Is Religion Good for the World?

Two forceful advocates discuss the existence of God and the value of religion… CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS is the author of the best-selling book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. A prolific writer and polemicist, he argues that religion is a toxic force that makes the world a more dangerous place.  RABBI DAVID WOLPE is the author of the new book Why Faith Matters. Rabbi Wolpe is the senior rabbi at Temple Sinai in Los Angeles and argues powerfully for the place of God, faith and religion in modern life.   click audio only to hear the debate. Wait a minute to start...click the triangle below the top picture to hear and see the abridged (16 min) debate. click the triangle below the bottom picture to hear and see the complete (103) min) debate.

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All Together Now… Hatikva

Make sure sound is on. Click on the triangle. Video will start in a few seconds...  The Hatikvah, Israel's national anthem, was written by Naftali Hertz Imber, a Galician Jewish poet, in Zolochiv in the Ukraine in 1878 as a nine – stanza poem named "Tikvatenu" (Our Hope). The poem was an expression of Imber's thoughts and feelings for the establishment of Petah Tikva, one of Israel's first Jewish settlements. Following the poem's publication as part of Imber's first book – "morning star" (Hebrew – Barkai) the poem was adopted as the "Hoevei Zion" anthem as well as the Zionist movement anthem, , later on, in 1897, during the first Zionist Congress. The melody (of folk origin) was arranged by Samuel Cohen, a Moldavian immigrant. The lyrics were also later on revised by the Rishon LeZion settlers. The anthem's underlying message is about "hope" the wish of attaining national independence…

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Oldest Hebrew Writing Found

HIRBET QEIYAFA, Israel, Oct. 30, 2008An Israeli archaeologist has discovered what he believes is the oldest known Hebrew inscription on a 3,000-year-old pottery shard ˍ a find that suggests Biblical accounts of the ancient Israelite kingdom of David could have been based on written texts.A teenage volunteer discovered the curved shard bearing five lines of faded characters in July in the ruins of an ancient town on a hilltop south of Jerusalem. Yossi Garfinkel, the Israeli archaeologist leading the excavations at Hirbet Qeiyafa, released his conclusions about the writing Thursday after months of study.He said the relic is strong evidence that the ancient Israelites were literate and could chronicle events centuries before the Bible was written. This could suggest that some of the Bible's accounts were based on written records as well as oral traditions ˍ adding credence to arguments that the Biblical account of history is more than myth.The…

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Happy birthday, Balfour Declaration!

Today, November 2, the Balfour Declaration is 91 years old. It was the crucial first official recognition of Jewish national aspirations. Although the declaration itself had little legal status, it was later incorporated into the Sèvres peace treaty with Turkey and the Mandate for Palestine, adopted unanimously by the League of Nations in the San Remo Resolution of 1920. This lent Zionism a legitimacy enjoyed by few national movements before or since. Perhaps most astonishing today, the leader of the Arab movement, King Faisal, supported the declaration when it was referred to in the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement of 1919. Although many have since attempted to deny the central nature of the document and its relationship to the Mandate, that's not how its British drafters saw things. In fact, as stated in the 1937 Royal Commission Report, "the primary purpose of the Mandate, as expressed in its preamble and its articles, is…

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IM Issue 19 – November 2008

US Approves “Stealth” Fighter Aircraft Sale to Israel

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency has approved the $15.2 billion sale of 25 of the stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for Israel with an option for another 50, saying it is vital to US national security interests to assist Israel in the development of “a strong and ready self-defense capability.”
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You’re Going to Miss This

So I go down to see my parents in Maryland. And even though it’s a plane ride of less than an hour, it’s a day with terrible winds and the plane is rocky and I’m feeling sick because I left my stomach somewhere over the swamps of New Jersey and I’m irritated because the rental car place didn’t have the car I’d ordered and I’m driving a car that makes so much noise I’m getting a headache. (more…)

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Predictably Irrational: Mr. Spock and What It Means to Be a Kohen

Mr. Spock is one of television’s most famous characters. You remember Mr. Spock, the starship lieutenant with the pointed ears on the original Star Trek series and in a number of popular movies. What distinguishes Mr. Spock is his rational behavior; he is puzzled by what he considers to be the illogical feelings and emotions of human beings. Mr. Spock is half-human, the product of an interspecies marriage, the son of a human mother and a Vulcan father. But it is his Vulcan side that prevails. (more…)

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When the Wall Comes Tumbling Down

Billy was a student at the Beverly Hills High School, 90210. He started doing drugs. He failed English and physical education. He did whatever he wanted to do whenever he wanted to do it. He stole money from his parents. He broke into his parents’ tenants’ house and stole from them. (more…)

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I Thought It was the Wrong Number or By the Time I Get to Ashre, I’ll be Calmer

Many of us have very close friends who live in another town whom we don’t talk to enough, we don’t see enough. One of my dearest friends, my closest rabbinical friend, is Rabbi Elliot Salo Schoenberg. Elliot is the Associate Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinical organization of Conservative rabbis. He has a job that requires a lot of travel, and I’m pretty busy, and so we talk once in a while, certainly not enough, but we’re there for each other in the special good times and the stressful bad times. When we do talk or visit, it’s never during the week; it’s on a Sunday night or during the summer or during a vacation. (more…)

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