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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.


A Leftist Spanish Journalist Speaks Out for Israel

Why don't we see demonstrations against Islamic dictatorships in London, Paris, Barcelona?

Or demonstrations against the Burmese dictatorship?

Why aren't there demonstrations against the enslavement of millions of women who live without any legal protection?

Why aren't there demonstrations against the use of children as human bombs where there is conflict with Islam?

Why has there been no leadership in support of the victims of Islamic dictatorship in Sudan?

Why is there never any outrage against the acts of terrorism committed against Israel?

Why is there no outcry by the European left against Islamic fanaticism?

Why don't they defend Israel's right to exist?


Orthodox and Non-Orthodox: Can We Learn from Each Other?

The halakhic status of Jews who publicly violate Shabbat and/or publicly deny key elements of the Jewish faith (e.g. Torah mi-Sinai [1]) is well known. Those Jews are not to be counted towards the quorum for public prayer, nor are they to be learned from or with. It is even questionable whether one should perform the public mourning rituals upon their passing [2]. The question that became pressing for the 19th century European rabbinate[3] was how to interpret within a halakhic framework the unprecedented amount of public desecration of Shabbat, coupled with open rejection of key tenets of traditional Judaism.


Pulpit Rabbinate and Halakhic Diversity

The prophet Amos warns the Jewish people, "Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, and I will send a famine in the land, not a hunger for bread nor a thirst for water, but to hear the word of God... and they will run about to seek the word of the Lord and shall not find it" (Amos, 8:11,12). Rav Shimon Bar Yohai commented: "Heaven forbid that Torah will ever be forgotten from Israel." If so, then what is the meaning of the above verse? It means that a time will come when Halakha will not be monolithic. There will be no definitive Halakha. There will be diversity (Shabbat 38b-39a).


Authority or Authoritarianism? Dynamics of Power in the Contemporary Orthodox Rabbinate

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." -Abraham Lincoln


The Observer Effect and Postmodern Orthodoxy

One of the enduring themes of my religious life has been the reconciliation of my Jewish and American cultural identities. As the daughter of a Modern Orthodox rabbi who taught me to look critically at the ways in which religion can be variously used and practiced, I became very aware of the pushes and pulls of different religious factions and how they have informed my beliefs. As a student of science, I gained insight into the importance of empirical knowledge and learned to look critically at the claims of universality and objectivity of research theories.


David Mamet: The Return of the Native

I. The Native

If by chance, a curious stranger were possibly permitted to enter David Mamet's private study, he would suddenly find himself facing, among an assortment of general works, copies of his host's many publications, all reflecting his catholic interests and tastes. Those publications consist of 36 plays and five collections of them; six screenplays; three novels; 13 prose works; three children's books; 15 film scripts; 21 critical and biographical studies of his life; and, undoubtedly, the current and past issues of the Mamet Quarterly, which dealt critically with his life and works.


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