Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Which Way Conservative Judaism

Which Way Conservative Judaism
Jan 24 2015 

            Two weeks ago, the Torah portion mentioned the famous bush that burned but was not consumed, which has become the symbol of Jewish Theological Seminary and through it what we call Conservative Judaism. Last week, I recalled my experience at the Seminary with one of its best known luminaries, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel .
            It gave me an opportunity to think back to some of my experiences there as a student, and from that, to give thought to what we mean by “ Conservative “ Judaism, a topic that I began to speak on some weeks ago.
            So I will start with some of the oddities of the institute for Jewish learning that has been so instrumental in shaping American Judaism.
             When I was a student in undergraduate studies, JTS had an exceptional Outreach program for college students to immerse themselves in one month intensive Jewish studies and earn college credit at same time. One young man there, staying in the dormitory, was exceptionally good looking and all the young women at the Seminary were giving him the eye. But all was in vain.
            First he wasn't Jewish. But second, even if he were Jewish, had it somehow been possible, it wouldn't have helped; his name was Brother Jorge of the Order of the Servants of Mary, and he had taken a vow of chastity. He couldn't return the interest, even if he had wanted to.
            It was very typical for the Seminary; an academy dedicated to conserving Judaism did it best by dishing it out to non-Jews. Brother Jorge was one, Jacob Tashima, son of the founder of the Japanese Mikuya sect, was another example.
            Then, there was the faculty itself
            I spoke last week of Rabbi Heschel. Yet another dear teacher was  Prof. Moshe Zucker, the world's foremost authority on Islamic philosophy in the middle ages and its impact on Jewish thought and the influence of Jewish philosophy on Islam. Whatever I know about Islam, I learned from a Talmud scholar!
            Yes, Talmud scholar because that is how he saw himself. Recall that after Bible, Talmud defines Jewish observance and belief. The great scholars, such as Zucker, had full visual memory of Talmud (19 volumes, the fine  print when you look at the commentaries). He would never open the Talmud when teaching. This made the students very uncomfortable, since they could just barely understand what was written. “Please, “ the story goes,” bring a volume of the Talmud, so we won't feel so embarrassed.” Sure enough, the next day, he opens his “masechet”, leads the discussion and everybody feels good. He finishes, gets up, look at the cover, and says, ”Oops-I brought the wrong book. “ He had never looked at the pages.
            He was very caring. I spent a year in Israel and stayed at the Seminary’s dormitory in Israel. My roommate was an Israeli Kibutznik, who would from time to time be called up to military reserve service as a paratrooper.This was at the height of the war of attrition, a war of day to day fighting between Egyptian and Israeli forces along the Suez canal, a war that was bleeding the Israeli side. Prof Zucker , who was spending a Sabbatical year, took a personal interest in his well-being and he and his wife always brought him a treat when he came back from service.
            He took a personal liking to me because my grandfather and his father, it turned out, had been in business together in Vienna before WWII.
            There is a saying-“Kinat Sofrim marbeh hochmah”. Envy between scholars increases wisdom.
            He was in competition for the publishing of a correct edition of the philosophy of Rav Saadia Gaon, Judaism's first philosopher of the new Islamic world who was also a Rabbinic authority (c year 900). His competition was a known Rabbi of Yemenite origin, Rabbi Yosef Kafach. Yemenite Jews had access to some of the best preserved texts of Rabbinic scholarship and were masters of Hebrew and Arabic, and meticulous in their grammar.
            .Lo and behold, I introduced him and his wife to my wife, Ofra, shortly after we married, and I announced, quite proudly, that she was the niece of his rival, Rabbi Kafach. “Oh my”,he asked her,” How did you land one of our best young men.!” To this, his wife, Manya, turned to him and said,” Why don't you ask him how he landed one of Israeli's best young women!”
            I want to return to my original thought,  of how comprehensive my Rabbinical school intended itself to be, encompassing the spectrum from a Catholic Monk seeking to learn Judaism to an Orthodox Jewish scholar who was an expert on Islam. The same for politics; if Rabbi Heschel represented the anti-War movement, one of my other teachers, Prof Seymour Segal, was an early Jewish neo-Con, and gave the blessing at the inauguration of President Nixon.
