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The Meaning of the Word Mabul: A Flood of Possibilities

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The word mabul is typically translated as “flood.” But in order to truly understand the meaning of a word, we must determine its three-letter root.

The word has four letters, the first of which is a mem. Usually, a mem at the beginning of a noun is not a part of the root. It is what is added to turn a verb into a noun...

Repression of the Sublime

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It was advertised as one symposium at a major psychology conference. It was to be a discussion about memory and forgetfulness. But it turned out to be one of the most intense and instructive days that I have ever witnessed.

The first speaker began by insisting that the fact that we remember things is obvious. What requires explanation, he argued, is why we forget. We are hardwired to recall every event that occurs in our lives. The mechanisms of forgetfulness are a mystery and call for a program of scientific research.

The second speaker took a position diametrically opposed to the first. He believed that it is only natural that we forget. It is one of nature’s wonders, he maintained...

One Verse, Many Lessons

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We met in a Jerusalem café, and I must admit that, although they recognized me, I neither recognized nor even recalled any of them. That is, until they began to reminisce about their common experience as students of mine. Suddenly, the many intervening years evaporated, and I felt as if I was back in that classroom of so long ago.

Let me tell you about the class, which was no ordinary one. My wife and I were then living in a suburb of Washington, D.C., where I was pursuing postgraduate studies at the Washington School of Psychiatry. To help make ends meet, I taught adult education classes for the local Jewish Federation.

The director of the program informed me that, although the...

Twice Born: Changing Our Actions for the Better

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We have lately become accustomed to reading accounts of clergymen, teachers, and rabbis who take advantage, in very ugly ways, of the young people who are in their charge. Whenever I read these accounts, I think back to when I was a young boy and to some of the rabbis and teachers that I experienced. Let me tell you about one of them.

He was the young rabbi of a small congregation in Brooklyn, NY, far away from the neighborhood in which I grew up. He invited a small group of high school students, some tenth graders and some eleventh graders, to meet with him once a month. I was one of those students. We came from what seemed to us to be a random variety of different Jewish parochial high...

Parshat Ki Tavo: The Walls Have Ears

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We all have our secret lives.

I don’t mean to say that each of us has a sinister side, which we wickedly act out in some deep, dark, private world. What I do mean is that we all act differently when we are alone, or with a few close intimates, than we act when we are out in public, among others.

There is no one who is so behaviorally consistent that he is the same person in the privacy of his own home as he is in the workplace or marketplace.

Nor do I suggest that there is anything wrong with the fact that we each are two persons, and perhaps even multiple persons, depending upon the social context in which we find ourselves.

It is problematic, however, when we act hypocritically...

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