Who Can Be Commanded?: Disability in Jewish Thought and Culture

Recently two dear friends asked me to advise them about their pregnant daughter, who just discovered that her fetus has Noonan syndrome, a genetic condition that can result in heart defects, unusual facial features, short stature, and learning problems. The pregnant daughter wanted to keep the child, but her husband was afraid that the child would have a difficult life and was concerned about possible consequences for the rest of the family. My friends presented the possibility of abortion in this case as a Jewish legal question. May a person, they asked, decide over life and death? What is our responsibility to act on this, and where are the limits? My reply:
Though such children have a difficult path to follow, yet it is a life with many possibilities for fulfilment.

Diverse Insights into Jewish-Muslim Relations

A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations
Edited by Abdelwahab Meddeb and Benjamin Stora
Princeton University Press, 2014

This collection of scholarly yet accessible articles by dozens of Jewish and Muslim experts is the definitive source for understanding a complex relationship between Muslims and Jews from the seventh century to the present day. Its 1,146 pages cover pressing political issues like whether Jews are demeaned in Islam and whether Jews faced real (as opposed to just remembered) anti-Semitism in Islamic societies. It also explores the ways in which contemporary Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are both products and causes of the political struggle between Israelis and Palestinians. Yet the richness of this fantastic and exciting book lies also in its descriptions of how Jews and Muslims have learned from each other in the arenas of philosophy, science, art, literature, and mysticism.

Spiritual Progressive Faith Formation

Sounding the Trumpet: How Churches Can Answer God’s Call to Justice
by Brooks Berndt and J. Alfred Smith Sr.
A Pair of Docs Publishing, 2013

For forty years, J. Alfred Smith Sr. served as the senior pastor for the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, a church with a national reputation for its ministry of black empowerment and liberation. Anyone who has been in Rev. Smith’s presence has likely been altered by the experience. He is a profound and eloquent person who carries within himself a joyful spiritual confidence coupled with a deep concern about the abiding presence of social injustice in our world. I would say that it is a relief to be around him because he affirms in his being the central message that we all long to hear—that hope and wisdom are reconcilable, that we can see the world exactly as it is with its suffering, pain, and injustice, and still feel with a full heart that we can transcend what is toward what ought to be. In his new book Sounding the Trumpet: How Churches Can Answer God’s Call to Justice, he has joined with Rev. Brooks Berndt to try to convey—through an exchange of letters between Rev. Berndt and himself—how a church can seek to become a force for social transformation.

Consciously Loving My Neighbor as I Love MySelf

Everything in the world is moving (and always has been moving) towards expansion and fulfillment of our potential – which is to become ever more like the One who created us. Wars, tragedies, miseries are swallowed up in this larger movement toward Higher Understanding, which is pounded out on the anvil of our suffering and ignorance. In this, my first article in Tikkun, I’ve chosen to share my painting which interprets the story David and Goliath, along with my commentary. As I suggested above, it offers a wonderful illustration of the essence of the most important battlefield of all, namely the battle within us to win our soul.