Freedom in world history and American history is tied to slavery. Slavery and the exodus from slavery are central to Judaism. Many cultures, do, or have, celebrated emancipation. But only Jews have a major religious holiday that is focused on enslavement and an escape from enslavement.
Of course, the Liberty Bell’s heading back out on tour won’t solve our country’s political, legal, and social challenges. But it can serve to remind Americans of the faith in our country’s unifying symbols and biblically inspired values, which have survived eras more fractious and violent than our own.
Rabbi Shalom Carmy discusses the nature of intellectual inquiry within a religious framework.
We must face this problem squarely and candidly: The narrowing of horizons is a reality within contemporary Orthodoxy. The fear to dissent from the "acceptable" positions is palpable. But if individuals are not allowed to think independently, if they may not ask questions and raise alternatives, then we as a community suffer a loss of vitality and dynamism.
Judaism, let it be stated unequivocally, has a different view of guilt: Guilt is a healthy part of who we are. This sounds absurd, even crazy. But give the thought a chance to develop.
The terrorists were murderers, hateful and misguided individuals who believed that they would be rewarded in heaven if they murdered Americans. They were willing to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of inflicting damage on the United States. But, there were those who justified the wicked and who condemned the righteous. They described the murderers as “martyrs.”
The view of history as a dialogue between humans and God means that God is continually speaking to us, and all innovations that bring forth progress in culture, society, and religion are not simply human invention, but also Divine Revelation. Therefore, they must be integrated into our religious ideas and not discarded.
Cantor Philip L. Sherman was trained as a mohel by Rabbi Yosef Hakohen Halperin in 1977 in Jerusalem, Israel. He served as a cantor and mohel for many years. He had written this article that appeared in issue 6 of Conversations, the journal of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. We re-post it today (August 10, 2023) in his memory.
In the earlier parts of David’s reign, he was famed for executing “true justice among all his people” (II Samuel 8:15). Now, however, his listening to patently unequal narratives to act “even-handedly” dealt a profound injustice to Mephibosheth, rewarded the dishonest Ziba, and, according to Rav, sowed the seeds for the nation itself falling apart.
Orthodox thinkers are faced with the task of resolving the conflict between the modern moral outcry against slavery and the Bible’s obvious sanction of the institution. Among Orthodox Jewish thinkers of the modern period, several creative—and sometimes mutually exclusive—approaches to this contradiction have emerged.