Both Sides on the Kosher Switch Debate and Some Commentary

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The Kosher Switch has been in development for several years. According to the inventor, the device replaces the standard light switch and through the magic of technology and Jewish law allows Shabbat observant Jews to switch their lights on and off. Last week, the company launched a campaign on Indiegogo to raise funds to satisfy minimum manufacturer requirements and begin production. The promotional video claims that leading rabbinic authorities approve the device for Shabbat use. In response, a proclamation signed by prominent American rabbinic authorities warned residents of Flatbush that the device was not kosher for Shabbat use and it should not be brought into one’s home.

A lot of the subsequent discussion has been somewhat juvenile. Questions about motive, credibility, and consistency have been raised in all directions and accusations of impropriety have been levied as well. To me, this is all just a distraction from the real issue here: Is the Kosher Switch Kosher? [Please show your work]

Instead of delving into the religio-legal issues raised by the Kosher Switch, I find far too much of the discourse to be declarative and even in the rare case that arguments are made in favor or against the device, the articles read like persuasive briefs instead of dispassionate legal jurisprudence. I have read everything I could find and would like to present both sides of the issue as I see it.

Needless to say, this discussion is for educational purposes only. If you are looking for a psak, ask a posek. Read…

Why Do We Keep Kosher?

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This week’s Torah portion outlines many of the laws and precepts regarding Kashrut. Specifically, which animals are fit to eat and which animals are prohibited to be eaten. Kashrut is also the subject of one of the more common conversations between a Kashrut observant Jew and anyone else. That conversation goes something like this:

“Taste this [non-kosher food].”
“No thanks.” Read…

All Who Go Do Not Return | Book Review and Analysis

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It’s been a couple of months since I received and read an advance copy of “All Who Go Do Not Return” by Shulem Deen. It is a very well written book. No simple feat for a New Square educated ex-hasid. It stands out in its very uncomplicated way of conveying very complex emotions and situations. That’s not an easy task for even the most accomplished writers. As a work or literature, All Who Go Do Not Return deserves the precious 7/8 of an inch it will occupy on my bookshelf.

I read the book in two sittings. To me, that’s the sign of a good read. After reading his book, I talked to Shulem about his story and that conversation influenced my opinion of his book. Read…

Farewell to the Shul on the Beach

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This coming week (Vayikra) will be my last week as the rabbi of Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach. To send us off, the Shul is planning a community luncheon and we would love for you to join us.

When our landlord gave us 60 days notice, it gave us a chance to reevaluate our lives and we decided it was time to move on.

We part ways with the Shul on excellent terms. It’s been an incredibly life-changing 6.5 years and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have been the rabbi of such a historic shul and special community. I have learned so much about myself and others, but above all, I have built memories, friendships, and relationships that will be a part of me forever. The time has come to move on and we are very excited about the bigger and better things ahead.

The Orthodox Jewish community really does not have anything like The Shul on the Beach. A traditional Orthodox service that is accessible and can appeal to people from all backgrounds and perspectives. A place without judgment and a place of warmth and comfort. A place of conscious living and personal growth. A place where everyone belongs. I have been asked about bringing “The Beach to Beverlywood“ – among other places – and I am eager and excited to accept this challenge.

Thank you to all of who I met at The Shul on the Beach or at our home in Santa Monica. To those of you who hoped to visit or meet at The Shul on the Beach, of course we would love for you to join us the Next Thing. Meanwhile, The Shul on the Internet lives on.

Fittingly, we just completed the Book of *Exodus* with these words:!חזק חזק ונתחזק

(As seen on Facebook)

The Rabbis Hid God For a Reason

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One of the best advertised features of the Purim story, as told in Megilat Esther, is the absence of God’s name. In fact, the story is perfectly viable without God playing any role in the tale. Much like our lives, the presence or absence of God is impossible to prove or disprove. Some people are able to see God’s trademark in everything, while others are incapable of seeing God in any part of their lives.

In book in the Jewish Biblical canon,  God’s conspicuous absence is particularly striking. These are the books of God, yet God is nowhere to be found.

Interestingly enough, God’s absence in Megilat Esther is even more significant than most people realize. Read…