From The Hashkafah Files

Thinking About God and Natural Disasters

Religious philosophy is replete with vibrant, sometimes desperate, reconciliations of divine justice and mortal experience. Explanations abound for why bad things happen to good people and good things to bad. But why bother? Why should so many great minds apply so much effort to this intractable problem? Put differently, since ultimately we must utilize faith somewhere in the answer, what ...

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Is History Proof?

by R. Gil Student We like to think that facts will end an argument. More often than not, they only move the battlefield. History is not a science but an art of interpretation. While historical analysis begins with careful research, it continues with inference and explanation. Both are subject to debate. In the Talmud, we find mixed responses to historical ...

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Overreading The Rambam

by R. Gil Student There are two major trends in Maimonidean interpretation–Esoteric and Harmonist–with dramatically different implications for Jewish faith. Esotericists emphasize Rambam’s use of contradictions in his Guide for the Perplexed to claim that the traditional statements of the greatest thinker in Jewish history mask his radical philosophical views. Harmonists agree that Rambam included contradictions but consider it a ...

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Minhag America and American Nationalism

by R. Gil Student In 1857, a leading reform-minded rabbi in America, Isaac Mayer Wise, published a prayer book he called Minhag America. With this publication, he attempted to unify American Jews around a single text of prayer, which of course faced immediate opposition and eventual failure. More radical reformers felt the book was too traditional and more traditional Jews ...

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