Our view is that we always must keep conversations alive, rather than allowing those who dogmatically espouse one or the other side of a debate to shut down dissent or alternative viewpoints from within tradition.
Judaism includes the basic tenets of belief in one God, divine revelation of the Torah including an Oral Law, divine providence, reward-punishment, and a messianic redemption. The question for believing Jews today is, how should we relate to the overwhelming majority of contemporary Jews, who likely do not fully believe in classical Jewish beliefs? Two medieval models shed light on this question.
The current religious educational system encourages people to accept the authority of the major Torah scholars of the generation and to obey them unquestioningly, thereby creating a culture of dependency and submission. We must return to and deepen appreciation of independent thought, personal freedom and individual empowerment. Talmudic tradition and adjudication teach us that no Rabbi, no matter how great, is sacred nor should he be revered as a Lord over us.
The text of an address by Senator Lieberman at Brigham Young University, on the role of religion in American life. Senator Lieberman was the Honored Guest Speaker at the 10th Anniversary Dinner (held in May 2017) of our Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leading Religious Zionist rabbi in Israel, recently proclaimed that women should not be engaged in political life. His statement--bolstered by a group of other rabbis--has been sharply denounced by many Israelis, including other Israeli rabbis. One of the early proponents of women's involvement in positions of political leadership was Rabbi Benzion Uziel (1880-1953).
We post this article on the life and thought of Rabbi Benzion Uziel, one of the great religious leaders of the 20th century. When he passed away on September 4, 1953, he was mourned by hundreds of thousands of Sephardim and Ashkenazim, Jews and Arabs. A remarkable personality, Rabbi Uziel proclaimed that Judaism is not a narrow, confined doctrine limited only to a select few individuals. It must thrive with a grand vision, always looking outward.
At what point does charisma become dangerous? In a community (and a wider world) where an elusive quality called “spirituality” is constantly sought as representing the “authentic” in the religious quest, how can the individual, or the community, or the responsible leader, distinguish the teacher with integrity from the predator?
Nations, societies and institutions ultimately have the leadership they deserve. If they do not demand more, they have little right to complain. If they do not draw on their individual koah to combat governmental, religious and social evils, then they are accomplices to the evil.
In a list of new developments in Judaism in the twenty-first century, one would have to include the search for Jewish spirituality. This includes the discovery of spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, and prayer—often adapted from Eastern religions. In this essay, I will examine this phenomenon by employing a method of investigation that attempts to address contemporary issues through textual study called “Textual Reasoning” (http://etext.virginia.edu/journals/tr/).
During the Sefira period between Pessah and Shavuot, a variety of stringent customs have arisen. Prohibitions have emerged relating to listening to music, shaving, hair cuts and more. When did these practices arise and how are they to be observed today?