Navigating Life Via the Torah Teachings of Justice and Compassion

Sefer Assiyah, Hebrew Seminary’s e-newsletter recently included an interview with faculty member Rabbi Cantor Michael Davis.  We asked:

What Torah teaching can you share with us that might help us navigate life in America today?

Recently, when I was asked to speak at the 15,000 strong convention of Muslims in American, the question that was posed was: “what is it within your tradition that compels you to do interfaith work?” My speech included the following:

“As a professor at a rabbinical seminary, I teach that Judaism was not formed in isolation from other religions and cultures. For centuries, Judaism’s most influential scholars were Arab Jews. Most famously, nine hundred years ago, Moussa Ibn Maimoun, known as Moses Maimonides, the greatest rabbi since Moses our Teacher, studied Greek philosophy – Aristotle and Plato  – in their Arabic translation. Ibn Maimoun wrote his pre-eminent philosophical and religious works in Arabic.

“As far back as the Bible and throughout 3,000 years of Judaism, Jews have lived alongside other faiths and peoples. Judaism teaches how to be in the world that we share with so many other faiths.

“My Mother was born in Vienna, Austria not long before the Nazis came to power.  Quakers working with Jews brought her to England, thus escaping the Holocaust. Some 9,000 other young Jews and more were saved in this manner.  I would not be here today if not for this blessed collaboration between Christians and Jews. That is interfaith in action.”

“For much of our history, Jews were a “minority”. A minority in numbers of course, but more importantly a minority with regard to our legal rights.  The Bible teaches us: “remember that you were once slaves.”  Therefore, we must seek justice for other and treat others with compassion. We are called to stand in solidarity with others.”

About Rabbi Cantor Michael Davis

Michael Davis was born in England, received his Judaic training in yeshivot Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, trained with Hazzan Naftali Herstick of the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem and received his cantorial ordination from Hebrew Union College.  Michael joined the Hebrew Seminary faculty in 2009.

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Kabbalah: Find Your Soul Mate!

In joyous anticipation of summer, our April newsletter explores Jewish wedding traditions. This is the first of a series of postings from an interview with Hebrew Seminary President Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer.

Rabbi, you often talk about the soul. Teach us about finding our soul mate.

Christians teach that the soul is established at conception. Judaism teaches that the soul is established when the baby leaves the mother’s womb and takes her first breath. The Hebrew word for breath and for soul are the same.

The Kabbalah teaches that there is a world of souls and everyday thousands and thousands of souls rain down from this world of souls. As soon as one of these souls hits the earth, it breaks up into many pieces of the same soul. Let’s say piece “A” of soul number one enters a newborn boy and two years later piece “B” of the same soul enters a newborn girl. Twenty years later the little boy with the little piece of soul number one meets the little girl who also has a piece of soul number one within her and they fall in love. We say kabbalistically they fell in love because they are of the same soul, they are soul mates. They fell in love because they both share the same soul that originated in the world of souls in heaven. That’s where we get the expression, “a marriage made in heaven.” There are so many possibilities for so many people to get married according to the Kabbalah.