Tarbut Goes Topless

The letter whose text is reprinted below this commentary has been sent by the Administration of the Tarbut v’Torah Jewish Community School (TVT of Irvine) to its families.  It finally and formally brings to an end the charade that has seen TVT falsely promote itself as a suitable educational vehicle for the children of Orthodox-affiliated Jewish families in Orange County, California.  TVT has gone topless: it formally has adopted an explicit policy, reversing the policy that stood from its founding in 1991 ...

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On the Increased Urgency for a New Jewish Educational Vision to Guide the Pedagogic Model of Tarbut v’Torah (TVT)

When I was ordained in March 1981 with s’mikha from HaRav HaGaon Harav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik zt”l and RavNahum Lamm shlit”a at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), I undertook to be a Rav b’Yisrael, a rabbi and teacher in the greater Jewish community. I have been a Rav for 27 years and have practiced in pulpit and community rabbonus for more than 15 of those years. It is because I love the Jewish People, and particularly because I am devoted to the Judaic education of young people — of all ages, of all backgrounds — that I write ...

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On Nitpicking, Pilpulistic Nonsense, and Hair-Splitting in the Law

Twenty years ago, a friend arranged for me to have lunch with a prominent Jewish name-partner at a major Los Angeles law firm. My friend explained to me that the partner is non-religious and particularly skeptical about Orthodox Judaism – all of its “nitpicking over minutiae, pilpulistic nonsense, and hair-splitting over technicalities.” I was about to begin law school after having practiced actively as a pulpit rav for ten years, and I appreciated the opportunity to meet with someone who ...

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On the 3 Morning Brakhot: “WHO DID NOT MAKE ME A . . .”

The Grammatical Tenses of Brakhot.

Most brakhot are expressed in present or present-progressive tense:  “Thank you, G-d, Who does/ performs [xyz]”.  Who brings forth bread from the earth. Who creates fruit of the tree.  Who creates different types of foodstuffs.  Who gives the Torah.  Who gives the rooster understanding to distinguish between day and night.  Who is extolled with praises.  Who sanctifies Your Name in public.  Who forms light and creates darkness, makes peace and creates everything. Who heals all flesh and does wonders.  Who gathers the remnants of His nation Israel.  Who ...

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Understanding How to Daven an Amidah — How to Pray from Your Heart

In the course of several shiurim I taught “For Women Only,” we studied concepts of Tefilah (Prayer) that seem worth sharing with men, too.

The Shacharit service in the Morning and Mincha in the Afternoon are Torah-based, time-centered commandments, while Maariv at Night was added later by our Sages. (That is why we do not conduct a formal “Cantor’s Repetition” –chazarat ha-Shatz — of the Amidah during Maariv). For each Tefilah, the central components are: (i) the Sh’ma(although not at Mincha) and (ii) the Amidah. The Sh’ma is recited at Shacharit and Maariv in ...

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To Pray, To Daven, To Feel: So Where’s the Fire?

When I was a boy in yeshivah k’tanah, I davened with kavanah – although I cannot mean that I actually knew what I was saying. One day, someone took me aside, in Shul on Shabbat, a religious person who meant well for me, and told me that I daven too slowly. He kindly taught me how to daven faster, to keep pace with everyone else. He explained that I should move my lips, make a soft buzzing sound, and try reading the words ...

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On the Obsolescence of “Orthodoxy” and the Timeliness of “Observance”

We in the Observant community – my preferred term – historically have reflected, to our shame, a reduced sensitivity to the use of English language for transmitting values, ideas, and goals. “Colored People” started insisting on “Negro” as a transition to acknowledging a Peoplehood and abandoning an absurd term; they are not green, blue, or orange. Later, preferring to abandon the Spanish sobriquet for an American English term that paralleled the majority “White” culture, they moved to “Black.” And, for ...

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K’doshim: Separating the Holy from the Despicable

“Tell the entire assemblage of Israel: you shall be holy because I the L-rd your G-d am holy.” (Vayikra 19:2)

This week’s Torah portion lays out a comprehensive array of Divinely ordained commandments that define the range of Judaism’s unique values. Legislated to an assemblage of just-liberated slaves, these are the concepts and aspirations taught orally to Moshe at Sinai and thereafter transmitted in an appendix – the Written Torah. Through them, we were sculpted into an entity greater than ...

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The Disgrace of Shul-Sponsored Poker Games, “Las Vegas Nights,” “Casino Nights,” “Casino Evenings,” and Similar Games of Chance

It long has been my halakhic position that all synagogues should not – and many synagogues may not – sponsor, conduct, participate in, or otherwise associate with poker games, “Las Vegas Nights,” “Casino Evening” events, or other such events. As I have gotten to know Jewish communities outside main Torah centers, my position has solidified further that, at such places and at such times in Shuls’ and Jewish communities’ evolutions, such an halakhic position prohibiting these events is mandated. In reaching my opinion, grounded in several ...

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Don’t confuse Judaism with ‘Jersey Shore’

A reminder that, contrary to what the P.C. crowd asserts, wine does indeed have a legitimate place on Purim

We are an American generation sadly marred by excess, addiction, and reduced public morals. On line at the supermarket we see magazines that headline Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Spears, and Charlie Sheen. Purim is around the corner, and the question arises: What’s the deal with getting drunk on Purim? So here’s the deal:

An alcoholic in recovery may not drink wine on Purim and ...

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