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Storming the Barricades

From the May 2021 Print Edition

As the bicentennial of the United States Constitution was approaching in 1989, Michael Kammen published a book about its place in American culture—A Machine That Would Go of Itself. At the time, proud Americans passionately embraced their faith in the perfection of the country’s founding . . . . Continue Reading »

Bread of Poverty

From the April 2021 Print Edition

In the Bible, the week-long holiday of Passover is ­usually called the festival of unleavened bread (matzot). During those seven days (eight, outside of Israel) Jews refrain from leavened bread and divest themselves of it. Clear as this obligation may be, the basis of these laws is presented . . . . Continue Reading »

Passionate Men

From the February 2021 Print Edition

Among Christians, anger is one of the seven deadly sins. For Jews, too, it is a major vice. Contemporary secular culture also takes a negative view. It commonly views anger as something to be controlled if not extirpated, if only because it disrupts social life and interferes with the smooth . . . . Continue Reading »

Clean Hands

From the January 2021 Print Edition

From the 1940s until his death in 1986, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was the most prominent authority on Jewish law in America. One of his briefer responses addressed an inquiry about whether it was permissible to play ball for a living. What about the threat of serious injury? No, said R. Moshe, adducing . . . . Continue Reading »

Show Me Your Glory

From the November 2020 Print Edition

Sometimes it’s difficult to convey Jewish thinking to Christians precisely when it appears almost identical with the corresponding Christian teaching. Orthodox Jewish and Christian believers are committed to ideas of divine justice that include the destination of human beings after death. That . . . . Continue Reading »

Invisible Men and Women

From the October 2020 Print Edition

Non-Jews often wonder about the value of close study of Jewish law. To the outsider it can seem hyper-specialized, often applying to a very narrow range of situations. What wisdom comes from this nitpicking about legal requirement, they wonder? Quite a bit, in fact. Seemingly remote rabbinic . . . . Continue Reading »

Solitary Prayer

From the Aug/Sept 2020 Print Edition

It may seem odd to outsiders that in the middle of the last century, seating arrangements in synagogues were the most prominent marker of the division between American Orthodox Judaism and the other American Jewish religious movements. Orthodoxy maintained separate seating for men and women and the . . . . Continue Reading »