Issue 9.5: Israel

For my post high school gap year I studied in an Israeli Midrasha. While at first I struggled to catch on to classes in hebrew and grappled with cultural differences like casual lice breakouts, army time, and the consumption of whole cucumbers for breakfast, I eventually grew to love the authentically Israeli environment, one that felt wonderfully foreign and new in the best way. Unsurprisingly, this newness struck me most on Yom Ha'atzmaut.  Read more →

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Behind the Beards: A Philosophical Survey of Modern Orthodox Neo-Hasidism

  You have seen their flowing beards and pe’ot. You have seen their gartlach (prayer belts) and pocket editions of Sihot Ha-Ran. Perhaps you have even seen them clap and jump in your otherwise uneventful morning minyan. We all call them neo-Hassidim, a term coined to account for the ... Read more →

What is Divine “Power?”

  Can God create a rock so heavy that even He cannot lift it? Theologians have been debating this question, known formally as the “omnipotence paradox,” since at least the middle ages. In a sense, the premise behind it is nonsensical: to suggest that something unlimited might actually ... Read more →

Ahad Ha’am and His Dream for Israel’s Soul

On December 21, 2014, the second night of Hanukkah, Project 929, an online initiative committed to studying one chapter of Tanakh each day, was launched.  The goal of the site is to “help Israelis from all walks of life understand how the biblical text is relevant to them from a social ... Read more →

Rav Hutner and Kindness on Rosh Hashanah

I – Introduction Rav Yitzchok Hutner was one of the most influential Orthodox philosophers and theologians of the twentieth century. As Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Rabbi Chaim Berlin, he became well known for his ma’amarim, discourses on Jewish theology, that he would deliver to students ... Read more →

Editor’s Thoughts: Reflections of an Unrepentant Tanakh Enthusiast

R. Simeon b. Eleazar testified on the authority of R. Simeon b. Hanina: He who reads a verse at its proper time brings good to the world, as it is written, “And a word spoken in its proper time, how good is it.” [i] [ii] These days, children’s games have fallen quite far from their ... Read more →

Of Angels and Men: Peshat As A Universal Tool

In the opening pages of Family Redeemed, Rabbi Soloveitchik proclaims:[i] [ii] “I am sorry to say that many Jews don’t look to Bible for guidance and that its spiritual message, so indispensable for man today, is completely ignored. Our approach to Biblical interpretation is too often ... Read more →

R. Zvi Dov Kanotopsky and the Kosher Switch

YU’s Thinkers of the Past: A Series A series of articles exploring the ideas and opinions of rabbis of YU’s past, especially as they pertain to the issue of the month. We have seen Dean Revel’s response to the dean of a college with crosses on their diplomas. We have seen Rabbi ... Read more →

Sefirat HaOmer:  Why Are We Counting?

On the second day of Pesah during the times of the Beit HaMikdash, a Kohen offered the Korban HaOmer, a sacrifice of ground barley, and the Jewish nation would subsequently begin the offering’s eponymous count:  Sefirat HaOmer.  This sacral countdown connected the Korban HaOmer of Pesah to ... Read more →

Tower of Babel: Lessons for Humanity

The story of the Tower of Babel has captivated the imagination of generations of scholars and commentators.[i] What is the purpose of this short biblical narrative, which relates the story of a people who came together to build a tower, only to then be dispersed across the earth by God? A ... Read more →

Rabbeinu Tam Won’t Sign Off On Your Dusty Tanakh

I. At this point, it is somewhat of a truism to observe that a renaissance in Tanakh study is underway. One can hardly ignore the growth of interest in Tanakh-related Yemei Iyun, the resurgence of insightful and groundbreaking books on sifrei Tanakh by Orthodox teachers and scholars, and the ... Read more →

God’s Three Keys and the Dialogue between Talmud and Tanakh

“Talmudic text that comments on some verses of Scripture calls in its turn for interpretation. Its intentions are not immediately apparent; its exposition can surprise a novice, and allows for several levels and dimensions of meaning,[i]” wrote the twentieth century French philosopher, ... Read more →

Cross-Pollination as a Method of Biblical Interpretation: A Case Study

When we pick up a work of military theory or a history of war, we expect it to be written clearly, factually, and to-the-point.  Metaphors, symbolism, and allegory belong to Du Fu, not to Sun Tzu; to Sophocles, not to Thucydides; to von Goethe, not to von Clausewitz. In most cases, our Torah ... Read more →

Toward Understanding Biblical Gapping: Genesis 38 as a Case Study

The 20th century literary critic Erich Auerbach (1892-1957) famously wrote that some biblical narratives and their characters are “fraught with background.”[1] While there are moments of action in these biblical stories, the thoughts of characters are suggested, rather than explicitly ... Read more →

When Torah Comes to Life: Abarbanel and the Concept of Peshat

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began arguably the most important speech of his life, his controversial 2014 address to Capitol Hill with the following words. Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the Book of Esther. We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy ... Read more →