Articles

Coping with the Illness of a Child

Good morning. I would like to thank Tom Severson, Michael Davis, David Nelson for inviting me to speak to you this morning and the many of you for allowing me to talk with you today.

"It's 2:00 in the morning. We are at Hackensack University Medical Center in Northern Jersey and are grieving beyond tears and words. Our younger son, Daniel, hasn't been feeling well for a couple of days, complaining of back pain and shortness of breath.

“Two hours ago, what we thought was perhaps a virus or something tied to the heat and humidity was something much worse. Our little boy has cancer.

“Just two days ago, Daniel had scored two goals in a street hockey game at camp, a performance more impressive when realizing he was playing with a collapsed left lung.

Afterlife in Jewish Thought

Afterlife in Tanakh

There is a paucity of explicit references to afterlife—whether a bodily resurrection or a soul world—in Tanakh. The Torah promises this-worldly rewards and punishments for faithfulness or lack thereof to God and the Torah. It does not promise heaven for righteousness, nor does it threaten hell or the absence of heaven for sinfulness. Given the ancient world’s belief in, and even obsession with immortality and afterlife, the Torah’s silence is all the more remarkable.

Book Review: Rabbi Marc Angel's new commentary on Pirkei Avot

Book Review
By Rabbi Dr. Israel Drazin

The Koren Pirkei Avot
Translation by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Commentary by Rabbi Marc D. Angel
Koren Publishers, 2015, 175 pages

Jews and non-Jews have recognized the practical wisdom of many of the sayings in Pirkei Avot, “The Ethics of the Fathers,” and many Jews can quote its teachings from memory. Jews considered the Ethics of the Fathers so significant that many excellent commentaries have been written on the Ethics and the custom arose to read one chapter a week during the summer months.

Halakhic Change vs. Demographic Change

Preface

This article was inspired by the critical work of Jacobs on the halakhic process, A Tree of
Life (2000). His attention to the influences of social, economic, and political factors in
halakha coincided with my interests in the sociology of pesika, halakhic decision-making, and in the development of Orthodox Judaism in the United States. In an earlier work, Jacobs asserted that “the Torah did not simply drop down from heaven but is the result of the divine-human encounter through the ages” (1995, 3). That is a statement that strongly lends itself to rejection by traditionalists, especially the Orthodox.

It's Official: BDS is Hate Speech

A few years ago, the British anti-Semitism scholar David Hirsh remarked that while Israel was the ostensible target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, first in the firing line were diaspora Jews. This shouldn't be surprising if you consider it carefully — Jewish organizations are typically called on by the media to defend Israel, particularly during times of conflict, and many individual Jews have faced ostracism within their own professional communities for speaking in support of Israel and against the boycott.

On How to Lean toward Leniency: Halakhic Methodology for the Posek

One of the very serious questions that faces every posek is what degree of flexibility does he have in determining his decisions, whether in the direction of stringency or that of leniency. Is he inexorably bound by the rulings of the Shulhan Arukh, for example? Or may he take a position which is more stringent than that of the Mehaber ? (It is generally agreed that he may add stringencies to his own private practices.) Conversely, can he take a position of leniency, which would seem to contradict the standard rulings?

What Medieval Jewish Apostates Can Teach Us about the Mitzvah of Ahavat haGer

It is axiomatic that Modern Orthodoxy and Modern Orthodox Jews value the academic field of Jewish Studies, which functions as the bridge between the Bet Midrash and the academy, both locations in which we seek to situate ourselves. In articulating the value of such study, proponents often highlight the insights it affords in the realm of Talmud Torah.

Comparative Study of the Sephardic and Ashkenazic Wedding Ceremony

I recently attended the wedding of a young couple. They were both raised in a strong Orthodox Sephardic community, yet religiously influenced by Chabad and Breslav. Their heroic attempt at creating a ceremony that was true to their Sephardic heritage and reflected the Ashkenazic/Hassidic traditions of their rabbis inspired the writing of this essay. What struck me as I watched the various parts of the wedding ceremony unfold were the contrasting ambiances, tones, and qualities stirred by the conflicting cultural backgrounds that the diverse minhagim exposed.

Book Review of Rabbi Hayyim Angel's "Jewish Holiday Companion"

Jewish Holiday Companion
By Rabbi Hayyim Angel
Published originally by the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, and then by Kodesh Press

Rabbi Hayyim Angel has rightly earned a reputation as being one of the great teachers on Tanach in our time. He has authored a handful of books and hundreds of articles on biblical and religious themes, and has garnered a huge following based on his 17 years at Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue and 20 years at Yeshiva University, where he has even taught classes on how to teach Tanach. His new book, Jewish Holiday Companion, is a gem. In a time of year when we are pulled in every direction at once, Rabbi Angel offers guidance and clarity in how to approach the holidays, both intellectually and spiritually.