Rabbi Vered L. Harris for ReformJudaism.org
Justice and Mercy Are Jewish Love
When was the last time I made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself? Just asking the question, without even making a list or acting upon it, can cause some consternation. After all, who among us hasn’t crossed a line, fallen back, or hurt others with our choices? If I consider the ways I have sinned against others — those I love and those I don’t — how can I put myself back on track?
Rabbi Lisa Grushcow for ReformJudaism.org
Containing Lives in the Open Wilderness
The Book of Numbers — in Hebrew, B’midbar, “In the Wildnerness” — seems to begin with great promise. Our setting is the wilderness of Sinai. It evokes broad universalism and deep spirituality. As we read in the Midrash (B’midbar Rabbah 1:7), just like the wilderness is free to all, so too is Torah; and only those who open themselves up like a wilderness can access its wisdom.
The openness of this book of wilderness reminds me of the beautiful closing words of the novel, Leo the African:
Rabbi Lance J. Sussman for ReformJudaism.org
Liberty and Freedom From Religion in America
The Liberty Bell holds special fascination for American Jews, especially those of us who live in Philadelphia. For years, we lived happily with the knowledge that the Liberty Bell had been cast in England and brought to America in 1752 on a ship called the Myrtilla owned by two local Jewish shippers, Nathan Levy (the founder of the Philadelphia Jewish community) and David Franks (later one of the city’s leading Tories during the American Revolution). For better or worse, recent scholarship has changed all that and we now know conclusively that the bell was aboard a different boat, the Hibernia, captained by William Child but of unknown ownership. Moreover, the Hibernia’s docking was recorded on September 1 and the Myrtilla did not drop anchor until the end of the month.
BY RABBI LANCE J. SUSSMAN for ReformJudaism.org
From Blasphemy to Blasphemous: An Instructive Transition
On January 24, 1656, Jacob Lumbrozo, a Portuguese-born doctor and businessman, became the first documented Jew to settle in the Catholic colony of Maryland. Two years later, under provisions of the colony’s ironically named Toleration Act of 1649, which extended freedom of religion exclusively to Trinitarian Christians, Lumbrozo, himself a litigious person, was charged with blasphemy. He faced both severe economic sanctions and even punishment by death. Ten days after his trial began a general amnesty on such matters was proclaimed in England by the government of Richard Cromwell. The proceedings in Maryland were immediately terminated and the doctor was allowed to go free.
RABBI LANCE J. SUSSMAN for ReformJudaism.org
What Judaism Says About the Golden Rule
For the last few years, I have been a member of a local hospital’s ethics committee. The hospital is part of a university-based system and the committee’s chair is a scholarly pulmonologist with a propensity to pick cases involving life and death choices. Other members include nurses, medical specialists, administrators, and social workers. I am the only clergy member of the group. The literature we review is mostly derived from case histories written by medical doctors and generally balances such diverse factors as medical practice, hospital liability, economics, patient rights, and culture. Our purpose is not to advise but rather to review past cases, many with close parallels in our hospital.