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Progress and Punishment

Modern spokesmen for traditional Judaism have consistently expressed reservations about capital punishment. While the biblical texts seem to provide many opportunities for the death penalty, the normative Talmudic interpretations in effect make these punishments inapplicable. For example, the bar of . . . . 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 Proper Business of Mankind

Elijah, the great scholar (Gaon) of Vilna in the eighteenth century, is synonymous with total devotion to Torah study above all other pursuits. Paradoxically, because he held that deficiency in mundane wisdom leads to deficient understanding of God’s word, he has also become an emblem for . . . . 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 »

What Are You Looking For?

In Genesis 37:15 we read the story of how Joseph arrived in the town of Shechem in search of his brothers and his father’s flocks that they were pasturing. Joseph had been sent by his father Jacob to Shechem, not just to bring back word about his sheep and goats, but, primarily, to give Joseph a . . . . Continue Reading »

The Unmodern Jew

Iwould like to have an answer. . . . If someone will be good enough to provide the answer I will gladly take his change of garments to the bathhouse for him.” The bit about the change of garments and the bathhouse is talmudic phraseology from tractate Eruvin (27b), indicating a matter . . . . Continue Reading »

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