Look at Their Democracy

In the three centuries since the prince-elector of Hanover became George I of Great Britain, few power brokers have been more detached from the populace they affected than Rabbi Menachem Shach (1898–2001). Born and bred in Lithuania, where he devoted himself to Talmudic study with some of the . . . . Continue Reading »

Absolute Reason

The Collected Works of Spinoza, Vols. I and II edited and translated by edwin curleyprinceton, 1,544 pages, $66Aprospective donor to Yeshiva University with whom I was once asked to meet was obsessed with one question: Did we teach Spinoza? He had not the least interest in discussing why Spinoza . . . . Continue Reading »

King David

In a provocative and profound essay in this magazine (“A King in Israel,” May 2010), the late Michael Wyschogrod proposed that the Jewish state define itself as a democratic, constitutional monarchy. Israel, Wyschogrod suggested, should rename its head of state—the president elected by its . . . . Continue Reading »

Sabbath Alone

The sun falls between the leaves outside the kitchen window as I prepare for my first Sabbath alone. Beginning on Thursday morning, Sabbath greetings have arrived, and they have not ceased. From Berlin a photograph of flowers for the Sabbath table, and then a goodbye to my parents in Sydney as they . . . . Continue Reading »

Jews of Silence

When I think of the generation of survivors—not only of the horror they endured during the Holocaust and its recollection, not only of the nobility or heroism many of them achieved, but of the virtually impossible small and great steps they were compelled to make to rehabilitate their lives and ours—it is Wiesel’s voice that underlies and often amplifies theirs. Continue Reading »

There and Back Again: A First-Century Jewish Tale

Michael Chabon once wrote a novel titled Jews with Swords, then re-titled something tamer (Gentlemen of the Road). Explaining his initial choice, he said: “The story of the Jews centers around—one might almost say that it stars—the hazards and accidents, the misfortunes and disasters, the feats of inspiration, the travail and despair, and intermittent moments of glory and grace, that entail upon journeys from home and back again.” Continue Reading »

An Orthodox Island

Summoned: Identification and Religious Life in a Jewish Neighborhood by iddo tavory chicago, 224 pages, $27.50 In a clear plastic Ikea storage bin that my wife and I have been hauling across North America every time I take a new academic job, I recently found an old Christmas card. The card says . . . . Continue Reading »