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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 »

The Savor of Science

From the June/July 2018 Print Edition

Can people who are not scientists find a path to God through casual study of the physical sciences? After Kant, the standard answer has been “no.” He argued that human knowledge is structured by mental concepts that give the illusion of metaphysical knowledge, not its reality. These categories . . . . Continue Reading »

Soloveitchik the Zionist

From the May 2018 Print Edition

Rabbi, if only I knew our suffering was paving the way for the Messiah,” cried a Jewish refugee to R. Hayyim Soloveitchik of Brest-Litovsk shortly before his death in World War I–era Warsaw. R. Hayyim rebuffed him, questioning whether it was self-evident that the advent of the Redeemer justified . . . . Continue Reading »

Job’s Children

From the April 2018 Print Edition

In S. Y. Agnon’s 1939 novel A Guest for the Night, one of the protagonists, Daniel Bach, recounts his loss of faith. Throughout World War I, as a soldier in the trenches, he had been meticulous about donning his tefillin to recite his daily prayers. Until one morning, the tefillin . . . . Continue Reading »

Not Power But Glory

From the March 2018 Print Edition

Jews and Christians alike pledge a higher loyalty that they honor in ways that seem incomprehensible to the world.” So writes Fr. Romanus Cessario in “Non Possumus” (February). As an example of such incomprehensible devotion, he cites the kidnapping of the child Edgardo Mortara in 1858. The . . . . Continue Reading »