Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?
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Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

July 31, 2018 09:42PM
I would like to thank Rabbi Dr. Shalom Berger for the opportunity to respond to Rabbi Anthony Knopf’s article Where Do We Go From Here? posted on his Jewish Ethical Wisdom website at [].

In his article, Rabbi Knopf makes four primary points:
1. We Need to Teach Torah Ethics
2. We Need to Find Ways to Help Community Members Internalize Torah Values
3. We Need to Teach Approaches and Methods of Dealing with the Yetzer Hara
4. We Need to Cultivate an Ethical Culture in Which Communal Standards Accord with Our Values and there are Multiple Communal Opportunities to Put Values into Action

I agree with all of Rabbi Knopf’s points. I do not think the Orthodox community internalizes the core Jewish values of chesed, tzedakah and tikkun olam to the extent that tradition and halakha require. Furthermore I think his points apply to the gamut of the Jewish community and should be central to the communal agenda.

Today’s world provides unique challenges. The demands on our time and attention are unprecedented. All Jews have the same 613 mitzvot and each and every one of us have different interests, talents, strengths and weaknesses. People have always focused on the things they enjoy and are good at. Communal institutions and leaders are no different. Let us for a moment look at the rabbi as an example.

Many people want a rabbi who can:
• Engage and inspire them with a sermon.
• Provide classes that are relevant and topical.
• Answer questions we may ask about halakha, Jewish texts, history and philosophy.
• Offer pastoral counseling.
• Officiate at life cycle events.
• Create meaningful lifelong relationships with their congregants.

And the list goes on and on. While each rabbi and community is different, the reality is that no rabbi can possibly excel at all of these things. By focusing and becoming an expert in one area, they inherently neglect another. The sample holds true with Jewish day schools, summer camps, youth movements and in all spheres. If we want Jews to be ethical exemplars for the world, we must invest time, resources and energy into making that a reality. As Elul approaches, I humbly suggest that each and every Jew reflect on their values and priorities. Here are a few concrete suggestions:
• Take a few minutes and create a list of your values, what is really important to you. Reflect on that list. Think of how you spend your time and money and whether you want or need to make any changes. If you want to take it a step further, you can ask a family member or friend to look over your list and listen to what they have to say.
• Develop a personal mission statement (or a family mission statement) that guides you and your behavior. Revisit it regularly and modify as necessary.
• Think of one way you can be nicer, kinder, a better human being and Jew. Get really specific. Select one item and focus on internalizing that. Write it down or provide yourself with visual reminders to help you focus on the change you want to make so that you can achieve your goals.

These can be great and meaningful exercises for families to do together.

Implementing the above suggestions is a nice start. If we want to achieve Rabbi Knopf’s goals, we will need to make sure values and ethics are at the top of our communal agenda. Not only today. This must become the new normal for the Jewish community. Only then will we have a chance of having Jews serve as ethical exemplars for the world.

I want to thank Rabbi Knopf for creating the Jewish Ethical Wisdom website, an important and timely resource and for bringing this important conversation to the community. I hope that his effort leads to dialogue, reflection and change from educators, rabbis, communal leaders and most importantly from “regular” people, the parents, students and campers we strive so hard to engage, motivate and inspire.

Daniel Rothner
Founder & Director
Areyvut, Inc.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/31/2018 09:43PM by mlb.
Subject Author Posted

Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Anthony Knopf July 31, 2018 09:34PM

Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Shmuel Silberman July 31, 2018 09:37PM

Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Daniel Rothner July 31, 2018 09:42PM

Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Barry Kislowicz July 31, 2018 09:46PM

Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Norman Meskin July 31, 2018 09:51PM

Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Seymour Epstein August 02, 2018 02:21AM

Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Anthony Knopf August 03, 2018 12:13AM


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