Friday, August 14, 2020


Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky


For God’s Sake (and Mine), Signal!

It’s one of the most startling and frightening things than can happen. You’re driving in the neighborhood, you stop at a stop sign, and...

Religious Zionism and the Specter of Racism

"Words from a broken, loving and hopeful heart: The recent explosion in anti-Semitic expression, including acts of anti-Semitic violence in numerous quarters around the world,...

Religious Zionism and the Specter of Racism

Words from a broken, loving, and hopeful heart. The recent explosion in anti-Semitic expression including acts of anti-Semitic violence in numerous quarters around the world...

Pray That We Can Change the Climate — and Soon

I have been deeply concerned about climate change since the 1980s. I have a vivid memory of sitting in the teacher’s lounge in the...

STRONGER TOGETHER: At a time of deep community divisions, Hanukkah holds lessons on the power of unity

On our many trips to Israel, our family had never spent much time in Tel Aviv because most of our friends and relatives live...

Rabbi Yosef Kanefksy’s Yom Kippur sermon: Luck and Forgiveness

Moed Kattan 28a אמר רבא: חיי, בני ומזוני, לא בזכותא תליא מילתא, אלא במזלא תליא מילתא. דהא רבה ורב חסדא תרוייהו רבנן צדיקי הוו, מר...

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky: B’nai David will not accept new OU policy barring female clergy

This Shabbat morning, with God’s help, Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn will be offering the drasha at B’nai David – Judea, the Orthodox shul of which...

Jewish law versus Jewish journalism

Can traditional Jewish law sanction journalism? Can journalism be practiced by people who look to halachah as their guide for daily living? At first, these...

A night at First AME Church

The first surprise came when I typed 2270 S. Harvard Blvd into my phone, and discovered that it\'s only 4.8 miles from my synagogue, Congregation B’nai David Judea, in the Pico Robertson neighborhood.

Ensuring the spirit of halachic marriage

Each time we hear of yet another heart-wrenching and infuriating agunah story, we tend to point an accusing finger at the Jewish legal system that has created these circumstances, in which spiteful, angry husbands can cynically abuse the divorce laws to extort and torment their wives.

Israel Meir Kin is a threat to all Jewish women

A little over a thousand years ago, Rabbenu Gershom of Mainz, the leading scholar of Ashkenazi Jewry, enacted bold legal measures to protect Jewish women from abuse.

Kindness connection: Parashat Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18)

Did Avraham attend Yitzchak’s wedding? Well, in the closest thing we have to a wedding description — right at the end of this parasha — Avraham is nowhere to be found. The servant who made the match is there, and the spirit of Sarah is there as she looms large in her son’s memory, but there’s no mention of Avraham.

Willing to sacrifice: Parashat Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36)

The mind of the midrashist drifts effortlessly over the face of the Tanakh as verses from the Torah conjure up similar verses and phrases from other sacred books. Thus, our parasha’s descriptions of the thanksgiving offerings and the free-will offerings call to mind a phrase found in Psalm 50: “The one who sacrifices a thanksgiving offering honors me.”

Drawing close: Parashat Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27)

With his brother Benjamin’s fate hanging in the balance, Yehuda “draws close” to the Egyptian viceroy (whose true identity is not yet known). Yehuda had sworn to his father he would return Benjamin safely to Canaan, but now Benjamin is facing confinement and servitude in Egypt.

A more modern view of homosexuality

The American Modern Orthodox community has just entered uncharted territory. Last week, our largest rabbinic organization, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) formally withdrew its support of JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality).

Appreciating the Tension: Parashat Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

Nature abhors a vacuum. And so do biblical stories.

Letting go of the big lie: Parashat Ha’azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52)

One of the talents of our sages was their ability to simultaneously hold the text of the entire Torah in their minds. When they saw an unusual word or phrase in one week’s parasha, other appearances of that word or phrase, from elsewhere in the Torah, popped into their minds instantly. And the resultant swirl of contexts and usages ignited the great creative interpretive endeavor.

Parashat Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)

Back in grade school, the story of Yehuda and Tamar was always deemed too racy to teach. Our teacher skipped that one episode, and looking back it’s difficult to argue against the omission. Can you imagine explaining to elementary school students what a harlot is?

Who by water, and who by fire?

We have been hearing the sounds of the shofar every morning since the month of Elul began. And within its wordless cry we already...

Beyond Obedience

Why shoo away the mother bird before taking her eggs or chicks? The Torah doesn’t say why we are commanded to do this. There is a major school of Jewish thought that regards this omission as being quite deliberate. This is the school that produced the Mishnah’s teaching prohibiting a person from praying, “God, have mercy upon me just as You have mercy upon the bird in its nest.” This school presumes that God’s laws have no known rationale, and that we observe them simply in order to do His will. It argues that it is pretentious of us to assume that God is having mercy upon the mother bird, and by extension that feelings of compassion when performing this (or any) mitzvah would be misplaced.

Light the Fire

“My words are like fire, says God.” This is what the prophet Jeremiah relayed to the people of Jerusalem of his day, in the...

Work of Your Hands

When every last acacia-wood board had been fashioned, every last curtain woven and every single vessel of gold or copper produced, Moshe stood in...

Noah’s deadly lack of curiosity

Parshat Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32) Was Noah someone who would have been recognized as a tzadik in any generation? Or was Noah only a tzadik in a relative sense, only in comparison to those around him?

In lieu of perfection

Leviticus 19:1-20:27 Right there, in the shadow of the ever-popular \"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,\" another mitzvah quietly sits: \"Thou shall surely rebuke thy friend.\" And while this may seem rude or intrusive, the Torah regards the obligation of mutual rebuke as the engine of communal righteousness.

Obligation or choice?

Parshat Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19) Were contributions toward the building of the Tabernacle voluntary or compulsory? Those of us who have stood before our communities during a building campaign have always tended to favor the latter option, as this makes for a more effective appeal. But the classical commentaries on the Torah -- presumably more objective in their approach to the question -- are rather evenly divided on it.

Own your problems

The story, of course, turns out to be one of reconciliation and not hostility. But the overarching lesson of the story is the one that played out in Jacob\'s mind and soul. The way up in life is to firmly commit ourselves to a self-identity of spiritual and moral excellence, and then to demand that we actually live the self-image we have created. It is true that our past errors will become magnified as a result, and our conscience will not remain silent. But this too is part of the way up.

An Orthodox rabbi’s plea: consider a divided Jerusalem

It\'s not that I would want to see Jerusalem divided. It\'s rather that the time has come for honesty. Their call to handcuff the government of Israel in this way, their call to deprive it of this negotiating option, reveals that these organizations are not being honest about the situation that we are in, and how it came about. And I cannot support them in this.

Finding Our Fourth

We plead for life, yet the Talmud teaches there are three circumstances under which we must be willing to give up our lives.

Israel’s Darfur refugees require worthy action

I was in Jerusalem in early July when a news story about Sudanese refuges demonstrating in front of the Knesset caught my eye.

Mourning Miriam

Moshe was one of a kind. \"None ever rose again like Moshe.\" At the same time, in very powerful ways, Moshe and Miriam were two of a kind. Their personalities and passions overlapped generously. And despite being separated over decades during Moshe\'s extended sojourn in Midian, their destinies and their souls remained intertwined. When one of them left this world, the other descended into grief-stricken crisis.

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