What Sense Can Be Made of the Meron Tragedy?

The Lag B’Omer catastrophe on Mount Meron has been blamed on politicians, rabbis, infrastructure, religious culture, and more. But can the search for causes do anything to alleviate the spiritual confusion caused by senseless tragedy?

There is no reason and no justification for their deaths. There is no good that came from their deaths. No lesson for the collective Jewish people. No celestial or cosmic redemption to be earned from their loss. They should be alive. We mourn, along with their families and the entire House of Israel.

No, there are no real answers to life’s sorrows, pains and losses. Some will find their solace in ensuring that accidents like this never happen again, through proper government oversight, appropriate facilities, and better planning. Though these measures are vital, they will not heal the wounds of the families who lost loved ones. That will only come from within.

It is easier to feel guilty than to feel helpless. If we believe that acting a certain way will protect us — that God will not afflict us if we only keep kosher or observe the Shabbat or act kindly — then whatever misfortune has befallen us might be averted next time.

But sadly, there are no guarantees.

Is It Yair Lapid’s Turn to Form a Coalition?

Tonight at midnight, Netanyahu’s chance to form a coalition will expire. Will President Reuven Rivlin give the mandate to the center-left’s Yair Lapid next? More at Medialine.

Even if his government is not yet fully baked, and even if he needs more than two days to have it sworn in, Lapid is now the one with the best chance to succeed in this mission. That’s why there is no reason for him to recommend to the president that Bennett – whose party has only seven Knesset seats and who is flirting with both sides from a position of political blackmail – be given the mandate.

Rivlin could also offer Bennett the chance to form a government, but the reports, citing senior political sources, said the president was unlikely to take this route. Even if Netanyahu and a majority of right-wing lawmakers choose to alter their recommendations to Rivlin in order to back Bennett, the president is not expected to transfer the mandate to the Yamina chair, the reports said.

Thus far, the bloc to replace Netanyahu has thought that Lapid had the mandate clinched, but it turns out that Netanyahu has something to say about that. In a surprising last-minute gambit, the prime minister could recommended Bennett in an attempt to check Lapid, and ensure that Lapid won’t receive the mandate when his own runs out.

Is America a Racist Country?

In an apparent rebuttal to Joe Biden’s first Address to Congress, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) stated that “America is not a racist country.”

Some will concede the historical point and insist on the progress point, arguing that was then and this is now, that racism simply doesn’t exist now as it did then. I would agree. American racism has evolved and become less blunt, but it has not become less effective.

That’s the trouble with narratives. They are one size fits all, with no room for considering the individual case on its merits and particular circumstances. This is what Mr. Scott was referring to when he suggested race is used as “a political weapon to settle every issue the way one side wants”—by slamming anyone who raises an inconvenient fact as racist…

…as much as Scott’s pronouncement of an un-racist America may have appealed to some Republican White voters, it wasn’t an actual rebuttal to Biden’s remarks. Biden never said America was a racist country. Scott created a strawman talking point for his party’s base so he could tell them what they wanted to hear.

What Can Be Learned from India’s Covid Crisis?

India is in the midst of an uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak, leaving hospitals overcrowded and understocked.

…As is typical in India, official arrogance, hyper-nationalism, populism and an ample dose of bureaucratic incompetence have combined to create a crisis. The state has left India vulnerable to a second Covid-19 wave, multiple new mutations and the threat of repeated, livelihood-destroying lockdowns.

After years of being told that digital technologies would lead us to a post-scarcity future, the reality of the pandemic has been a sharp reminder of how the real world can upend idealistic and utopian fantasies.

The covid-19 crisis in India is a massive setback for the entire world. The scale of the nation’s surge is a warning not only for its neighboring countries, which are also experiencing sharp increases in cases, but also for countries around the globe.

Where Does Caitlyn Jenner Fit in with Today’s GOP?

Caitlyn Jenner—trans activist, olympic athlete, and reality TV star—is planning a run for Governor of California as a Republican. Jenner is certainly no Democrat, but how does she fit in with the GOP?

Early clues suggest she’ll run as a social liberal and fiscal conservative, a positioning that could have traction in the state. But Jenner’s past actions have probably alienated nearly every voter across the political spectrum.

Caitlyn Jenner’s personal history may make her an unusual standard-bearer for reviving GOP centrism. And it’s a long way from here to November, especially for a campaign novice. But the star-studded history of Hollywood Republicans in state politics suggests her run just might spark a shift that lasts far beyond the current campaign.

Jenner also remains a proud Republican even as her conservative colleagues escalate their attacks on the trans community. Republican-led state legislatures are executing a coordinated effort to ban trans adolescents from accessing lifesaving transition care and trans girls from girls sports…

Are You Ready to Go Back to Shul?

A year of leisurely solo-davening from the comfort of home has some Jews feeling reluctant about the return to in-person minyans.

The sad truth is that though I am fortunate enough to have received my second COVID vaccine more than a month ago, I haven’t been back to shul, and I’m not sure why. But the weather is getting warmer and I’m running out of excuses.

There is life beyond the living room… Many Jews feel in order to be whole again synagogues must play a central role in their lives.

While many Jews will wish to return to in-person services, there will also be those who find it difficult (be it because of distance or disabilities) or who have simply got used to praying from home. Will we cater for them electronically or abandon them?

Today’s Hot Issues

What Sense Can Be Made of the Meron Tragedy? Is It Yair Lapid’s Turn to Form a Coalition? Is America a Racist Country? What Can Be Learned from India’s Covid Crisis? Where Does Caitlyn Jenner Fit in with Today’s GOP? Are You Ready to Go Back to Shul?