            The Conservative movement, as a whole, is just about as broad, a big tent.
            My faculty could easily be divided into two camps by their academic specialty and their dinner preference, the Bible Camp and the Talmud Camp.
            The Bible faculty used critical method to pull apart Bible texts and focus much on Talmud. The Talmud faculty didn't focus on academic study of Bible, but would pull apart Talmudic texts with modern critical methods.
            They were divided into which restaurant they would eat in. Bible faculty would eat at V&T's Italian Restaurant-Cheese pizzas, eggplant parmesan- cheese & tomato sauce only of course. The Talmud faculty would eat only in JTS cafeteria, Glatt kosher, of course.
        The Dean of the Faculty and Rabbi of the Seminary Synagogue was the great Talmudist, Prof.Saul Lieberman. In the US, he would describe himself as Conservative, but in Israel, he would describe himself as Orthodox.  It was not unusual in a historic perspective. At one time the lines were very blurred. The  founder and first president of the Seminary, Sabato Morais, was also Orthodox  and also served on the examining board of Hebrew Union College, the flag ship of Reform in America.
            Because of this intentional diversity, the debates within the Seminary and the Conservative movement could get very hot.
.           The Talmud records a claim made by two contemporary sages. Each one said “ Whatever judge does not follow my opinion is not a judge.” The nature of debate has been so inbred in Jewish history that, at one point, the Talmud records  that it was assumed that the debates must have been about two very  different Torahs!
             Nevertheless “Elu  velu divrey elohim Chayylm,” This one and this one also speak the words of the living God. What was true of Talmudic discourse is true about Conservative Judaism as well.
            There were always distinct strains from the very founding:
            There were those who felt the Reform had gone too fa, for example, Benjamin Szold, whose daughter, Henrietta Szold went on to found Hadassah Hospital and the women’s movement. When the first graduation of the Hebrew Union College  (note the name ‘union’ intended to indicate a union of differing camps ) was feted with shrimp at the banquet, that ended the ‘union’ and drove these away.
            There were those within the Orthodox camp who felt that in order to preserve keeping all of Jewish observance and belief, some cosmetic changes were needed, such as English sermons or decorum in the service.
            That tension still existed in my day in the Rabbinical school, which used an Orthodox prayer book, and women sat separately from men ( but side by side, not behind a curtain).
            .For all the divisiveness there are certain central points that all Conservative Thinkers share, as was formulated by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan  back in 1947, himself representative the more liberal branch of the movement ( before he went on to found his own Reconstructionist movement, while still being part of the Conservative movement:
             Love of Eretz Yisrael, as a central point of inspiration in Jewish history. The movement never had the anti-Zionist bent that characterized both Reform and Orthodox a century ago.              
            The primacy  of  religion as the expression of Jewish collective life. We could not suffice with cultural Judaism or socialist Judaism or Yiddish culture alone.
             The maximum plenitude of Jewish content( a mellifluous phrase for sure) which meant to get Jews to do more, or as much as possible, within the context of a secular society .
            With this came the emphasis on retaining the core format of Jewish worship, mostly in Hebrew, and an emphasis, then, on the knowledge of at least rudiments of Hebrew reading and key terms.
            The scientific approach to higher learning. We could not be afraid to take a magnifying glass to any aspect of Jewish wisdom and question it.
            Today, this movement has great challenges ahead, but the challenges themselves are a result of the movement’s success. Reform Judaism has to a great extent adopted many elements that were heretofore associated with Conservative, and the Orthodox, certainly in what is called the modern camp, have adopted critical approaches to halakhic texts, if not to Biblical texts, to solve issues in contemporary life.
            Our bottom line, however, is still this: the center, broad as possible, is essential in creating a vital and vibrant Jewish life in America, in Israel and wherever else Jews make their home. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

