Home
In this issue
December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Living a fringe life

By Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald


   Tzitzis, Jewish ritual fringes
<




A religious garment from antiquity - still worn today - and the lessons it teaches about contemporary education, open-mindedness and freedom of expression

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | While the major theme of this week's Torah portion, Shelach concerns the scouts who return from the Land of Israel with an evil report and the Almighty's decision that the people of Israel will not enter the Promised Land for forty years, there are several other important themes found in the portion.

Other topics include: the proper amounts of meal offerings and wine libation that are brought together with the various sacrifices, the requirement to give a piece of the dough (Challah) to the priests, the laws regarding intentional and unintentional idol worship, and the story of the M'ko'shaish, the person who violated the Sabbath in the wilderness by gathering wood on the holy day.

The reading concludes with the well-known third and final paragraph of the central Shemah prayer, regarding the mitzvah (religious duty) of Tzitzis, the fringes required to be placed on all four-cornered men's garments.

The last five verses of the weekly reading, Numbers 15:37-41, speak of the commandment of Tzitzis. The children of Israel are commanded to make for themselves Tzitzis (fringes on the corners of their garments) throughout their generations. Each fringe is to have a thread of tchayles, a special blue dye, so that when the Jew sees the Tzitzis, he shall remember all the commandments of G-d and perform them. Numbers 15:39 concludes that the purpose of the Tzitzis is "so that you not follow the desires of your heart and your eyes, which lead you astray.

The paragraph concludes: It [this Mitzvah] is for you to remember and perform all of G-d's commandments, and be holy for your G-d. I am the L-rd, your G-d, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your G-d. I am the L-rd, your G-d.

There is no other nation like the people of Israel, who are so thoroughly obsessed with learning and education. Maimonides (the Rambam, the great Medieval Jewish philosopher, codifier and physician, 1135-1204) writes (Laws of Torah Study 1:8) that every Jew is required to learn Torah, whether rich or poor, healthy or ailing, young or weakened by old age. Even a pauper or a man with a large family has to establish set times for Torah learning during the day and night. The obsession with learning Torah and education has led our rabbis to say (Mishnah Peah 1:1) that, "Learning Torah is equal to all other religious duties" and that (Talmud Kiddushin 40b), "Studying is greater than doing, because studying leads to doing."

Rabbi Yaakov Philber, in his important and insightful volume Chemdas Yamim, notes that there is a longstanding debate among the classical Jewish philosophers regarding the requirement to study Torah and the pursuit of education. Does the requirement apply to the study of Torah and Judaism exclusively, or does it also include secular education? It is a debate that continues to rage to this very day.

However, all agree, that only those secular studies that enhance Torah study should be pursued. "Secular studies" that are destructive, may not be studied. (There are some authorities who maintain that it is important to know what the heretics and enemies say, in order to respond properly to skeptics, when necessary).

Because of the dangers that abound in being exposed to destructive ideas and philosophies, the Torah sets boundaries, and demands that Jews not follow "the desires of their hearts and eyes." These limitations set by the Torah, fly against much of contemporary opinion and values.


STIMULATION AND INSPIRATION

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes "must-reading". Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.


Effective education, declare many contemporary experts, must be "open" and "open-minded," requiring the legitimization of virtually all speech and study, even that which is harmful and dangerous. They further believe that those who honestly seek truth, must allow for an uncompromised free exchange of ideas in the media and press, in universities and in all places of study. Judaism also recognizes and values the benefits that accrue from open-mindedness and honest intellectual inquiry. Yet, Jewish law sets limits. Just as there are limits to what a person eats, in order to protect one's physical health, so must caution be exercised when imbibing ethical and spiritual knowledge. In fact, many Torah rules are purposely designed to "limit" our physical and intellectual activities.

The laws of Lashon Hara ?restrict wanton speech, the kosher laws restrict what foods may be eaten, and the laws of forbidden marital relationships restrict certain sexual activities.

Rabbeinu Bachya (Bachya ben Asher, 1263-1340, biblical commentator of the Golden Age of Spain and author of a commentary on the Pentateuch), in his introduction to Chovos Halivavos, Duties of the Heart, strongly advocates openness in education; arguing that without broad knowledge, grasping the depths of the Torah to its fullest would be impossible.

