Category: Uncategorized

Statement on Israel Palestine Conflict 2021

Note: The following statement was signed Boston, May 17, 2021. As of today, Friday, May 21, a ceasefire has been declared between Hamas and Israel. The further-going demands of the statement have not therefore been rendered moot. Seventy-three years after the Nakba of 1948, the forced displacement of three quarters of a million Palestinians from […]

Joy and Sadness

Moses Mendelssohn famously argued that mixed sentiments are aesthetically more profound than simple ones.  Profound does not mean pleasing. Pleasing requires something pleasant, but mixed sentiments are not as pleasant as simple ones. A mix of joy and sadness can hardly be more pleasant than joy, pure and simple. Whatever strength joy confers, or expresses, is diminished by sadness. Why […]

Yom Hashoah 2021

Words, on the occasion of the BU Hillel and Elie Wiesel Center candle lighting ceremony, April 8, 2021 I light this candle to remind us that it is not enough to say, Never Again! If we don’t know what it is we are supposed to remember. How can we remember what we never experienced? But […]

Jewish Mardi Gras

Purim, as I see it, is a Jewish version of Mardi Gras. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. In any case, it is not in the Torah of Moses and it wasn’t commanded at Sinai. It was instituted, according to the scroll of Esther, which provides the legend of Purim, by the Persian Jewish community, in the days of King […]

No, Mr. Schwarzenegger, the Capitol Riots were not like Kristallnacht

In a short video, posted on YouTube, the former Conan the Barbarian star and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger brandished his stage sword and compared it with American democracy. The tertium comparationis between the “hardened steel” of a sword and American democracy was somewhat nebulous, especially as the brief message ended with a call to “healing.” Is […]

On Fiction and the Bible

Let’s talk about fiction, fictions, belief and the imagination The word “fiction” comes from the Latin verb fingere, which gives us the English name for the digits of our hands, “finger,” which we also use as a verb, when we speak of “fingering someone,” meaning to manipulate (from Latin manus: “hand”). Literally, fiction is something […]

Spring Courses: Holy City and Maimonides

YHWH, God of Israel

Biblical literature pivots around the relationship between YHWH and Israel. By “YHWH” I refer to the name of the biblical Israelite deity that, in its shorter forms yah and yahu (Greek IAO), appears in numerous theophoric names, such as Hizki-yahu (“IAO is my strength”) and in expressions of praise (hallelu-yah). There are other divine names […]

History and the Bible’s Meaning

Before we look at history we need to know why we need to look at history. In discussion, when I asked about students’ prior experience with the Bible, students said they became familiar with Bible stories through their upbringing. (A few said they were “Christians” and read the Bible every day.) Their interest in the […]

Anti-Semitism Today: What it is and what it isn’t

Today it was swastikas on tombstones on the Jewish cemetery of Westhoffen (Alsace). On Yom Kippur, an attack on the synagogue in Halle, which left two people dead. (Zeit Online reported that police treat the attack as an isolated incident.) Last year: Squirrel Hill. In May 2019, Reuters reported a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide, led by Western democracies, including […]