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Conversations

Find out more about Conversations, the Institute's print journal, including how to get your copy. You can also review our Article Title or Author index.

 

 

This article on the Tower of Babel offers a “textbook lesson” in combining traditional rabbinic commentary with contemporary academic Bible scholarship. These two approaches begin with different sets of assumptions, but each gives us access to greater meaning in the Torah. Taken together, we emerge with a fuller picture than with either one by itself.

The story of Cain and Abel is deeply troubling. For some unstated reason, God accepts the offering of Abel and rejects the offering of Cain. In his bitterness and jealousy, Cain murders Abel, the first homicide.

This is the first sermon Rabbi Marc D. Angel delivered from the pulpit of Congregation Shearith Israel, Simhat Torah 1969. Fifty years have passed since that first sermon, and yet the ideas within it continue to ring true.

In Jewish tradition, the number seven is associated with perfection. We have 7 days of creation; Shabbat is on day 7; there are 7 weeks between Pessah and Shavuoth; 7 years in the sabbatical cycle; 7 cycles of 7 years in the jubilee cycle; 7 days of Pessah and Succoth by biblical rule.

But what is the significance of 8? What comes after the holiness and perfection symbolized by 7?

Many Jews in our day, like many of our brethren of other tribes, are seeking to mend the fractures that divide us from ourselves and from others, and to find ways to heal the wounds that afflict us only seven decades after the Holocaust and the rebirth of Israel. Amid these efforts, an idealistic, scholarly nineteenth-century rabbi from Livorno seems, to some, to provide a beacon of hope and humanity.

Rabbi Marc Angel's Tuesday morning class will resume on October 29. We'll be discussing Talmudic texts that relate seemingly simple stories/lessons...but which, upon reflection, set our minds to thinking about larger issues...faith, redemption, suffering, hope, interpersonal relationships...and more.