‘Selma” King and Rabbi


‘Selma” King and Rabbi  Jan17 2015

            We are in our Torah reading, in the portion of Vaera, in the midst of the account of the plagues that preceded the Exodus. It is very fitting then, that these chapters of the Exodus coincide with Martin Luther King Day.          
            With all the horror of the past weeks in France, we take time this weekend, here in the US, to recall the message of reconciliation and brotherhood that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr not only  preached but also practiced at the cost of his life.
            I want to reflect on those days, as the movie “ Selma” has now been released, to great acclaim. The daughter of one of our members herself worked on the costumes for the film.
            It led me to recall the events in my own memory. When I was in 4th and 5th grade, I lived in a small Ohio town. I went to public school as the son of the local Rabbi and the only Jewish child in the class. My counterpart in class was a black girl, or, as was common phrased in those years, either Negro or colored, and it was quite appropriate, the two top students in the class were one Jewish, one black.
            This was, in the late 50’s, the start of the civil rights struggle, and I recall my father explaining to me that the signs in the south” No Coloreds Allowed” reminded him of what he saw in Nazi Germany. We could feel, though, that things were shifting for the better. When I was in high school, this time, in a small town in West Virginia, just about the time of the Selma march, a black girl in our high school wanted to be a cheerleader and the principal objected. The student body overwhelmingly overrode his objection. Keep in mind that this was the same West Virginia in which a local politician started out as a member of the Ku Klux Klan and then became the most powerful figure in the Senate, and liberal Democrat to boot, Robert Byrd.
            I want to address one issue that has been brought up about the movie, though, on the pages of Forward by Leida Snow:
 (http://m.forward.com/articles/212000/selma-distorts-history-by-airbrushing-out-jewish-c), January 5, 2015 'Selma' Distorts History by Airbrushing Out Jewish Contributions to Civil Rights)
          “I looked in vain for the embrace of a man with a yarmulke, a scene that would reflect      the historical moment when Dr. King marched with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a            leading Jewish theologian and philosopher widely respected beyond the Jewish    community. He may be present in the grainy documentary footage at the end of the      film, but he is not visible in the body of the film, nor are any other Jews openly           recognized.”

Front line on the March at Selma

            I don’t want to act as critic without having seen the movie, but I do want to fill in at least this one gap, and highlight the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel on race and the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King on behalf of Israel and Soviet Jews.
Rabbi Heschel and my father were in Rabbinical School at the same time, at the  “ Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums” in the 30’s in Nazi Berlin. Both were eventually arrested, my father sent to prison for two years, then expelled to Vienna and points east, Heschel sent to Poland and then points west.  Years later, when I went to rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary I was fortunate to become student assistant to Rabbi Heschel. I handled some correspondence with the Vatican and with the head of a major Christian Zionist Movement (Makuya) in Japan and helped type some pages for a manuscript on the Kotzker Rebbe which later became the book, A Passion for Truth. I organized an Israel Independence celebration for which I had him as the keynote speaker and his words on the significance of Israel shortly were incorporated in his book, Israel: An Echo of Eternity.
Text of page from manuscript I typed

            Rabbi Heschel, to back track a little, was the scion of a Hasidic dynasty who had attempted to merge the boundaries between the modern secular world and the world of Hasidism. He felt himself compelled, from his perspective and personal experience, to join in the front ranks of those calling society to task for its failings.
            The Rabbi Against Racism
            This is an excerpt of one of his talks, on race in America, 2 years before the Selma march at a conference on “Religion and Race”, appropriate for our Torah reading of today, just 41 years ago to this Shabbat :
RABBI ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL, “RELIGION AND RACE” (14 JANUARY 1963))
                        “At the first conference on religion and race, the main participants were Pharaoh   and Moses. Moses’ words were: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, let My people go         that they may celebrate a feast to Me.” While Pharaoh retorted: “Who is the Lord, that I            should heed this voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover I will not        let Israel go.”
            The outcome of that summit meeting has not come to an end. Pharaoh is not ready to      capitulate. The exodus began, but is far from having been completed. In fact, it was          easier for the children of Israel to cross the Red Sea than for a Negro to cross certain           university campuses.”
. . .
            “Religion and race. How can the two be uttered together? To act in the spirit of religion is to unite what lies apart, to remember that humanity as a whole is God’s beloved child.          To act in the spirit of race is to sunder, to slash, to dismember the flesh of living           humanity. Is this the way to honor a father: to torture his child? How can we hear the          word “race” and feel no self -reproach?”
            . . . Racism is satanism, unmitigated evil.
            In several ways man is set apart from all beings created in six days. The Bible does not    say, God created the plant or the animal; it says, God created different kinds of plants,          different kinds of animals (Genesis 1: 11 12, 21-25). In striking contrast, it does not say,          God created different kinds of man, men of different colors and races; it proclaims, God          created one single man. From one single man all men are descended.
             In the words of the prophet Amos (5:24):
            Let justice roll down like waters,
            and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
           
