Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

“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 »

Rethinking Theology and Matter with Ibn Gabirol

Solomon Ibn Gabirol (1021–1058) was the first Jewish philosopher in Spain, but medieval Christians knew him only by his Latinized name, Avicebron, and they assumed that he was either a Christian or a Muslim. Most scholastics also thought he was a deeply misguided thinker. Gabirol was identified with the doctrine of universal hylomorphism—the idea that everything God creates is composed of form and matter—and treated as a precursor of the nominalist emphasis on the absolute freedom (and thus inscrutability) of God’s will. Some of his poetry remains in liturgical use in Judaism to this day, but his philosophy was all but forgotten. Even experts in medieval theology typically treat him as little more than a footnote to scholastic debates about how angels can be individuated without being embodied. Continue Reading »

Global Anti-Semitism?

Last May, the Anti-Defamation League made the start­ling pronouncement that one-quarter of the world’s population is anti-Semitic. The source for that charge was the ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism, a comprehensive survey of international populations sponsored by the ADL and . . . . Continue Reading »

Invisibly Naked

Will you uncover your hair?” they ask when they hear I’m divorcing. I am taken aback each time; it’s such a private matter. The morning after my wedding, I tied on a scarf and walked to synagogue. My mother didn’t do it, nor did hers, but my father’s mother, who lived . . . . Continue Reading »

Filter Tag Articles