The Mantle of Elijah

From Web Exclusives

Many think of Modern Orthodoxy as a tepid compromise, Orthodoxy Lite, an accommodation with the values of bourgeois culture, satisfied with mediocrity in the study of Torah and half-hearted about the demand for single-minded commitment to God and His commandments. From the 1930s through the 1980s Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik represented the alternative: an Orthodoxy centered on the service of God even while engaged with and concerned for the rest of humanity, deeply, almost obsessively devoted to the traditional study of Torah even while confronting and learning from the liberal arts. Until this week his son-in-law, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, was the most prominent exponent of that ideology in Israel, where he was Dean of Har-Etzion Yeshiva, and in the United States, where he frequently lectured and exercised influence via his many disciples. For all his admiration and faithfulness to his masters, R. Aharon fashioned his own distinctive intellectual agenda, while conducting his life with rigorous piety and an ethical sensitivity that had to be seen to be believed. I was a student of both, and now they are both gone. (Link: http://haretzion.org/about-us/rav-aharon-lichtenstein-ztl) Continue Reading »

A Man in the Land of Uz

From First Thoughts

The book of Job has served as a philosophical Rorschach blot for its most outspoken interpreters, from the Talmudic rabbis and Church Fathers through their medieval philosophical successors and down to modern philosophers, theologians, and creative writers. The individual characters in whose elusive speech the narrative unfolds—God, Satan, Job himself, his three interlocutors, the belated guest Elihu—tend to become stock representatives of philosophical positions or exemplars of religious judgment. Continue Reading »

Tragic Hero

 Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul 
by daniel gordis
?schocken, 295 pages, $27.95
In 1981, at the height of his last tumultuous campaign, ­Menachem Begin was accused of bombing the Iraqi nuclear reactor for electoral advantage. ­Begin reacted with outrage: “You have known me for forty years. . . . Would I, for the sake of elections, send young Jewish men toward certain death, or into captivity, which is worse than death?” Begin’s fundamental integrity was indeed beyond question, but the man himself was less well known than this question, and his long public career, would suggest. He was itinerant and at times clandestine in the first half of his life. For the next thirty years, he was generally a charismatic has been, a perpetual opposition leader. Even after his election as prime minister, the biographical attention he aroused was highly partisan and consequently shallow and incurious. When he retired two years later, the most reliable account of his life available may have been his own early memoirs, which says something about his honesty but even more about the failure of elites to take him seriously. Continue Reading »

Tragic Hero

From the November 2014 Print Edition

 Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul  by daniel gordis ?schocken, 295 pages, $27.95 In 1981, at the height of his last tumultuous campaign, ­Menachem Begin was accused of bombing the Iraqi nuclear reactor for electoral advantage. ­Begin reacted with outrage: . . . . Continue Reading »

Sinai's Universalism

From the January 2014 Print Edition

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks derives two messages from Jeremiah 29. One is that Jewish life may continue, even flourish, in the adverse soil of exile: “Build homes and dwell in them, take wives and have children.” For Jews, spiritual purpose survives the loss of power, when the prosperity and fullness . . . . Continue Reading »

Love’s Scandal

From the December 2013 Print Edition

God’s Kindness Has Overwhelmed Us: A Contemporary Doctrine of the Jews as the Chosen People by jerome (yehudah) gellman academic studies, 120 pages, $59 As German-Jewish philosopher Franz ­Rosenzweig observed a hundred years ago, Jewish chosenness is not one of the thirteen principles of . . . . Continue Reading »

Perfect Harmony

From the December 2010 Print Edition

Rabbi Akiva taught that all the Bible’s songs are holy, and Song of Songs is the holy of holies. I have always understood this to mean that Song of Songs corresponds to the inner sanctum of the Temple in Jerusalem, where only the high priest entered on the Day of Atonement. Holiness is . . . . Continue Reading »