            If the last line sounds familiar, it is because Dr. Martin Luther King Jr used that same line in his famous “ I have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Monument and it is the verse inscribed on his tombstone. It is not taken from any official English translation of the Bible but directly from the translation as written by Rabbi Heschel! ( per Susannah Heschel ,his daughter).
            The Reverend on Jews and Israel
            The greatness of Dr. King lay in the fact that, while he was a true advocate for the Negro or black, he was equally an advocate for humanity, and as a result, spoke out openly on issues that pained the Jewish community. For example, he took up the cause of the Jews of the Soviet Union, who suffered tremendous oppression and denial of rights under the Communist regime of the old Soviet Union. Many of you here lived through that period:
            This is from his 1966 Address to the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, long before it became the cause of the larger Jewish community:
            “While Jews in Russia may not be physically murdered, as they were in Nazi Germany,   they are facing everyday a kind of spiritual and cultural genocide. The absence of opportunity to associate as Jews in the enjoyment of Jewish culture and religious     experience becomes a severe limitation upon the individual. These deprivations are a       part of a person's emotional and intellectual life. They determine whether he is fulfilled as             a human being. Blacks as well understand and sympathize with this problem. When you   are written out of history, as a people, when you are given no choice but to accept the          majority culture, you are denied an aspect of your own identity. Ultimately you suffer a corrosion of your self-understanding and your self-respect”.
            Even though Dr. King opposed the war in Vietnam, he had no illusions about the “ Worker’s Paradise”. You can also see how appropriately, he weaved the plight of the Jew with the plight of the Black.
            On Zionism
            Recall that the United Nations, in 1975, declared that Zionism is a form of racism. This was a resolution backed by the very Soviet Union, which Dr. King had denounced for its oppression of Jews. Here is what Dr. King had to say on Zionism in a public presentation, at a dinner in Cambridge , Mass. His words have been misquoted, so for the record, I am copying the correct text:
            “ At that dinner, he rebuked a student who made an anti-Zionist remark, saying, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism.” (See, e.g., “The Socialism of Fools: The Left, the Jews and Israel” by Seymour Martin Lipset; Encounter magazine, December 1969, p. 24.)
           
            On Israel       
Finally, there are those who would deny his position towards Israel and try to associate Dr. King with the leftist position calling for the elimination of the Zionist colonialist entity of Israel. I know otherwise. When I was still a student, I sat only a few feet from Dr. King, as he spoke to a gathering of Rabbis, in 1968, on March 25, 1968, just ten days before his assassination. He was introduced by Rabbi Heschel, whom he effusively praised:
         “It is also a wonderful experience to be here on the occasion of the sixtieth             birthday of a man that I consider one of the truly great men of our day and age,       Rabbi Heschel. He is indeed a truly great prophet.. . . I remember marching from      Selma to Montgomery, how he stood at my side and with us as we faced that crisis             situation. So I am happy to be with him, and I want to say Happy Birthday, and I    hope I can be here to celebrate your one hundredth birthday.”
         This was his statement on Israel. Note that this was two years after the Six-Day War, and Dr. King was a pacifist. He took flak from his supporters for recognizing that military force could be justified.
         I think it is necessary to say that what is basic and what is needed in the Middle    East is peace. Peace for Israel is one thing. Peace for the Arab side of that world is   another thing. Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all of our        might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel, and never mind             saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous            ex­ample of what can be done, how desert land almost can be transformed into an    oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that            security must be a reality.”
He then continued:
         “On the other hand, we must see what peace for the Arabs means in a real sense             of security on another level. Peace for the Arabs means the kind of economic      security that they so desperately need. These na­tions, as you know, are part of that            third world of hunger, of disease, of illiteracy. I think that as long as these   conditions exist there will be tensions; there will be the endless quest to find            scapegoats. So there is a need for a Marshall Plan for the Middle East, where we       lift those who are at the bottom of the economic ladder and bring them into the           mainstream of economic security.”
         This was 1968. Dr. King did not address the issue of Palestinians as an isolated issue, but as part of the overall malaise of the Arab world. That has not been resolved.
         Tragically, we know now, that, comparable to the Marshall Plan, billions, billions, has been sent by the West, to help the refugees. Billions, billions has been siphoned out of the pockets of the West in over-priced oil in one of the greatest money-transfers in history, billions that supported a vison that was to Dr. King’s vison, as night is to day.
         We can only pray, in the aftermath of the horrors that have occurred in Paris as well as the horrors that have occurred in Nigeria, where Boko Haram massacred 2000 Christian last week and in Pakistan where the Taliban massacred 140 children, we can only pray that in the Moslem world, there can arise a visionary as fearless as Dr. King to preach an Islam for today as bravely as Dr. King preached Christianity for today.
         Perhaps yet we will see a day in which the Pope, the grand imam of Mecca, the Ayatollah of Iran, and Chief Rabbi of Israel, and let’s throw in the Dalai Lama and Hindu and everyone else to boot,will sit together as in the vision of Micah, the Prophet:
Many nations shall come, and say,
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways, that we may walk in his paths.”
. . .
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.

