Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
What is Judaism?
Why be Jewish?
As a rabbi I am often asked why it is important to be Jewish. A plethora of answers are offered, but only one is intellectually honest. Some argue that Judaism is a religion of ethics. Others say that it encourages free thinking and open dialogue. Others invoke Judaism's old age and tradition. To my way of thinking, these answers do not suffice.
Judaism is ethical, that is true, but so are many other religions. Judaism does encourage open dialogue, but so do many other academic, social and cultural movements. Judaism is the oldest Western religion, but what of other, more ancient religions? Besides, since when is age a criteria for religion?
Since Judaism is not the only ethical, traditional or philosophical tradition, why should we be Jewish? What does Judaism have that no other religion has?
The Discovery of Planet Earth
I want to tell you about the greatest discovery of the millennium. It wasn't the printing press. It wasn't America. It wasn't even vaccination. The greatest discovery of the millennium happened near its very end.
It was the discovery of Planet Earth.
We were trying to get away from Planet Earth -- ever since we had to leave the garden. We built temples reaching to the heavens, to transcend our earthly bounds. Cities to lock out the earth's wildness, as though we were not a part of it. We told her she was a dark and lowly place, that we needed to escape her to reach our destiny. We ravaged her, raped her, paved her. Our dreams were dreams of overcoming Earth.
Until finally, in the ultimate of all dreams, we escaped her. We told her, "Earth, we don't need you anymore! After all, you are just one little planet in an awesome universe! We are going out there to conquer planets bigger and better than you. We shall become masters of the stars, of the galaxies!"
G-d's Real Estate
She was already sitting in my row as I got onto the plane. With her hands folded in front and her elbows sticking over the armrests, she was what they call matronly. But she had an air about her that screamed activist. A garish medallion with Arabic swirls made me curious enough to ask where she was from.
"Palestine," she answered, more than a touch defiantly.
"Just like my father," I told her.
Our conversation never moved onto anything else. And never stopped and barely slowed down. She spoke just enough English to be able to fight with me.
"Deir Yassin," she challenged me. "Hebron," I answered.
I was seventeen; she must have been sixty.