Judaism

A compendium of book reviews on common texts in Judaism. 

A group of Orthodox Jews walked by while I was waiting for my children to get off a roller coaster at Knott’s Berry Farm in 2013. The men wore beards and yarmulkes and the women wore modest skirts and head coverings. Dozens of children flitted around, excited and energetic despite the heat of the day. One man sat wearily down just a few feet away on the short rock wall where I was perched. After waiting several minutes, we began talking. A few minutes later we were discussing the Old Testament (Tanakh). It was a good opportunity to learn about him, and to put in a good word for Yeshua.

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Purging Prejudice

Prejudice, or pre-judging others on irresponsible bases, robs them and robs us. God hates it, but how can we minimize its impact?

On 31 October 2017 the world will remember one of the unlikeliest and yet most important events in human history, Martin Luther’s posting of his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Following the custom of the day, the young priest had written them in Latin to avoid bringing unnecessary controversy to the Church and he posted them in a public place to invite clerical discussion.  Luther never expected that his theses would be translated into German within days, printed on recently invented printing presses, and spread throughout Western Europe within weeks. The Protestant Reformation had begun.

Luther has been lionized by Protestants and vilified by Catholics for centuries, but recently another part of his legacy has faced scrutiny. His 1543 On the Jews and their Lies is scathing, bigoted, and manifestly untrue. Last night my family and I attended a play produced by the Fellowship for the Performing Arts entitled Martin Luther on Trial which examined the legacy of Luther. It was well worth watching.

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The Book of Esther – Three Roads to Success

Are you obsessed with success? Make sure that you are defining success as God does.

Washington DC is the most success-obsessed place that we have ever lived. Growing up in Southern California taught me a relaxed pace, and moving years later to DC from El Paso, TX was a culture shock as big as any in America. The first priority for many people seems to be to demonstrate how important they are. Even children compete in everything, from traveling sports to amateur dance to yearbook design. More than any place we have ever been, parents push their little Einsteins from the cradle through high school to get the tiniest advantage, the “best schools” and most prestigious careers.

Such competition can be dire. Our obsession with success makes us stressed and intolerant. Elizabeth Lauten, a communications director for a member of Congress, recently resigned after making some ill-advised, but true, comments about the President’s daughters. Was this an overreaction? Such stress and unbridled competition can even make us suicidal. Self-destruction is a risk even for those who have “won” the competition. For example, female physicians have a 250-400% higher suicide rate than other females, and male physicians’ suicide rate is 70% higher than other males.

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Tensions Between Rome and the Jews During the Early 1st Century AD

One of the recurring themes of the Roman Empire in the first century AD is the friction between the Jewish people and the Romans.  Much of stemmed from the dramatic cultural difference between the Romans who adopted Greek culture and the Jews, some of whom adopted Greek culture but most of whom held tightly to their Hebrew traditions.  The reign of the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 BC) and the revolt of the Maccabees set an unbridgeable chasm between the two.

There were other reasons for the Jewish-Roman friction as well:

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