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James Cameron is Impressed with the Universe

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This week, James Cameron went boldly where no one had gone before, alone. Fifty years ago a pair of scientists plunged to the deepest part of the ocean. They went together. They had each other. But Cameron went alone. That is a completely different experience.

When one is alone, there is no noise, no distractions, just oneness with whatever one is experiencing. Cameron’s experience in the depths is different than the previous mission half a century ago. He did it alone. The voices inside his head spoke to him and there was no one there to distract him.

Alone, Cameron saw and experienced things that almost no one has ever seen. He saw wonders of the universe that have been hidden out of sight virtually forever. The voyage must have been magical.

As expected, Cameron was asked about the journey that took him nearly 7 miles below the surface. Read…


Do You Really Want It? | A Guest Post

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A guest post by Rabbi Aaron Fink (my father), Dean of Ateres Bais Yaakov on Monsey NY. Part of a weekly Dvar Torah (Torah “Thought”) series.

Pesach 2012

Shir Hashirim Shlomo Hameelech’s great Song of Songs, teaches us just how much kivayachol, Hashem Yisborach loves us. This relationship is kodesh kadashim but is so difficult to comprehend. Nevertheless, it is part and parcel of the zman cheiruseinu. In fact, it is of the deepest fundamental yesodos of our Pesach experience. It is the ambition we seek in our Sede ritual. How are we to capture its essence and elevate our yom tov sensation to the madreiga of “ahavas klulosayich” which we all aspire to feel? One midrash can help. Read…


Richard Dawkins Urges Others to Ridicule and Show Contempt for Religion

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At the Reason Rally last weekend Richard Dawkins plead with those in attendance to rid our world of religion. But it wasn’t enough to preach to the choir (hehe) and reaffirm their atheist beliefs. Dawkins urged the 20,000 in attendance to ridicule religion and show contempt for religion.

This is further than previous calls to action by atheists. It used to be enough to challenge believers to debate, publish books and articles, but now Dawkins wants atheists to verbally attack religious people. Let me get right out and say it, this is really really bad idea. Read…


Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach was on New Girl

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Several people who watch the Fox Television show New Girl let me know that our shul was in the frame for a few seconds. Very cool. Here is your proof!

Venice Beach was the key prop in a scene where one character (Jess) tries to help another character (Schmidt) relax. There is no where in the world to find more relaxed people than Venice Beach. It’s a great place to let go of your troubles. Although, the drum circle people who are dancing in the show bear little resemblance to the actual drum circle people. Clearly, casting preferred to portray them as a group of  people with above average looks who don’t need a shower. This is not entirely accurate.

If you need a Shabbos of relaxation come to see us on Venice Beach.

(Watch the episode here: Hulu)


The New American Haggadah | Book Review

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I was intrigued by an article in the New York Times about the New American Haggadah so I bought a copy.  I thought the name was a tad odd but then Apple called their third generation iPad the “New iPad” so maybe it’s en vogue to just name things by adding the word new in front of an obvious name. What do I know?

Before I even cracked the New American Haggadah open I had a basic idea of what to expect. The New American Haggadah is designed to be an avant garde hagaddah. It is artistic in an almost postmodern way, it is typographically pleasing, the commentary is meant to inspire American Jews, and it was not orthodox. The commentary was written by Jeffrey Goldberg, Lemony Snicket, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, and Nathaniel Deutsch. The translation was done by Nathan Englander. The hagaddah was edited by  Jonathan Safran Foer.

One of the things I was looking for in the New American Haggadah was whether it would be acceptable to orthodox Jews. Was there anything that would offend the orthodox Jewish adherence to halacha and general worldview? Another thing I wondered was if the commentary was any good without considering the blood pressure of orthodox Jews. The last thing I wanted to see about the New American Haggadah was if I would enjoy its presentation of the haggadah and Seder experience.

So on Shabbos afternoon I read through the whole thing. Read…