Articles

Minhagim: Divinity and Diversity

We may find it jarring to come into contact with Jews who observe minhagim different from ours. We may think that their practices are quaint, or odd, or plain wrong....The hope is that through greater awareness and empathy, we will function as a stronger, happier, and more diverse Jewish community. We need a genuine recognition that in our various searches for Divinity, different Jewish communities have followed diverse—perfectly halakhic and proper—roads.

Conversion to Judaism: Halakha, Hashkafa, and Historic Challenge

The current policies of the Orthodox rabbinic/beth din establishment are causing anguish to thousands of would-be converts and their families; are turning would-be converts away from Orthodoxy; are de-legitimizing Orthodox rabbis and converts who do not subscribe to the "establishment" positions; are causing thousands of halakhic converts to fear that their and their children's halakhic status will be undermined.

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?

Biking on Shabbat

Is riding a bike on Shabbat halakhically permitted/appropriate? While a general consensus opposes bike riding on Shabbat, this article offers a more lenient view. This article is not a "pesak" but a discussion of the topic. For specific halakhic guidance, please consult your own Orthodox rabbi.

On Interpreting Midrash

Rabbi Moshe Shamah is founder of the Sephardic Institute in Brooklyn, which he actively heads. Rabbi Shamah published a commentary on the Torah: Recalling the Covenant: A Contemporary Commentary on the Five Books of the Torah (Ktav, 2011). This is a lightly edited and abridged version of Rabbi Shamah’s two-part essay, “On Interpreting Midrash,” in his Commentary, pp. 336–358. It appears in Issue 15 of Conversations, the journal of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.