Jewcology Blogs


Purim: The Anti Addiction Holiday

My kids have only seen me get drunk in one situation: at the Purim meal. Because that is basically the only time I do get really drunk. I’ll have a drink or two when friends come over for Shabbat or just for a get together, and I’ll sometimes take a beer out of the refrigerator to watch a ball game or occasionally have a glass of wine as I’m relaxing on a quiet evening. But pretty much I only get drunk on Purim. I do it because it is a mitzvah on Purim to drink “ad delo yada” —until you can’t tell the difference between “cursed is Haman and ...

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People as Letters, Israel as Torah

In our up-coming Organic Torah webinar class “The Royal Road to Relational Spirituality” we’ll be looking at an amazing commentary by the Piazetzner Rebbe in which he talks about getting our spirituality into our whole beings. Though his commentary starts on the story of Noach, it includes a very interesting observation on this week’s Torah reading which tells of the Receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, on the verse “and the whole people saw the voices…” [Exodus 20 :14]. This “synesthesia” or mixing of the senses, is remarkable enough, and gives a ...

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Changes necessary to Help Shift Our Imperiled Planet Onto a Sustainable Path

     In a previous article, “What is the Main Cause of Climate Change” (http://jewcology.org/2019/01/capitalism-is-leading-the-world-to-a-climate-catastrophe/), I argued that capitalism’s need for continued growth and maximization of profits, with environmental considerations a secondary consideration, is leading the world toward a climate catastrophe. That we are on a very perilous path is indicated by the increasingly dire reports of climate experts and academies and by the increasing frequency and severity of heat waves, droughts, wildfires, storms, and ...

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My six articles related to Tu Bishvat

My 6 articles related to Tu Bishvat are below. You can scroll down to read each one. 1. Why Is This Night Different?: Thoughts on Tu Bishvat 2. Preserving the Sacred Environment: A Religious Imperative – A Tu Bishvat Message 3. Lessons From Trees: a Tu Bishvat Message 4. Celebrating Tu Bishvat as if Environmental Sustainability Matters 5. For Tu Bishvat: 36 Jewish Quotations About Trees 6. Tu Bishvat and Veganism (Suggestions very welcome) 1. Why Is This Night Different?: Thoughts on Tu Bishvat       One of the highlights of the Passover ...

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Capitalism is leading the world to a climate catastrophe

It is becoming increasingly clear that the world is heading toward a climate catastrophe. Warnings from climate experts are becoming increasingly dire. Recently a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateChange by 91 of the world’s leading climate experts from 40 countries argued that the world has only until 2030 to make ‘unprecedented changes’ to avert frequent extreme climate events. The Bulletin of Climate Scientists argued that the IPCC report, as frightening as it is, was not sufficiently alarming, because it failed to give sufficient attention to the ...

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Dvar Torah for parashat Sh’mot: Compassion to Animals – a Test for Leadership

     Parshat Sh’mot begins the story of Moshe (Moses), the greatest Jewish leader, prophet, teacher, and inspiration. It is instructive and important to consider why he was deemed fit to lead the Jewish people. After all, when he was chosen, unlike other leaders, he was not a military hero or leader, a major legislator, or an eloquent speaker - actually he initially had difficulty speaking and he had to rely on his brother Aaron for help in communicating.      So why was he chosen? The following midrash, rabbinic commentary on the bible, provides some insight:...

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Crisis or Opportunity

Part One: A World in Crisis In the winter time we yearn for more light, and in challenging times like this we also wish to see the light of justice, health and understanding increase. But we first need to look squarely at the darkness: Climate change may be the worst disaster humanity has ever faced; politically, democracy isn’t spreading anymore, but instead it is in retreat across the globe; we have an addiction crisis and record levels of related ailments such as depression, loneliness, and loss of as sense of meaning. Jewishly, we, like all other religions and ...

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Which Economic System Is Most Consistent With Judaism?

The pursuit of profit has led to the condition where the great treasures of natural resources are accumulated in the hands of the few individuals who, because of further profits, have brought to tens of millions of human beings pain, hunger and want. Does this not show clearly the wickedness of the present capitalist order, which is in glaring contradiction to the religious ethical tendencies of Judaism? ... The fight for Socialism is the fight for human liberation.... Moral rebirth and not mere economic reconstruction. The fight for Socialism ... must be firstly a fight ...

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Climate Change: An Existential Threat to the U.S., Israel, and the World 

The greatest threat to humanity today is climate change. The world is on a path that could lead to an uninhabitable world by the end of the century unless major changes soon occur. And it might happen much sooner because of self-reinforcing positive feedback loops (vicious cycles) that could result in an irreversible tipping point when climate change spins out of control. An outrageous exaggeration, like those in the past that predicted an end to the world? Not according to science academies worldwide, 97% of climate scientists, and virtually all peer-reviewed papers on ...

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Embodying our Spiritual Wisdom

One of my most beloved rabbis is Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (1889 – 1943). Also known as the Piazetzner Rebbe, or the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto. He was a revered rebbe, teacher and spiritual master who stayed with his people in the ghetto, continuing to teach and offer comfort throughout the war. In a book that he wrote before the war: Derekh HaMelekh (The Royal Road), he comments on the way that Noah’s name in the Torah is doubled. It says “This is the line of Noah: Noah was a righteous man…”  In the unpunctuated Torah it looks like this: “This is ...

