost feels like one could fit in, if one could stand to. An Iranian I used to work with told me that the practice of separating the sexes during worship was adopted from Judaism. I remember having to go to the balcony during services at the shul next door to my Grandma's flat. My parents were Conservative.
A: Actually the separation started I believe with the first exile in Persia and was intensified during Greek times. However the separation in modern terms is given the excuse based on the balcony at the temple. That is a stretch. The balcony had no barriers to sight. It was for the protection of the women and children against trampling and molestation and allowed the women and children to see what was going on. Nor were women restricted to the balcony. Prominent women such as king's daughters were known to bring sacrifices and hence would have been on the main level with the priests.
Still by 700 CE the separation customs would have been well established in Judaism and easily therefor taken over by Islam.
Posted near my desk, these words of Francis De Sales remind me daily to "Have no fear for what tomorrow will bring. The same loving God who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. He will either shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations." May I remain ever mindful of this promise, especially in moments of weakness.
God keep you and yours at this Thanksgiving season and always.
Blessings, love and shalom!
Aug. 5, 2010 from Louise on the
Who is a Jew/Conversion Issue
On the Flotilla Fiasco 6-7/10
I just found something on Chabad.org that I'd like to recommend to you.
This review is much better than I could produce.
You can view it by visiting:
Also, Yakov Dayan, Consul General of Israel for the Southwestern States, addressed a conference call organized by the ARZA Pacific Southwest Region on June 6th. [see WWW.arza.org ]
Go the the first item on the: Consul General of Israel Discusses the Flotilla Situation. It is a replay of the Flotilla Conference phone call in which Consul General of Israel Discusses the Flotilla Situation
Click here to listen to the call.
Rabbi Nina's Wisdom on 4th of July
It is my pleasure to share with you this wisdom from Rabbi Nina that I received today [adele]:
Here are some fun Jewish July 4 connections to share at your picnic. I based them on a piece by Edmon J. Rodman, a Los Angeles based writer and designer, and added a thought or two.
1. Haym Solomon (1740-1785) of Philadelphia, a broker and son of a Polish rabbi, helped finance the Revolutionary War and supported Washington’s army through the sale of Bills of Exchange.
2. “G-d Bless America” was written by Irving Berlin.
3. The words on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia come from Leviticus, in the Hebrew Bible: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land,”
4. Jewish poet Emma Lazarus’ words appear on the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Send us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free….
5. There are 18 Jews among the 3,400 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor for military Service. The most recent, Tibor Rubin, was born in Jungary and is a Holocaust survivor who came to New York and enlisted in the US Army.
6. When you think of colored sparks in the air [he doesn’t know Flagstaff cancelled it’s fireworks], think about more than Fourth of July pyrotechnics. Why not let them remind you of kabbalistic teachings? The Zohar teaches about divine sparks in everything that need to be gathered for tikkun olam, the repair of the world.
7. Many prayer books include a special prayer for the government of the country, based on the prophet Jeremiah’s teaching, and on Pirkei Avot’s advice to “pray for the welfare of the government.”
I’ll end mentioning our own siddur. Its version prays for all who hold positions of leadership and for our nation to become for the world a beacon of justice and compassion.
It ends with a call for each of us “to see that the well-being of our nation is in the hands of all its citizens; imbue us with zeal for the cause of liberty in our land all lands; and help us always keep our homes safe from affliction strife and war. Amen.”