The Unity of All Things: Shabbat with Spinoza

Sometime in the mid 1600s, the young philosopher Baruch Spinoza – recently excommunicated from the Jewish community for his “radical” ideas – wrote about what is fleeting vs. what is lasting. Here are his words (much excerpted): Most things people think to be the highest good may be reduced to these three: wealth, honour, andContinue reading “The Unity of All Things: Shabbat with Spinoza”

From Will to Gratitude: Celebrating Shabbat with Maimonides

The V’shamru prayer says: “For in six days the Eternal made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day God ceased from work and was refreshed (vayinafash).”           Exodus 31:17 Maimonides (the great 12th century philosopher) explains: The word vayinafash (here translated “to be refreshed”) is derived from nefesh (soul), which means it contains the meaningContinue reading “From Will to Gratitude: Celebrating Shabbat with Maimonides”

Shabbat: A Symbol of Our Hope for a Better World

The Mishnah tells us that: On Shabbat, the Levites in the ancient Temple would sing: “Mizmor shir l’yom HaShabbat – A psalm, a song for Shabbat day” (Psalm 92). This is to be understood as being a psalm, a song for the future – for the day that will be nothing but Shabbat and restContinue reading “Shabbat: A Symbol of Our Hope for a Better World”

Tu Bishevat: An Urgent Wake-up Call from Our Planet

Today is Tu Bishevat, the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat. It’s known as the “New Year of the Trees.” Why do trees need a new year? In ancient times, this was an accounting cutoff – the borderline between “last year’s produce” and “this year’s produce” for purposes of tithing to the Temple. WeContinue reading “Tu Bishevat: An Urgent Wake-up Call from Our Planet”