On the other hand, Rabbi Judah HaLevi (c.1080-c.1145, philosopher and most famous Jewish liturgical poet in medieval Spain), in his masterwork, the Kuzari, argues that the Torah of G-d is entirely and totally pure, rendering it superior to any other body of knowledge, or the intellectual explorations of any researcher or scholar (Kuzari: Article 2:26).

I believe it was the literary critic, Lionel Trilling (1905-1975), who once quipped that, "Some people are so open-minded that their brains fall out!" This is the apparent condition of contemporary society.

As we write, the media continues to focus on the most recent mass killing that occurred near the campus of the University of California Santa Barbara. The young gunman, described as mentally ill or demented, authored a long "manifesto," spelling out his grievances toward the women on campus who rejected him socially.

This recent attack has touched off an anguished conversation regarding the ways in which women are perceived sexually, and the violence frequently perpetrated against them. Talk of "misogyny" has captured the airwaves. Men and women are urging authorities to consider the implications of the recent attack and its impact on society.

Women are no longer willing to tolerate the unrelenting catcalls, leers, and the fears of sexual violence that they constantly experience. No longer free to walk the campus alone, they need to travel in packs and carry pepper spray in their purses for protection.

Yet, the issue is greater than male attitudes toward women and people's obsession with sexuality. What we see today is nothing more than the seeds that we have sown over the past thirty, forty years, with the increasing and unrelenting breakdown of morality and moral behavior.



How can it be that a noble nation such as ours, has been reduced by such ignoble values and behavior? Should we really be surprised by the contemporary lack of morality and decency when more than 85% of American entertainment features violence and sex? And much of the change of values took place long before the internet pushed the envelope, providing much greater exposure of new perversions, which were beyond imagination just a few years ago.

In 1973, Karl Menninger wrote, "Whatever Became of Sin?" Wendy Shalit published, "The Return to Modesty." 3300 years earlier the Torah declared: Set limits! Limits must be established and must be enforced--one may not follow the desires of one's heart and one's eyes. "Anything goes" is a recipe for anarchy, which is exactly where we find ourselves today.

Gone are the calls for good and noble deeds and behavior. No longer are actions of chivalry, kindness and good manners, admired, praised or esteemed. "We want what we want, and we want it now!" Woe onto the person who tries to stop us from getting what we want.

The Tzitzis, the little tassels on the corner of the garments are meant to remind us that there are limits. But more important than the Tzitzis themselves, is the need for a determined citizenry to set its endangered ship straight. We must declare boldly that, "Enough is enough!" The debauchery, harmful behaviors, perverted values, will no longer be tolerated.

Freedom of speech and freedom of thought are wonderful values-- theoretically. But when exercised without limits, they are destructive, not constructive. Judaism has always taught that "structure" is what sets us free and allows us to accomplish much more than those who act without structure. Lack of structure and boundaries lead to chaos.

As the savagery progresses, no one is really safe. We are all subject to the blandishments of the evil that surrounds us. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all being rapidly reduced as human beings, even those who think they live in protective cocoons and isolated ghettos.

Remember the Tzitzis, the fringes, and the message of the tassels, and especially heed the final words of the Torah's message regarding the Tzitzis (Numbers 15:40), -- remember and perform. It is not sufficient to simply remember, it is necessary to remember and perform. By carefully performing mitzvos both major and minor, without regard to their respective reward, we can be transformed into a holy nation, distancing ourselves from those evil passions that tend to corrupt. In that way, we will hopefully become "Holy to G-d."

And if we, the People of Israel, are indeed successful in transforming ourselves, we will be in a powerful position to influence society at large. The message of the tassels may not only save us, but the world as well, by creating a universe thoroughly devoted to morality, goodness and holiness.

Remember the message of the Tzitzis!


Previously:


That 'vengeful Old Testament god'

A Revolutionary Redefining of Parenthood

Achieving immortality

Dead Read Heifers and the Sanctity of Human Life

The big 'IF': The Question of Free Choice

We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident --- or do we?

Bringing the Divine Home

To change a world

JewishWorldReview.com regularly publishes uplifting articles. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor — for free? Let us know by clicking here.

Comment by clicking here.

Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald heads the National Jewish Outreach Program.







© 2014, National Jewish Outreach Program