Babel and Brexit

Why did God disperse the men who built the Tower of Babel? The ancient rabbinic texts uncovered several vices that justified their punishment: A tower intended to reach heaven manifests the ambition to challenge God, the desire to “make for ourselves a name” expresses the sin of pride, and so . . . . Continue Reading »

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 »