They shall all sit under their own vines,
under their own fig trees, undisturbed;

for the LORD of hosts has spoken.

Though all the peoples walk,
each in the name of its god,

We will walk in the name of the LORD,
our God, forever and ever.( Ch 4)



Amen

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ending Rivalry Between the Brothers- The Greatness of Peace

Ending Rivalry Between the Brothers- The Greatness of Peace
Portion Vayechi


Have you ever heard the explanation for a Magen  David?

It is two triangles pointing in the opposite directions to show that no two Jews agree. It can be said that Judaism itself is composed of opposite directions, what we can call polarity just like the plus and minus on a battery.

One of the many polarities of Judaism is the idea that there is one underlying unity to all existence, which is God, but all existence is itself a polarity, even of good polarities. Like the battery, existence may have a plus and minus but underlying it is one battery.

Thus, we like to speak of the world torn between justice and mercy. We speak of God as you, immanent and personal, and as he or she or it, transcendent and unreachable.

The very structure of the first book of the Torah is also a polarity.

Imagine the structure of the Torah to be a pyramid--wide at base, narrow at top.  This the pattern of the book: the opening lines are universal, cosmic, and then narrow to this planet, narrow down to all humanity, narrow down to one clan, the clan of Abraham. The focus narrows down to only one of Abraham's sons, Isaac, the focus again to only one of Isaac's son, Jacob- the final focus, on of twelve sons, Joseph.

But to quote Solomon Schechter,“What's past is prologue”. All fifty chapters of Genesis are merely the prologue for enslavement of the children of Israel in Egypt and their Exodus. What had boiled down to one now expands to 600,000 adult males, plus wives and children and a mixed multitude of hangers-on. Furthermore in the overall view of the Bible, in the ultimate end, all will expand back to the universal of the totality of all humanity and the universe itself.

So here you have this polarity. The Bible is a book of universal dimensions, which seeks to concentrate one, particular family among the families of mankind, and trace their events. This polarity is also in the nature of Judaism itself, for speaks to the universality of humanity through one particular people.

          In this portion, Jacob has given his personal blessings to Ephraim and Manasseh and then given his blessings all of the 12 sons. He dies and is buried back in the land of Israel. It is then upon the return of the brothers to Egypt that we have an unusual dialogue between Joseph and the brothers.

          The brothers are now filled with anxiety over their future. They send a message to Joseph, claiming that, “Your father commanded before he died, "Say unto Joseph: Forgive the transgressions of your brethren.”
         
          When, did Jacob ever say such a thing? In all probability, he never knew the truth. If he did, he would have mentioned it in his blessings to the twelve sons and he would have directly commanded Joseph to forgive them when he gave him his burial instructions.

      It is a pure fabrication which Joseph must have seen through. Shouldn’t the brothers by now have seen the virtue of telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but?
           
           
Can we ever justify a fabrication?     
           
            This is  the comment by Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel:
Gadol hashalom-Great is peace, for even the tribes ( that is, the brothers) spoke fiction in order to create peace between themselves and Joseph.

            Just the same thing is commented upon by Sages in the Midrash, at the account of the announcement of Isaac’s pending birth. God directly misquotes Sarah." Great is peace,’ they explained,” for when Sarah said, 'I am past my time and Abraham is old’, God rephrased the whole sentence to say, in the words of Sara, "I am old". But she never said that!