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Hanukkah Part 3: “Wisdom from the Heart and from the Hearth”

This post is part three of a three part series on Hanukkah. You can find the first post here and the second post here.  Far from being “hypocrisy” as the New York Times opinion page called it last Sunday, Hanukkah can teach us deeply important lessons for our world. Albert Einstein changed the world, and he knew something about thinking creatively. He famously said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” In these short, dark days of winter, we look back on the past year and see a bleak picture of ...

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Hanukkah: Dynamic Emergence of the Eternal Light– Part 2

This post is part two of a three part series on Hanukkah. As we move through this eight day holiday, Rabbi Margalit will be sharing thoughts on the emergent and dynamic aspects of Hanukkah. You can find the first post here.  I wrote in Part One that Hanukkah isn’t mentioned in the Torah, that it is a holiday that was started by us, the people, and it didn’t really focus on God’s explicit miracles but more on the people’s courage in the war against the Greeks and their initiative in declaring this a new holiday. But, hold on! Of course, Hanukkah has miracles! ...

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Should Jews be Vegetarians: A Debate

This debate initially appeared in the Jerusalem Post on October 25, 1999, but it is still very relevant today. ==================== SHOULD JEWS BE VEGETARIANS? A DEBATE (Richard H.Schwartz, PhD's debate with Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, which appeared years ago in the Jerusalem Report) ========== Introduction: In addition to its benefits for health, animals, and the environment, vegetarianism may be  called for by some of Judaism's most cherished tenets. Is it time to reconsider our dietary traditions? Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, Rabbinic Coordinator of the Kashrut ...

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Hanukkah: The Dynamic Emergence of the Eternal Light – Part 1

This post is part one of a three part series on Hanukkah. As we move through this eight day holiday, Rabbi Margalit will be sharing thoughts on the emergent and dynamic aspects of Hanukkah.. “Emergence is our inheritance as a part of the universe; it is how we change.” --adrienne marie brown, Emergent Strategy Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Torah at all.  It is the first Jewish holiday created completely by the people (Purim is a kind of hybrid case: Esther and Mordecai declared it a holiday, and they weren’t prophets. But, their scroll, The Scroll of ...

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Should Jews Be Vegetarians, or Even Vegans?

The consumption of meat and other animal products  and the ways in which they are produced today conflict seriously with Judaism in at least six important areas: While Judaism mandates that people should be very careful about preserving their health and their lives, numerous scientific studies have linked animal-based diets directly to heart disease, strokes, many forms of cancer, and other life-threatening diseases. 2. While Judaism forbids tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, inflicting unnecessary pain on animals, most farm animals -- including those raised for kosher ...

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The Huge Health Benefits of Vegetarian Diets

         There is much evidence that vegetarian diets (and even more so vegan diets) have many health benefits and can reduce and in some cases reverse several life-threatening diseases.     The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly known as the American Dietetic Association, a valuable, respected source for health and nutrition information, states that, “well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, … are associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease, … [result in]  lower low-density ...

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Prevention: the Jewish Approach to Health

"Since maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of      God . . . ,  one must avoid that which harms the body and       accustom oneself to that which is helpful and helps the body become       stronger." (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deot 4:1)      Contemporary western medicine has generally focused on the treatment of diseases, rather than on their prevention. Medical schools teach that prescription drugs are the most powerful tools doctors have for treating disease; diet and other lifestyle changes are seldom stressed as ...

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A dozen links to reports and articles on climate threats and why shifts to vegan diets are essential to efforts to avert a climate catastrophe

1. Article by Richard Schwartz: Climate Change: An Existential Threat to the US, Israel, and the World http://jewcology.org/2018/10/climate-change-an-existential-threat-to-the-u-s-israel-and-the-world/ 2. Article about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s October 2018 warning :that the world has until 2030 to make major, unprecedented changes to avert catastrophic climate events by 2040 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-climate-report-2040.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage 3. Report in November 2018 from ...

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Fancy Words and Feelings of Connection on Thanksgiving

When you heat up a pot of water it will boil when it gets to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. But which of the H²O molecules will be the first to transform into gas form and start to bubble up? That we can’t know. In scientific lingo it’s called a stochastic process: it follows a statistically predictable pattern, but the individual events can’t be precisely predicted. In recent months my friend, Fordham law professor and political blogger Jed Shugerman, has been writing and tweeting about “stochastic terrorism” (#stochasticterrorism). He defines it as “the public ...

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Chanukah and Veganism

Jews can enhance their celebrations of the beautiful and spiritually meaningful holiday of Chanukah by making it a time to begin striving even harder to live up to Judaism's highest moral values and teachings by moving toward a vegan diet. Here are eight reasons, one for each night of Chanukah: 1. Chanukah represents the triumph of non-conformity. The Maccabees stuck to their inner beliefs, rather than conforming to external pressure. They were willing to say: This I believe, this I stand for, this I am willing to struggle for. Today, vegetarians, and even more so ...

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