The Polymath


When the Right Is Right About the Left

By Jay Michaelson

Left-wing critics of Israel pretend to speak out about this or that human rights abuse. But really, they have no vision for the future other than Israel not existing at all.Read More


The Mississippi Floods: Punishment From an Angry God?

By Jay Michaelson

Is God punishing the Deep South? In the first half of May, a series of devastating tornadoes ripped through Alabama, and as this article goes to press, swaths of greater Memphis, Tenn., are underwater, and levees are being released all along the Mississippi River.Read More


‘Why Is Your Haggadah Different From Others?’

By Jay Michaelson

Jay Michaelson’s annual survey of new Haggadot includes a website where seder-goers can assemble their own text from dozens of sources, an interfaith-oriented Haggadah by Cokie and Steve Roberts, and a coffee-table edition of the famed Szyk Haggadah, a detail from which is above.Read More


Not for the Sake of Heaven

By Jay Michaelson

Passover is coming, and with it, the season of questions. We Jews have long prided ourselves on asking good questions — even more than on providing adequate answers. We prize debates that go on forever. And, of course, we answer questions with still more questions. Inquiry, discourse, communication: These are some of the core values of the Jewish intellectual heritage.Read More


Gay and Orthodox: And Cleaving Strongly to Both

By Jay Michaelson

In January, I went to a shabbaton with 140 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Orthodox Jews. Yes, Virginia, there are gay Orthodox Jews. There always have been. And while I have been working in the LGBT Jewish community for many years, I saw more courage, endurance and strength that weekend than I ever have before.Read More


The Problem of Spiritual Experience

By Jay Michaelson

I was at a Seder a few years ago, and told my host I’d just been on a six-week silent meditation retreat. Before I could finish my sentence, he announced, “You’re deluding yourself.” A bit quick to judge, perhaps, but if you ask most skeptics, I think they’d say the same thing about spiritual experiences. The waving of hands, the chanting — it’s all well and good, but it’s a delusion, right? Wannabe mystics can say they’re encountering “God,” but that’s just how they label some subjective experience. And most people think mystics are nuts.Read More


Don’t Trust Your Gut

By Jay Michaelson

Columnist Jay Michaelson advises against trusting your gut. Religion tells us to “trust those feelings because they have something to do with the conscience, the soul, one’s inner moral compass,” he writes, but “when we trust them unconditionally, we fail ethically.”Read More


Rethinking Egalitarianism

By Jay Michaelson

Recently I met up with a Jewish academic from New York who had relocated to a midsize Jewish community in the South. In New York, he and his family had attended B’nai Jeshurun, the huge, well-known liberal congregation on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. But in his new home, the options were less attractive: He described them as a “lame” Conservative synagogue, a “dead” Reform synagogue and a Modern Orthodox congregation in the suburbs.Read More


More Than Words

By Jay Michaelson

If Passover is the holiday of questions and answers, Yom Kippur is often the holiday of confusion and befuddlement. Why? On Passover, symbols rich in texture and history are explicitly explained within the Seder ritual; indeed, explaining is part of the point. Yet on Yom Kippur, ostensibly the holiest of days, suddenly we’re left to fend for ourselves in a confusing haze of outdated theology and deracinated ritual.Read More


Are Corporations Evil?

By Jay Michaelson

Ever since Ronald Reagan and the Moral Majority, conservatives in America have used moral issues to convince poor Americans to vote against their economic interests. Thanks largely to convincing working-class voters — that is, the people who lost the most — that Democrats were anti-family, anti-America and, subtly, anti-white, Reagan and his followers engineered the greatest inequalities of wealth in more than a century.Read More


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