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Rabbi Joseph Messas

Orthodox Jews like to claim that they adhere to an unchanging tradition of laws and beliefs. Based on this understanding, it becomes possible to decide who "is in" and who "is out;" that is, who is part of the Orthodox camp and who must be placed in a different denomination. The term "Orthodox" itself, which is not part of traditional Jewish vocabulary but actually comes from the Christian lexicon, was adopted in order to distinguish different types of Jews. Yet what exactly defines so-called Orthodoxy is not so easy to pin down.


Sounds of Silence

(The title and section headings of this article are taken from the lyrics of "The Sound of Silence", a song written by Paul Simon in 1964, and performed by him and Art Garfunkel.)


1. Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again

"Can you point me to rabbis or other leadership figures in the Orthodox Jewish community who have spoken or written about the moral aspects of the financial crash and the economic crisis? Is there a specifically Jewish ethical and moral response to what happened, relating also to the prominent role of Jews, including and perhaps especially observant Jews?"


Halakha and Diversity

Anyone who is even partially involved in the life of a traditional synagogue becomes aware, sooner or later, that there is diversity within halakha. This becomes even more obvious after one has occasion to participate in activities at several synagogues: it would be rare to find two congregations that follow identical praxis. Traveling abroad, the differences seem all the more salient. Yet most people I know seem to live comfortably with such diversity. Isn't this strange? After all, if there is one God who gave us one Torah, shouldn't there be one norm for all observant Jews?


The Leadership and Traditions of the Sephardi Sages in the Modern Era

One of the special characteristics of the Torah is its dual nature: on the one hand, religious, faith based, and personal; and on the other hand social, political, and national. It guides not only the individual but also the nation. It charges us not only with faith and personal commandments in interpersonal relationships and toward God, but also with establishing a complete society built on its principles: "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Shemot 19, 6), that is, a complete society based on principles of ethics and justice that are "straight and good in the eyes of God." According to the Torah, only in this way can the individual develop his spiritual aspirations.


Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik on the Teen Tallit: A Window into the Real Religion of Official Orthodox Judaism

With the exception of Orthodox Jews whose background and heritage traces to Eastern Europe, observant males wear the tallit, or prayer shawl, upon reaching their religious majority, after reaching the age of thirteen years and one day.


After asking teens to wear the tallit upon reaching religious majority, I was told
• it is not our family tradition. The father comes to the synagogue with a hat, the children wear suits and no tallit. [tallis in their pronunciation of Hebrew]
• we do not want to be different
• my parents object and I am required to honor their requests


Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik and Coeducational Jewish Education

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Coeducational Jewish Education


By Shaul (Seth) Farber

(Rabbi Farber is founder and director of Itim, an organization in Israel that helps people deal with the rabbinic bureaucracy for life cycle events and matters of establishing Jewish identity. He is the author of "An American Orthodox Dreamer", a book about Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's work to establish the Maimonides school in Boston.)


On the Nature and Future of Halakha in Relation to Autonomous Religiosity

Preface

It is with great hesitation and trepidation that I write this essay. I do not want to be misunderstood. I am in love with Judaism, rabbinic tradition, and halakha. I regard them as holy, and they are at the very core of my existence. Nonetheless, I am concerned about the future of Judaism and its impact on our young people.


One Nation, Many Faces

More than 20 years ago, as an undergraduate at Princeton University, I found myself rooming with a bright, young religious Lutheran from Iowa. It was, to be sure, a somewhat unusual mix, and he never could quite comprehend why I was rushing off to prayer services every day or checking the ingredients on various food packages. But he was a cosmopolitan and studious sort, one whose desk was constantly piled high with books, and his curiosity about the world and impressive intelligence often made for some intriguing conversations.


Machanaim: The Search for a Spiritual Revival of Judaism among Russian Jews

After the Six Day War there was a considerable renewal of interest in Israel throughout the world. At the same time, a Jewish national revival began in the USSR. Jewish identity started to acquire a new shape. Soviet Jews always had a distinct identity, but in many cases it was a "negative" one, caused by discrimination and persecution. Many people started investigating their Jewishness, learning Hebrew and thinking about going to Israel. But still more primary was the total rejection of the Soviet system, its regime, ideology, and values. This resulted in many Jews wanting to leave the USSR.


Is "Sephardic" a Name Brand?


We're addicted to branding. By we, I mean Americans, but it's probably true of most people, and for good reason. Seeking out name brands may be a simple and effective survival tactic. Pick a good brand (olive oil, car, university) and you feel confident you will live and be well, otherwise, who knows? Conversely, we don't just buy brand names, but sell them. For success in business, or in the arts, college graduates were told at a recent convocation, you must brand yourself, figure out and highlight the one key brandable thing you have to offer, and name it in a way that sparks recognition and interest.


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