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Mussar: A Jewish Psycho-Ethical Model for Our Time

Mussar: A Jewish Psycho-Ethical Model for Our Time 

By Mel Gottlieb


God sent the fiery serpents against the people and they bit the people….God said to Moses: “Make yourself a fiery serpent and place it on a pole, and it will be that anyone who was bitten will look at it and live.” Moses made a serpent of copper and placed it on the pole; so that if the serpent bit a man, he would stare at the copper serpent and live. (Bemidbar21:4–10)

Economic Growth and the Moral Society

The premise of economic growth has come under question, in many parts of the world today, from a variety of directions. We are aware, of course, that moral thinking in practically every known culture enjoins us not to place undue emphasis on our material concerns. But today there is more to it than that. With heightened sensitivity to the strains that industrialization often brings, including the possibility of permanent climate change, many people in the higher-income countries now question whether further economic expansion is worth the costs. In the developing world, where the advantages of rising incomes are more evident, some people question whether economic growth, and the policies that promote it, are just vehicles for exploitation by foreigners.

Truth or Consequences



Truth is a core ethical value in Judaism; indeed, it is God's seal. Yet, as most people know from their own experiences, the consequences of remaining loyal to the ideal of truth are not always comfortable and often involve sacrifice and suffering. One such talmudic tale illustrates this well. It is worth bringing it together from its scattered sources to understand not only the importance of truth, but the hierarchy of some of the ethical values that compete with each other.


R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus(Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer1)


The "Chosen People": An Ethical Challenge


The concept of the Chosen People is fraught with difficulties. Historically, it has brought much grief upon the Jewish people. It also has led some Jews to develop chauvinistic attitudes toward non-Jews. Nonetheless, it is a central axiom in the Torah and rabbinic tradition, and we therefore have a responsibility to approach the subject forthrightly. In this essay, we will briefly consider the biblical and rabbinic evidence regarding chosenness.


The Book of Genesis


Interpersonal Mitzvoth and Mitzvoth Between Humans and God

It is well known that all mitzvoth fall into two major categories: those between humans are God-bein adam laMakom, and those between humans and their fellows-bein adam leHaveiro. The question we wish to discuss here is which of these two categories is, as it were, more weighty. Formulated differently: If there were to be a clash between two different mitzvoth from these two categories, which one would prevail?

The Battle for an Egalitarian Israel? The Immanuel Case Chronology


Jews and Evangelicals: Reflections on a Recent Meeting

Are evangelicals interested in supporting the State of Israel because they are convinced that this support will help them convert more Jews to Christianity?

Orthodox Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin of Israel, the founder of the first orthodox Jewish center in Israel for religious dialogue with Christians in 2008, and Dr. John D. Garr, board chairman and CEO of Hebraic Heritage Christian Center, assembled a total of seventeen Jewish and evangelical scholars in Atlanta, Georgia for a two day colloquium to discuss this question and other interfaith issues. The results were excellent and a follow-up session is planned. I was one of the attendees and the following are my impressions.

Benjamin Disraeli--Englishman and Jew

I always believed in Dizzy, that old Jew. He saw into the future.
Winston Churchill

( A review essay on Benjamin Disraeli, by Adam Kirsch. New York: Schocken, 2008.)


Report on Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals--Activities in Israel

#000000">Shalom uvrakha. I hope you have been having a good summer.

We recently returned from a 3 week stay in Jerusalem. I spent a lot of time
meeting with like-minded individuals and organizational leaders, in
order to foster cooperative relationships between our Institute and
Israeli modern Orthodoxy. Below is a report on activities we have
already undertaken, and that we are expanding in the coming years.

Mathematics and Other Problems for Orthodox Schools

New ideas about the teaching and learning of mathematics present challenges for Orthodox schools. In part, these ideas about the teaching and learning of mathematics are challenging to any schools: teachers lack content knowledge in the subject because they have had insufficient opportunities to learn themselves; teachers are strained pedagogically to teach a subject that they learned differently as students; ambitious aims for subject matter learning compete with a whole host of educational issues that need no enumeration here. For Orthodox schools, new understandings about cognition and learning are particularly fraught.

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