Three Great Reads from the Jewish Journal

On becoming a shofar, fasting with spirit, and the perils of privilege.

I did a double take the other day when I heard a rabbi talk about the shofar not as a symbol — but as something we can become.

“Be a shofar,” he said… The sound of the shofar, he reminded us, suggests traits that are crucial to any activist, such as humility, authenticity and resilience.

It turns out each of us has an existential choice to make on this Yom Kippur, as we do every day in our life: We can choose whether we will expect shefa, abundance, or whether we will anticipate struggle and denial. Both of those attitudes are sometimes reasonable; life isn’t always rosy, nor is it always bleak.

As my children were entering their teens, I would emphasize to them the contrast between their childhood and my mother’s. I used to think of this contrast only in one direction, as in how much more my children have than their grandmother did at their age: freedom, security and material comfort.

Now, I think there is another contrast: My children’s generation, with all of its material advantages, still struggles with resilience and character.

Three Great Reads from Around the Web

What happened to Utopian fiction? What’s the history of the relationship between the Jews and the Pope? Who created Marilyn Monroe’s image?

I’ve taught several courses on utopian fiction in the past few years, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Every one of those classes, when confronted with this new-to-them genre of fiction, has developed their own communal way of grappling with the strangeness of what they’re reading.

The pope both accepts and rejects the Torah at the same time. In a bit of sophistry, Catholic tradition devised a clever response to the Jews’ gift. The pope reveres the Torah as the law of Moses, but rejects the Jews’ understanding of it. By both accepting and rejecting the gift, the pope might think he has solved his problem. However, by partially accepting the gift a partial obligation remained.

Born Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1926, Marilyn Monroe began her career as a model… The Marilyn persona is so clearly fake — that hair, that voice, that wiggling hip-swishing walk. And yet her charisma is so bright and unforced; she is so magnetic without apparent effort. It seems impossible that someone could simply wake up in the morning and be Marilyn Monroe. It seems likewise impossible that someone built her.

Commentary on Parashat Vayelech

This week, Parashat Vayelech is under discussion. Parashat Vayelech recounts the events of Moshe’s last day. He transfers his leadership to Yehoshua, and concludes writing the Torah in a scroll which he entrusts to the Levites for safekeeping.

The portion of Vayelech follows directly after Nitzavim. In fact, in most years, the two are read together on the same Shabbat. Now, nitzavim means standing firm, while vayelech means to move and be mobile, which seem somewhat contradictory. However, the juxtaposition of these two Parshahs prompted the Rebbe to comment that while they may seem to reflect conflicting themes, there is a very powerful message in the one following directly on the other.

The parsha of Vayelech is the parsha that contains the smallest number of verses – only thirty – of any other parsha in the Torah. It also is the parsha that usually coincides with Shabat Shuva, the holy Shabat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The words of the parsha are part of the last testament of Moshe uttered on the day of his passing from this earth.

I can easily locate compassion and empathy for the confusing emotions that Moses, Joshua, and the Israelite people might have experienced at this tender juncture, and the wandering, doubt, and vulnerability God foreshadows in Deuteronomy.

Three New Jewish Podcasts

Just in time for the weekend, three new podcasts about Judaism, Jewish culture, and Israel.

In conversation with rabbi and author Steve Leder, on the meaning of regret, the power of the word “boredom” and his new bestselling book, “For You When I’m Gone.”

Daniel H. Pink, a New York Times-bestselling author who recently wrote The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward, joins Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg for a conversation about the positive sides of regret — and how an exploration of regret could help us reimagine the holiday of Yom Kippur.

Why would Abbas, when asked about a crime Palestinians perpetrated against Israelis, reach for the Holocaust as a weapon? To answer that question, the Egyptian writer Hussein Aboubakr joins this podcast.

Today’s Hot Issues

Three Great Reads from the Jewish Journal Three Great Reads from Around the Web Commentary on Parashat Vayelech Three New Jewish Podcasts