Rabbi Ben Hecht
Rabbi Benjamin Hecht is the Founding Director of NISHMA, an international Torah research, resource and educational endeavour devoted to the fostering of individual inquiry and the critical investigation of contemporary issues. He also serves on the Rabbinical Advisory Board of Koshertube, as Rabbinic Advisor to Yad HaChazakah – the Jewish Disability Empowerment Center and has a regular monthly column in the Jewish Tribune. In addition to his rabbinical ordination, he holds degrees in law (Ll.B.), psychology (B.A.) and administration (M.B.A.).
Whether we like it or not, we live in the shadow of Neville Chamberlain's Munich deal with Hitler. It must affect our perspective on any agreement of this nature. What we learned from Munich, though, was that deals do not finalize the results. What Hitler absolutely taught us was that what one says and even promises is not necessarily what one means.
Many recent news stories have made me think again of a seemingly problematic maxim in the Talmud which declares that: a person does not make himself/herself into an evil-doer. As a result of it, Jewish courts, historically, greatly limited the introduction of self-incriminating evidence into cases.
10/28/2013 12:23 EDT
The controversy in Quebec over religious apparel has reminded me of my very first entry on Huffington Post. In This Kippa
10/03/2013 04:03 EDT
Quebec's Premier Marois is proposing legislation that, in the interest of uniting the province, would include a ban on religious headwear for public employees. This type of argument -- that greater uniformity within a given population would foster unity within that population -- actually has historical precedence. The reality is Marois is not necessarily incorrect.
08/27/2013 12:12 EDT
In Egypt, there was a strong desire to be able to clearly declare who/what was absolutely right and who/what was absolutely wrong; there was a strong desire to be able to state what needed to be done -- in clear, concrete terms. In my mind, the complexity of facts was often, also, a tragic victim.
08/22/2013 05:22 EDT
The fact is that life does not give us the luxury of avoiding decisions; it does not allow us to simply get by without ever taking a stand. In being called upon to act -- with actions, by definition, being black-and-white -- we are called upon to inherently make clear-cut decisions. <em>You do, or you do not</em>. There is no middle possibility of acting and not-acting at the same time. In action, a definite choice must be made.
07/11/2013 12:31 EDT
When you first heard about the statement of Chiheb Esseghaier -- one of the men charged with plotting a terror attack against a Via Rail train -- that he did not recognize the authority of the Criminal Code because "it is not holy book", how did you respond? The fact is that in a broad, general way, it is not enough for us to see the Criminal Code as morally binding because it is the law of the land. We must go beyond that assertion. We must understand it to be -- again, in a broad and general manner -- the law of the land because it reflects a greater, moral standard that is incumbent upon all humanity.
06/03/2013 03:46 EDT
How can the adherent of any religion (or even the atheist) -- who believes that his faith (or lack thereof) defines the true reality and offers the correct perspective on what is ethically and morally correct -- even accept a value of freedom of religion when it permits behaviour that this person deems incorrect?
04/28/2013 11:21 EDT
There is an interesting disconnect in our world today regarding religion. Being an adherent to a certain religion is simply seen, to most people, as a description of the way by which this individual achieves spirituality. This is not, however, the way that religions -- even more so, traditional religious systems -- actually view themselves.
04/08/2013 12:10 EDT
As a Rabbi, I have always found it somewhat curious the way the general North American public looks upon the festival of Chanukah. While actually a relatively minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, it is given much significance in Western society. But what I also find fascinating is the way that North America had to simultaneously transform Chanukah into a festivity that relates to the North American consciousness. If people are going to be celebrating this holiday then it better have a meaning with which these individuals can connect.
12/08/2012 09:27 EST
It would seem that marriage is some form of societal construct that allows for two individuals to create some type of life partnership and, in a gestalt manner, to be legally recognized as such. The result is that in an array of legal matters -- from taxation to insurance to inheritance -- these individuals are now perceived within the rules of this partnership. The reality is that society saw in the marital unit a structure that was beneficial to society, for one reason or another, and so it responded accordingly. The fact is, though, that changes in society have made marriage irrelevant in regard to those original benefits to society.
10/31/2012 08:01 EDT
I was recently invited to debate Pastor Ted Haggard regarding whether a state should allow same-sex marriages or not. To me, the issue of same-sex marriage is not one of individual rights but, rather, involves the fine and detailed structure of society. The marital unit is the building block of society and its re-classification to include the same-sex couple is not just a matter of a simple change of definition.
10/18/2012 08:33 EDT
When we hear stories such as Wade Michael Page, the white supremacist who murdered supremacist six Sikhs in their Temple in Wisconsin, we think of the grave travesty of hate. What I think of though is the grave and tear-filled travesty of the absence of doubt. Those who hate, as Page did, have to believe that they are 100 per cent correct in their views.
08/17/2012 12:06 EDT
Any value, even one as dear to us as democracy, still demands scrutiny. It must be remembered that this principle has functioned so well within Western democracies because other standards co-existed with this principle to ensure that the value of democracy would not be hijacked to serve another cause.
07/18/2012 03:23 EDT
David McCullough's commencement address, in which he informs the graduating students of Wellesley High that they are not special, has received much attention. What caught my attention, though, was one of his last lines: "you're not special because everyone is." The real issue is not whether one is special or not. The real challenge is knowing what it means to be special.
06/27/2012 04:42 EDT
When me and my wife were looking for our seats at a concert, a man approached me, and began to interrogate me on whether I believed in a personal god. To be honest, I did not know how to respond.
05/11/2012 11:34 EDT
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