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Archive for the ‘Rethinking Religion’ Category



Following the Path to the Jerusalem Inside of Us

Oct14

by: Yanna [YoHana] Bat Adam -- Heartist on October 14th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

Way to Jerusalem

Credit: Yanna Bat Adam -- Heartist

It seems to me that more and more people are realizing that we need to aspire to something higher than what life presents us on its surface. Pleasures such as good food, sex, family life, money… even honor and knowledge, simply do not feed our deepest need, which is spiritual.

Are you one of these people? Lucky you.

Lucky us.

This means that we are looking for “something else.” Something that will give us what might be called pleasure, but is in reality something far more enduring, yet hard to define. Something of deeply felt meaning that will finally bring an end to the endless boredom, compensatory diversion, and repetitive frustration that commonly comprises our lives. Something that will make us simply happy without a cause.

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Jews Recommit to Standing Against Islamophobia

Oct13

by: Donna Nevel and Elly Bulkin on October 13th, 2014 | 4 Comments »


While many of us have been concerned about, and appalled by the recent Islamophobic ads on NYC subways and buses and have responded to them in a number of different ways, we also recognize that Islamophobia extends far beyond those ads.

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Youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner – yes she’s female, and yes she’s Muslim!

Oct10

by: on October 10th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Malala Yousafzai

Credit: Creative Commons/Southbank Centre

I switched on my computer early this morning to get a lovely surprise: Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014. For all those who think Muslim women are too oppressed, too quiet, or too busy being mothers and housewives, to make international news, todays’ announcement from the Nobel Peace Committee may have come as a bit of a shocker. For me, it was validation of a lot of things.

If you can’t tell from these words that I am bursting with pride, let me break it down: I am absolutely ecstatic! Here’s why:

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Sukkot and the Transience of Life: A Meditation on Three Films

Oct9

by: Howard Cooper on October 9th, 2014 | No Comments »

sukkah

Inside of a sukkah, a temporary hut constructed during the festival of Sukkot. Credit: Creative Commons/Carly Lesser & Art Drauglis

Just as the lulav that we shake on Sukkot, the festival of rest amidst the desert wanderings, is made up of three different trees — palm, myrtle and willow — I want to share with you another group of three that I’m going to bind together and wave in your direction. And we’ll see if we can add in that exotic etrog element along the way.

Over the last few months I happen to have seen three films, each as different from the other as are the species that make up the lulav. Taken together, they add up to more than the sum of their parts.

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It’s Israel’s Behavior That Produces the “New Anti-Semitism”

Oct9

by: on October 9th, 2014 | 35 Comments »

netanyahu wolf blitzer

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sits down for an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Credit: Creative Commons/IsraelinUSA

It has now become a full fledged campaign: stifling criticism of Israel by warning of a new wave of anti-Semitism that is seizing the planet. The latest entry comes from French philosopher, and life-long Israel defender, Bernard-Henry Levy in (naturally) the New Republic who screams that anti-semitism in 2014 is a “ticking time bomb” that, if not countered, will inevitably lead to Binyamin Netanyahu’s vision: the return of 1942.

Like all opinion pieces of this genre, Levy’s case is built on the idea that there is no causal relation between Israel’s actions and the outbursts against Jews that he describes.

In its essence, the argument goes like this: Anti-Semitism is not caused by anything. It is innate, a poison that lives in the hearts and minds of evil people, needing only a pretext for it to explode. Israel’s actions can’t cause anti-Semitism. They can only be a pretext for it.

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Finding Strength Through Spiritual Art

Oct8

by: Roni Finkelstein on October 8th, 2014 | No Comments »

Ruth Golmant believes in the process of creating art as a powerful tool for healing. The art therapist located in Stafford, Virginia lives with one husband, two children, two invisible disabilities, and her ever-evolving Jewish spirituality.

After studying art as an undergraduate at Mills College in Oakland, California, Golmant moved to Virginia to complete a degree in art therapy at George Washington University. Upon graduation she began working with patients in St. Elizabeth’s hospital’s acute trauma unit, where she realized the power of art amidst pain. She recalled:

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And Who Shall I Say Is Calling?

Oct6

by: Melissa Weininger on October 6th, 2014 | No Comments »

One of David Mitchell’s literary preoccupations is interconnectedness, the way that, as the theory goes, the flapping of a butterfly’s wings might change the course of history (or at least the weather). Or, say, the way that a trapped and depressed FAA contract worker might set a fire that cancels your surprise trip to Chicago to see your dad who’s recovering from a hip replacement (still not over it!). Mitchell makes connections, so when I’m reading him I see connections.

