Author Archives: Barry Kornblau

Rabbi Barry Kornblau serves as rabbi of Young Israel of Hollis Hills - Windsor Park in Queens, NY and as Director of Member Services at the Rabbinical Council of America. Opinions expressed are his own.

Providence and Revenge

Is there “no such thing as a coincidence”? Divine Providence and Two Approaches to Avoiding Revenge by R. Barry Kornblau I It is a commonplace among religious Jews to say that “there is no such thing as a coincidence.” The principle of hashgachah pratit (Divine Providence over an individual’s life) brings potential Divine meaning to even the most mundane events ...

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Halakhic Jews and Modern Time

by R. Barry Kornblau I. Leap Second You might not have noticed it, but an unusual event happened at about 8:00 PM in New York today, June 30, 2015, we experienced a leap second. In Great Britain and in other places where it was turning midnight, accurate clocks did not move from 11:59:59 PM to 12:00:00 AM as they usually ...

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Slaughterhouses, Sacrifice, and Sanctity

by R. Barry Kornblau I once played with a sheep in the morning and then ate it for dinner that night.  At the time, I was a non-observant teenager living with a farm family in the French countryside, near the city of Le Mans.  They kept a lamb tied up near a hay loft where I would pet and play ...

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A New Take On The Old Problem Of Jewish Identity

by R. Barry Kornblau   Who is a Jew?  What is the halachic status of Ethiopian Jewry? Of Russian Jews?  What evidence, if any, is required to demonstrate one Jewish identity?  Which conversions are acceptable?  Can conversions be nullified retroactively?  For the past several decades, these and related fundamental questions of Jewish identity have been headline issues for our people ...

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Priestly Temptation

R Barry Kornblau / During the years I was completing my semicha (rabbinical ordination) studies at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), an affiliate of Yeshiva University, rabbinic sexual abuse scandals had just begun to make headlines. Following on the heels of widely reported priest sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, the case of Rabbi Baruch Lanner, a leader in the Orthodox Union’s youth group, NCSY, began to puncture the naïve belief of many in the Jewish and Orthodox worlds that our communities and religious leaders were immune to such immorality. The intervening years brought – and continue today to bring – to light many more such atrocious episodes throughout all quarters of the Jewish and Orthodox worlds, including acts committed by prominent rabbis and other leaders.

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Elegy for a Tree

R Barry Kornblau / The large tree in front of my house went down last night. The mighty winds of the great storm Sandy beat relentlessly upon it, bowing it ever further down until it finally came to rest on a neighbor’s lawn across the street. As I stood outside watching it collapse in slow-motion (our concrete sidewalk was pinning down its roots), my mind and heart were divided. Mostly, of course, they were with with the millions who had lost electricity, their homes, and their lives. At the same time, a personal sadness also overtook me and my eyes moistened with tears. The sadness wasn’t just because a few days ago, that tree had supported – as it has for many years – a pinata to delight my kids and their friends at a birthday party. Rather, for a long time now, I have always looked up to, and upon, trees as more majestic denizens of our planet than we humans. They beautify our world, live longer than we do, and are powerful and massive enough to uproot concrete sidewalks with their thirsty roots, and to destroy our cars, our houses, and even our lives with their massive branches. They dwarf us, shade us, and even outnumber us on our shared home, Earth, by roughly 60:1. We and trees even depend directly upon one another to live: we are sustained by inhaling the waste product they exhale (oxygen), and they are sustained by inhaling the waste product we exhale (carbon dioxide).

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Halakhic Jews and Modern Time

R Barry Kornblau / You might not have noticed it, but an unusual event happened at about 7:00 PM in New York this past Shabbat, June 30, 2012: we experienced a leap second. In Great Britain and in other places where it was turning midnight, accurate clocks did not move from 11:59:59 PM to 12:00:00 AM as they usually do. Instead, an extra second was inserted, so that clocks moved from 11:59:59 to 11:59:60 (a time that does not normally exist) and only then to 12:00:00 AM. I share this with you for two reasons. First, I have always been interested in mathematics, science, and the like, and we geeks are nothing if not evangelical about our geekiness. Second (pun intended), in the months since this addition of leap second was announced earlier this year, I have thought a great deal about the way halachically observant Jews relate to time, and I would like to share one of those thoughts with you.

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