Rabbi Neal Gold

Rabbi Neal Gold

Inside Leadership
Hands holding a mound of dirt and a small plant

When the Zionist movement was newly blossoming in the early 20th century, a prominent group of cultural-spiritual Zionists insisted that that it was not only Jews who would be saved by a return to the Land of Israel; Judaism itself had to be renewed as well. A return to the Land would inevitably impact the ways in which Judaism was expressed – not just in the Palestine, but in Jewish communities everywhere.

Therefore, one task of the pioneering olim (immigrants) was to infuse the Jewish calendar with new meaning.

The tens of thousands of pioneers who immigrated to the Land...

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Rabbi Larry Raphael

I’m writing too many eulogies for teachers of mine these days. But when I heard that Larry Raphael had died on Sunday, I wanted to put some thoughts into writing, for he was truly special.

Larry was a dean at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) when I arrived at the New York campus in the early 90s. He published a few anthologies of Jewish mystery writing (his great passion), and it was fun to talk books with him. He taught professional development classes to rabbinical students, but those are not the lessons that I most cherish from him. There are two that...

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Four college students from behind talking and walking along the outside of an academic building

The Talmud (Shabbat 151b-152a) recognizes that people cry different types of tears. There are tears of sorrow and pain, of relief and catharsis. According to the Talmud, some kinds of weeping are beneficial, and some are not.

Today, as Heidi and I bring our oldest child to his first year of college, the Rabbis’ observation seems especially insightful. Of course, we are tearful. But we are well aware that there are many reasons parents may cry when their children leave for college.

Some parents may cry because they realize their family structure will now be different. Sure,...

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Portion of the Israel flag (Star of David on white background with part of the blue stripes visible) on the righthand part of a wooden surface

David Ben Gurion had a problem.

It was May 13, 1948 and the Zionist leadership had announced the new Jewish State would be declared the following afternoon, Friday, just before Shabbat arrived.

The problem was he didn’t have a Declaration of Independence. A first draft had been rejected earlier in the day and needed to be rewritten. There were fundamental issues the committee had to resolve (including the pivotal question: What would be the name of this new state?). But most contentious of all was the dilemma of what recognition, if any, it would give to God.

Of its...

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Woman's hand on the Western Wall next to notes in a crevice

Exile is one of the preeminent themes of the Torah. From the outset of Genesis, Adam and Eve are exiled from the Garden of Eden. Abraham is called by God to “the land I will show you” but famine forces him to seek refuge in Egypt. Joseph is sold off to Egypt, where, at the end of his life, he makes his family promise, “When God has taken notice of you, carry up my bones from here” (Gen. 50:25). The remainder of the Torah – all of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – charts Israel’s pursuit of a path back home.

Jewish history works in similar cycles of dispersion and return...

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