Text and City

Rabbi Mishael Zion | Bronfman Fellowships | Text and the City | VaYetze 2012 Have Ithaka always in your mind. Your arrival there is what you are destined for. But don't in the least hurry the journey… Ithaka gave you a splendid journey. Without her you would not have set out. She hasn't...

To the speedy recovery of homes, families and utilities in the wake of superstorm Sandy Après le dèluge, after the natural disaster, begins the race among readers of holy texts to say something stupid regarding the “reason” for the suffering. This is especially tempting when the weekly Torah...

Text and the City | Bronfman Fellowships 25th Anniversary | Rabbi Mishael Zion | Lech Lecha 2012 In honor of BYFI Faculty, 1987 to 2012, who have served as Tzaddikkim to so many Bronfmanim I shared these words at the Bronfman Fellowships’ 25th anniversary celebration in NYC last...

Rabbi Mishael Zion | Bronfman Fellowships | Text and the City | Sukkot and Simchat Torah 2012 Once the holy Rabbi Yehiel Michel of Zlotshov asked the holy Rabbi Zvi of Ziditshov to speak to his son, who was experiencing a bout of melancholy, and rebuke him. Reb Zvi spoke to the son,...

Purim, obviously, is the big costume shebang of the Jewish people. But the well kept secret of the Jewish holiday cycle is that it is Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – which outweighs Purim where costume and camouflage are concerned. It's a truth based in a pun, the hebrew word for Yom...

The first café in Istanbul opened in 1557, and not too long later another one opened in the city of Tsfat.  When coffee and Cafés came from the New World and swept Ottoman Empire in the late 16th century, waking up very early in the morning became increasingly popular. As one of the...

The first café in Cairo opened in 1557, and it wasn’t long before the popular new drink, coffee, had swept the entire Ottoman Empire. Suddenly, waking up very early in the morning became that much easier. As one of the quirkiest articles in Jewish studies shows, the rising popularity of coffee...

On the way to the Promised Land, the obstacles overtake the mission, inspiration dries up and despair sets in. That’s the feeling one gets when reading the book of BaMidbar – in the desert – as it is aptly called in Hebrew. In that desert, the Israelites become mired in a universe of obstacles...

This piece was originally written for the Huffington Post’s On Scripture site, and I humbly offer it as this week’s dvar torah. We are living through a moral revolution. Sexual abuse by those in power – a topic that has long been kept under wraps – is no longer easily covered up. The ethics of...

We live in an age where speech has as instantaneous global reach and our private information is being peddled in the public square. The intimacy of face to face conversation has become rare, for we do most of our “speech” in front of screens instead of faces. With speech so deeply...

Open up the book of “Standard Sermons for the holiday of Shavuot”, and you’ll undoubtedly find a sermon along the following lines: Exodus 19, the chapter which describes the giving of the Torah at Sinai, opens with a beautiful – and rare - image of Jewish unity: “Israel encamped there opposite...

This week’s parasha, Behar Bachukotai, outlines an ambitious social vision. It is an over-achieving package of legislation whose purpose is to hold up those who fall out of financial grace through a series of communal supports: sabbatical year remission of land, loan cancellation, redeeming of...

In God’s house, a golden table is set with bowls and spoons. 12 loaves of bread are arranged upon it. Granted, it’s existence might make the sanctuary feel like a little doll house.  It is one of the strangest details of our tradition: Lechem haPanim, the Bread of the Internal. It’s history is...

There is perhaps nothing more counter to the idea of holiness than the reality of politics. Both terms are in dire need of re-framing. Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012) Politics has long been mired as the realm of individuals who seem to serve only themselves. Last summer, a generation...

One. The Mountain of Memory Jerusalem has not one, but two holy mountains: The Temple Mount in the east, and Har Herzl in the west. Har Herzl, or Har haZikaron, “the Mountain of Memory” has a very deliberate architecture: On its highest point rests Herzl’s grave. It is surrounded by the graves...

Otto Geismar, Germany 1927 Of the four children of the Haggadah, the Rasha, the Wicked one, stands out. His siblings are all described through intellectual categories: Wise, Simple, Doesn’t know to ask. The Wicked child alone is stamped with an ethical category. It is perhaps not...

It’s been a tough fortnight: Last week, a US soldier, SSgt Bales, sent to Afghanistan by my country, cold bloodedly massacred 16 Afghanis in their homes. This week a French Al Qaeda supporter cold bloodedly killed 4 of my people, of them 3 children. These two acts sear the mind and break the...

A guest entered a house and asked the head of the house: "From what do you make a living?" "I don't have a fixed livelihood at home," the host replied, "but the world provides me with what I need to live."The guest asked: "What do you study?" The host answered, and they continued talking...

This summer our Israeli Bronfman Fellows (Amitim) were asked to show up one night dressed as their “alter-egos”. That night, the room filled with secular girls in modest dresses, religious kids without kippot, tough-guys, cross-dressers, a young man who dressed “straight” and two geeky computer...

It is the last place in the world you’d expect to find holiness: in the living room of octogenarian Moroccan immigrants to Israel, on the ground floor of an enormous concrete communist-style apartment complex. True, it is in the city of Tsfat, which became holy in the 16th century thanks to...

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