          Ten contentious brothers, Nu! We can accept them twisting things. But G-d, the absolute, who wants not and needs not! Scandalous!

          Here you can see yet again another polarity, the tension between the value of truth and the value of the human heart.         
         
          Some philosophers and ethicists have insisted on an absolute value to every ethical principal. Principals are non-negotiable and all of equal value. If principles collide and come to an impasse, so be it.

          This is referred to  as a categorical imperative-something that demands to be done, without deviation right or left, no matter benefit or harm. It is an absolute right because even the slightest breach undermines the validity of the ideal.
         
          That does not seem to be the case in Jewish ethics. Jewish ethics requires us to constantly weigh out the cost in terms of pain and agony in undertaking any ethical action. Ethics is a vehicle for the saving of the human; the human is not a vehicle for the sake of an abstraction.
          The playwright, Henry Ibsen, hardly a Jew himself, wrote well in Peer Gynt “The truth , when carried to excess, is wisdom written backwards. "
         
          I can think of a common example. I have an acquaintance who was recently told by her doctor that she had at best a year to live. All now looked bleak and black as she gave up her struggle for life. We know that transparency in medical treatment is now sacrosanct, as is the patients right to know. The doctor is also protecting his or her back from lawsuit by spelling out all dangers.
         
          The Jewish equivalent, of telling someone he or she facing mortal danger, was to advise the person to confess the wrong doings just in case. The secret, though , to advising this, was to say it anytime someone was ill, so that it would never seem fatal, and say it with the words,” Many have confessed their sins and have come through the illness.” In other words, get it off your chest, feel cleansed for it, and it will be well.
         
          Perhaps this is sugar coating, but Jews and Judaism never preached fatalism. We prepared for the worst, but hoped for the best.
The truth, then, takes a back seat to what is best for the patient. It is tempered as much as possible, to help the sick one perhaps overcome the statistics.
            As for my friend- friends don’t let friends down. Another friend heard of this and tracked down a specialist who offered new hope and a life line to survival.  With hope, she has been able to gird herself up and face each new day with hope.

            Many of you know that I have been involved in education for many years. Our job was to take children who were struggling in the classroom, build up their essential skills in reading, math and other areas.

            One of the most challenging areas was always confidence. We had a mantra, our slogan, that we would draw on a piece of paper in a circle when we explained what we were about to do : skills-confidence-motivation. When we strengthened the child’s skills, that led to confidence, which in turn led to motivation.
            The child would come to us, after having been told the raw truth for years by his teachers. The raw truth came in the form of low grades-D or F, today 1 or two, or a frown face- or a percentage score on a test.  Year after year of the same depressing truth. What did we do?
            We would start the child on a skill set that we knew, from assessing the youngster’s existing skills, by starting on material the child already knew. We would give a page of short exercises , the child would get 5 out of 5.”Wow”,” What a great start”, and other simple forms of praise.
            What if the child came across a series of problems that proved hard?
Never say “Fail”! We started with the problems that were right, gave credit for the right first, then went to the wrong one and say “ Let’s look at it again.” Never a put down, never a discouraging word.
            After years of an education system that was unbearably honest, the child could perform above grade level because we sugar coated the truth. We did not lie as some school systems do, and pass the child upwards despite failure, or, as is the current fashion in some sports team, give the child a trophy just for showing up. It was not empty self-esteem dished out for no achievement.
            What we did was give a child hope based on actual achievement but never marked by failure.
            Truth must be measured and balanced and flavored in a way that opens the door of hope. What goes for life and death or for education goes for all aspects of life.

            This is the last portion of Bereshit. Let me spring back to the first book, when God is about to create Adam, the first human. The angels did not like the idea of a competing figure dominating God’s attention, said the Rabbis, so they began to argue against creating him ( and her). One of their arguments was, “ He will be full of lies.” At this , it was said, God threw truth to the ground. You see, for all philosophers who seek absolute reason and clean and neat solutions, as we Jews see it, God loves us, as humans, far more than any abstract principals.  To that end, God could misquote Sarah and the brothers of Joseph could twist their father’s words, because Gadol haShalom, Great is Peace, so great is reconciliation  between human beings, great as all creation.