Rabbi Golomb is Vassar Temple’s Rabbi Emeritus and Senior Scholar
B’reisheet: In the Beginning—The Very Beginning ~~ The first Torah portion—B’reisheet—is not only the beginning of the Torah and the rest of the Bible, but also an opportunity to think about what it means to read a sacred text.
Generations—Tol’dot ~~ The congregation celebrated the occasion of fourteen congregants reading from Torah as B’not Mitzvah. The portion they read was Tol’dot, which contained the challenging story of Isaac’s blessing of Jacob. How should we understand a tale of blindness and trickery?
Looking for God in All the Right Places—a Note on a Biblical Theme ~~ In the Genesis story of Joseph, God is absent. What are we readers to learn from this, and what might it teach us about our own searches for the divine in our lives?
The Hanukah Haftarot ~~ Hanukah is an eight-day observance. As a result, it will always include one Shabbat, and occasionally two (when the holiday begins on a Friday night). The cycle of Torah readings is not disrupted, as it is with other Festivals (Sukkot, Passover, etc.), but a special prophetic reading (Haftarah) replaces the usual one. ~~ One Torah portion in particular, Mikketz, falls during Hanukah far more often than not. It’s regular haftarah is therefore rarely read. December 2000 was one of those rare times. The next time will be in 2020!
Darkness & Light ~~ In 2002 and 2003, the first candle of Hanukah was a Friday evening, thus the holiday extended over two Sabbaths. This will happen four times in the decade (06 and 09), but then not again until 2026. The relatively rarely heard second Haftarah of Hanukah is compared and contrasted with the first Haftara.
On the Shabbat immediately preceding the holiday of Purim, a difficult and controversial haftara (prophet section) is read. The passage describes King Saul following a commandment from God (relayed through the prophet Samuel) and exterminating the entire people called the Amelekites. Saul, however, spares the King (Agag), and for this reason, God declares that he has forfeited the monarchy. This essay is a discussion of how we might best understand this apparently bloody and pitiless biblical reading.
Lieberman’s Shabbat ~~ When Senator Joseph Lieberman was chosen to be Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, much was made of his traditional Jewish practice, particularly of his observance of Shabbat. Just what might keeping Shabbat have meant to him, and to us.The Sabbath and its Discontents ~~ This is an extended essay on the development of Shabbat, and trying to bring a comprehensive approach to its observance to modern liberal Jews.Hanukah Bed-Time Story ~~ A note on the historical origin of the Macabbean revolt that is celebrated by the observance of Hanukah, and its potential contemporary relevance.The Inverted Holiday of Purim ~~ Why Purim might be called an occasion of serious fun—or silly solemnity.Questions ~~ We all know that a young child is supposed to ask questions at the Passover Seder, but are we all not like young children when it comes to drawing meaning out of this ritual?Death & Birth ~~ For Jews particularly in North America, the day of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial) falls in the calendar close to Earth Day and Yom HaAtzma’ut (Israel’s Independence Day). What connections should come to mind…And what connections should be discouraged.Counting to 33 ~~ Understanding the practice of S’firat Ha’Omer [Counting the Omer] and Lag b’Omer in contemporary Jewish thought.Shavuot—On Jewish Learning ~~ Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the Reform Movement connected the Confirmation service with the festival of Shavuot. Thus, the connection between this holiday (Celebration of the Giving of Torah) and Jewish education was sealed.
Thinking About Reform Jewish Zionism (Part 1) ~~ What is Zionism, and in what way can Reform Judaism contribute to the welfare of the people in Israel.Reform Zionism: Religion and the Jewish Nation-State ~ This essay focuses on what Reform Zionism could mean to Jews in Israel.Talking About the Middle East ~~ Regardless of one’s opinions or attitudes regarding Israel, the Palestinians, Arab nations, and beyond, there are useful ground rules for engaging in a fruitful discussion.Seven Fat Years ~~ A looking back at the Oslo peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) from the White House signing until the “second intifada.”The More Things Change … Abiding Ideas on Israel/Palestine ~ Events in Israel and the Middle East are posted in the media virtually everyday. It is a constant unfolding drama. Yet, the more things change, we can be aware of just to what extent the fundamental issues have to be solved. This essay reviews to important papers written well over thirty years ago, and their enduring influence on those issues today.Between Hope & Despair ~ In late 2008, American Jews showed overwhelming support for Barack Obama and his policies of liberal outreach and accommodation, while in early 2009, Israeli Jews exhibited substantial support in their elections for parties that are more hard-line regarding Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, Arab neighbors and Iran. Two Jewish populations seem to be moving in the opposite direction, but Israel is not America. Here are some thoughts on Zionism, anti-Semitism and the ongoing drama of finding peace in the Middle East.Fevered Dreams ~~ Most studies of the Arab-Israel conflict discuss “Myths and Facts.” This division is much less useful than that between Dreams and pragmatic Reality.
Vouchers and the Jewish Problem ~ What is a Jewish interest in the initiative to improve children’s education by providing vouchers for private schools, including parochial ones? This essay was written after a Supreme Court decision permitting vouchers.A Tortured Response ~ The confirmation of Michael Mukasey as U.S. Attorney General appeared to be an unusually non-controversial issue, until he refused to take a specific position regarding the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique.Medicine & Politics: How to Decide ~ Some thoughts, Jewish and other, on the never-ending debate on medical costs and health care.Jews & Power ~ The perception of Jewish power — and of Jewish powerlessness — tends to be greatly exaggerated.
Talking to Christians ~~ In fall 2000, a group of Jewish scholars promulgated a document they called Dabru Emet (Speak Truth), to be a response to the changes in Christian attitudes toward Judaism that had begun with the Catholic document Nostra Aetate in 1965. This was an important and far-reaching document, worthy of comment.Pre-Viewing Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” ~ “The Passion” opened on Wednesday, February 25, 2004. This essay was written before its opening. Its purpose was to frame an understanding of the film before it was viewed, rather than critique it in a review.