Two Forms of Greatness

Rabbi David Hartman Z”L, was an important figure in the world of Jewish studies. In his youth, Rabbi Hartman was a student of the great Torah giant, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik of blessed memory. When David Hartman was a young student, Rabbi Soloveitchik strongly encouraged Hartman to pursue a master’s degree in philosophy. But Hartman was […]

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Noah: The Solipsistic Tzadik

The Chassidic sages teach us that when it’s cold and glum outside there are basically two things we can do. One is to put on a fur coat and just keep ourselves warm. The other is to start a fire – thereby keeping others warm and safe as well. Noah was a tzadik in a […]

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Human Nature: A Torah Perspective

Our parashah ends on a somber and dreary note, as the Almighty is allegorically saddened to His core, and regrets having created Homo Sapiens. Why? Because “Man’s inclination is evil from his youth.” The Torah, unlike some other philosophies, does not believe that we are all inherently altruistic and compassionate by our very nature. The […]

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On Love and Truth

The concluding Aliyah of the entire Torah, which we read on Simchat Torah, narrates the death of Moses. The Torah states: “And the children of Israel wept for Moses” (Deuteronomy 34:8). Rashi notices that when Aaron died, the Torah implies that the national mourning following the death of Aaron was even more encompassing then the […]

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Time To Rejoice

Following the intensity of the High Holy Days, we celebrate Sukkot. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) sees Sukkot as a healthy counterbalance to the intensity and gravity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Spiritually, the Sukkot represent G-d’s protection for the Jewish people across the millennia. Historically, Sukkot is also known as the “Holiday of […]

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What is Judaism?

For some people, Judaism is chiefly about the community, and its spirit of togetherness and camaraderie. For others, who are more philosophically inclined, Judaism is mainly about a set of theological principles, which describe the tenets of Jewish spiritual belief and ideology. For others still, Judaism is primarily about concrete religious practice – the implementation […]

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It’s All About Your Family

Rosh Hashanah, according to the liturgy and the Talmud, is supposed to be, inter alia, about creation writ large, and the creation of humanity in particular. However, the Torah and Haftarah readings for Rosh Hashanah discuss family rupture, rather than creation. We read about a family breakup – the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael (which […]

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Two Kinds of Enemies

We read this Shabbat a text which also appears in the Passover Haggadah. This text includes the following three words: “Arami Oved Avi” (ארמי אובד אבי).There are two ways to understand these words. According to Rashi and the midrash in Sifre, it means that there was an Arami (a person from a place called Aram) […]

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The Ultimate Battle

Lamentably, when wars break out, all-too-often soldiers give free reign to their lower and animalistic drives. In the absence of law enforcement, in the mayhem of the battlefields, terrible crimes are committed against helpless victims, including defenseless women. The opening mitzvah of our parashah commands a Jew who captured a female POW to let her […]

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Justice: A Jewish Invention

Hitler claimed that “Conscience is a Jewish invention”. He was right. In the words of the great Catholic historian, Paul Johnson: “All the great conceptual discoveries of the human intellect seem obvious and inescapable once they had been revealed, but it requires a special genius to formulate them for the first time. The Jews had […]

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