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Comfort and the Peanut

From the May 2019 Print Edition

Our founding fathers are rarely praised as fountains of mirth. As a child, I read and reread The Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln until the book disintegrated. Can you imagine such a volume for Washington or any of his confreres? Benjamin Franklin is the exception. He is remembered as the . . . . Continue Reading »

Boy on the Temple Roof

From the March 2019 Print Edition

Young Rabbi Binder has opened the floor for a “free discussion” period at the afternoon Hebrew school housed in the synagogue, where the minimal Jewish education he dispenses to postwar Jewish boys is a prerequisite for their bar mitzvah ritual. As usual, most of the kids are indifferent, even . . . . Continue Reading »

After Pittsburgh

From the February 2019 Print Edition

One evening in the late 1960s, the students gathered in Yeshiva University’s major study hall to learn Talmud were treated instead to a speech by Rabbi Aharon ­Lichtenstein, the young director of the advanced graduate rabbinic program. The topic was the struggle of Soviet Jews to emigrate. Unlike . . . . Continue Reading »

Progress and Punishment

From the January 2019 Print Edition

Modern spokesmen for traditional Judaism have consistently expressed reservations about capital punishment. While the biblical texts seem to provide many opportunities for the death penalty, the normative Talmudic interpretations in effect make these punishments inapplicable. For example, the bar of . . . . Continue Reading »