Bone Clocks

David Mitchell's novel, The Bone Clocks, focuses on central themes of Yom Kippur. Credit: Melissa Weininger

As I was reading The Bone Clocks, his new novel, in which one of the peripheral characters rides a Norton motorcycle, I happened to see a guy wearing a Norton T-shirt at the diner near my house as I ate brunch with my family. As I re-read the review of the book in the New York Times Book Review, I noticed that the review underneath it (yes, I still get a hard copy of the paper) referred to events that took place in January 1967, the year my husband was born. And the world shrinks a little bit, everything stitched together a little tighter.

Perhaps that’s why I was tempted to see so many of the themes of the season in this book, even though there’s nothing remotely Jewish about it (and organized religion generally comes in for a beating – more on that later). Reading during Rosh Hashanah and the beginning of the Yamim Noraim, the ten days between the New Year and Yom Kippur, the day of repentance, I felt like the novel had something to say about so many of the central themes of the holidays: memory, death, rebirth, mortality, choice and free will, and second chances. These are Mitchell’s touchstones, the big questions he goes back to again and again in all of his novels, but The Bone Clocks brings them together both abstractly – in the form of recurring characters and names, places and events, both within the world of this novel and across his oeuvre – and concretely, as a largish subplot (more later on why it seems like the main plot but isn’t) focuses on a group of immortal souls and their fight against those who would induce immortality by artificial and predatory means.

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The Restoration of the Dome of the Rock

Oct6

by: Dalia Hatuqa on October 6th, 2014 | No Comments »

dome of the rock

The first stage of making a stucco and glass window involves preparing a wooden frame to hold up the finished product. It features a cavity that is later filled with liquid plaster. Credit: Dalia Hatuqa / Al Jazeera

Originally published in Al Jazeera

East Jerusalem – The Dome of the Rock is one of the most memorable Islamic landmarks in the world, a place for solemn prayer and a refuge for those seeking respite. On any given afternoon, the sun shines through its stained-glass windows, casting vibrantly coloured shadows onto small groups of Quran reciters by the colonnades of this religious site.

One of the oldest works of Islamic architecture, the octagonal building, made of marble and glazed tilework on the outside, is in constant need of care. This delicate job falls solely on the shoulders of a small department – the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock Restoration Committee – which is in charge of renovating and replacing the windows and roof for both sites.

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A Thought For Yom Kippur

Oct3

by: on October 3rd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

One year, in anticipation of the Yom Kippur prayers before Kol Nidre, the community was reciting Psalms in an agitated fashion. R. Pinhas of Koretz (a contemporary of the Baal Shem Tov) turned to them and said, all this carrying on and your words are going nowhere. You think that if you speak sheker (falsehoods) all year, suddenly your words will make an impact above? So I tell you this: Take upon yourselves that you will no longer speak falsehood and your prayers will immediately rise up…


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Netanyahu tells Obama to “study the facts” before critiquing Israel’s Settlements

Oct2

by: on October 2nd, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Obama Netanyahu

President Obama sits with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Oval Office. Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told President Obama during a face-to-face meeting on Wednesday that he needed to “study the facts” the next time he, or his administration, planned on critiquing Israel’s settlement expansions. Netanyahu then, with incredible chutzpah, tried to imply that anti-Semitism was behind such critiques by Obama.

Netanyahu’s thorny words came after Washington blasted a new settlement expansion plan, characterized by the White House as poisonous, which was announced by Israel just before Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama. This plan calls for 2,160 new housing units to be built in the neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, an area which stands beyond the Green Line and is integral to those who want to make dividing Jerusalem impossible in any future two-state resolution. The White House also criticized the occupation of twenty-five Palestinian apartments in East Jerusalem purchased by settlers, who — backed by riot police — expelled families in the middle of the night with little warning.

In response to these critiques, Netanyahu told Obama that he and his administration needed to “study the facts and details before making statements” about Israel’s new construction plan, claiming among other things that it was not new, that the timing of its announcement was innocent, and that the construction would be for both Israeli Jews and Palestinians. However, it appears that Obama and the White House indeed did their due diligence, for Netanyahu’s claims have been shown to be false, and the Obama administration’s critiques on point.

Perhaps worse than calling Obama ignorant, however, was his forced attempt to depict his criticism as having anti-Semitic echoes. Here is what Netanyahu said after his meeting with Obama:

I have no intention of telling Jews they can’t buy apartments in East Jerusalem. This is private property and an individual right. There cannot be discrimination — not against Jews and not against Arabs.


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