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Calendar as Catechism

The Jewish calendar is the Jewish catechism: So said the -nineteenth-century German champion of Jewish Orthodoxy, Samson R. Hirsch, and with good reason. Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Passover: Despite differences in theology and observance, most Jews, even those who are not well-versed in the entire . . . . Continue Reading »

“Heaven and Everything Else”

I first read Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man less than twenty years after its publication. It was already a classic among readers who cherished the few works of Jewish thought written in artful, eloquent English for a literate audience. Heschel summoned . . . . Continue Reading »

Boy on the Temple Roof

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

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 »

“Teach Torah and Fight for Justice”

In Jewish law, tikkun olam means improving the world. It refers to several rabbinic enactments of the first and second centuries of the Common Era intended to improve the functioning of certain social institutions. The ancient Aleinu prayer, originating in the Rosh Hashanah . . . . Continue Reading »

The Rav

Twenty-five years ago this past April (20 Nisan 5753), thousands of Jews, their affiliations ranging across and beyond denominational lines, boarded buses for the Maimonides School in Brookline, Massachusetts. There, they paid their final respects to a figure known to his students and . . . . Continue Reading »

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