The real problem with the reality-show comparison is that it fails to explain what’s so enjoyable about long presidential seasons in general, and this one in particular. Unfolding over a year or more, this genre also incorporates elements distinct to the soap opera and the sporting season. Like a soap, there’s endless repetition, so you can miss half the debates and still feel current; there are implausible plot whipsaws; figures from the past return unexpectedly (like Newt Gingrich, storming in from the Clinton era to prove that 1990s-style petulance totally holds its own in today’s combative political environment). As in sports, the sweeping Monday-morning-quarterback pronouncements of the commentariat are often more entertaining than the game. And now that primary voting is under way, we’ll get a series of decisive win-lose moments, sure to be spiked with upsets and blowouts as well as poor sportsmanship, questionable calls and lots of instant replays.

Rob Walker, “‘The Best Thing Happening in Pop Culture Right Now’”, The New York Times Magazine (8 January 2012), 42.

While we talk today of the fluid and tangled nature of the many “blended” families in our society, the complexity of modern family dynamics does not even approach that of Jewish antiquity. The marital paradigm was the first marriage, and this paradigm was expressed in cultural, mythic, and ritual terms. Despite the meagre evidence, the demographics alone make it clear that most marital situations were not paradigmatic. Widowhood and divorce, both followed by remarriage, would have been common among Jews in antiquity. The possibility of levirate marriage and continuation of polygyny would have created families far more complex than we find in our own society. Our evidence even attests to stable nonmarital relationships, although their quantity and the details of they worked are obscure.

Michael L. Satlow, Jewish Marriage in Antiquity (Princeton, NY & Oxford, UK: Princeton University Press, 2001), 195.

I think Judaism’s ancient tradition can help all people find deeper meaning and greater joy in their lives, whether or not they are Jewish. I have come to believe that religious traditions exist not to serve the faithful, but to help the faithful serve the world. The traditions are there for anyone to use to craft his or her life.

Brad Hirschfield, You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007), 51.

Since One God created both Torah and science, it is axiomatic that Torah and science can never be in fundamental conflict. Torah and science are manifestations of One God, the Author of truth. If Torah and science appear to be at odds on certain points, then either we have not understood Torah properly or we have not done our science correctly.

Rabbi Marc D. Angel, “Reflections on Torah Education and Mis-Education”, Conversations, Issue 6 (Winter 2010/5770), 32.

A simplistic, literalist approach to the words of Hazal continues to be influential—and very widespread. This is not only intellectually and pedagogically unsound: it is a degradation of Torah and Hazal, as pointed out by the Rambam. We all need to raise our voices for the sake of Torah, truth and the religious wellbeing of our future generations.

Rabbi Marc D. Angel, “Reflections on Torah Education and Mis-Education”, Conversations Issue 6 (Winter 2010/5770), 37.

…a basic truth of social systems: no effort at creating group value can be successful without some form of governance.

Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (New York: Penguin Books, 2008), 283.

Our schools should not be teaching our children that dinosaurs did not exist. They should not be telling children that the dinosaur bones are just “dog bones swollen in the flood of Noah’s time”. This is not Torah education, but mis-education. Not only is there no religious necessity to teach such nonsense; it is a religious mandate NOT to teach falsehood. To cloak falsity in the clothing of religion is to undermine true religion.

Rabbi Marc D. Angel, “Reflections on Torah Education and Mis-Education”, Conversations Issue 6 (Winter 2010/5770), 34.

Jewish federations passed through three distinct historical stages. The first federation, the Boston Federation of Jewish Charities (established in 1895), was an association of volunteers that linked philanthropic institutions with Jewish social services. The purpose was joint fundraising, with a centralized budget. This model was adopted by federations in other communities around the country over the next half-century.
Before too long, an allocations function was added to the federation, as federation leaders began making decisions about where the money ought to go.
Over time, the growth and increasing complexity of the community brought a third stage of federation development. Today, federations are responsible for communal and social planning and for the coordination of social services—child welfare, services for the aged, family services, employment and guidance—in addition to fundraising and allocations.
This concentration of functions gives the federations and their leadership considerable power, to the point where federation is recognized as the Jewish “address” in a community.

Jerome A. Chanes, A Primer on the American Jewish Community, 3rd Ed. (New York: American Jewish Committee, 2008), 14.

The Talmud is, of course, the great reservoir to which R. Isserles turns as the first step in attempting to solve a problem. The question at hand is immediately referred to an identical or similar case in the Talmud. The second step is the weighing of the opinions of the ראשונים, i.e. Alfasi (רי”ף), Tosafists, Nachmanides, etc. expanding and explaining the text. The opinion of the majority is followed by R. Isserles and even Maimonides, whom he respected very highly, is disregarded if he was in the minority. After the Risonim, R. Isserles proceeds to examine writings of אחרונים, i.e. Mordechai, Ashri and Tur, and the latter is followed especially when the Tosafists agree with him. At this point, the Responsa of still later authorities are cited extensively in accordance with the well-established priniciple of הלכה כבתרא, paying due attention even to the opinions of contemporaries and to customs of Polish Jewry which the ב”י omitted. Thus, R. Isserles, in his Responsa as well as in the ד”מ and his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, served as a supplement and offered his community the code of Law adjusted to its authorities, customs, and needs. He spread the “cloth” over the table prepared by his contemporary, the ב”י.

Rabbi Asher Siev, “The Period, Life and Work of Rabbi Moses Isserles” (PhD. Diss., Yeshiva University, 1943), 57-58.