Guest Posts

Bereishit and Allegory

R Eli Clark / Is it possible that science and Torah do not conflict, for the simple reason that they do not discuss the same issues? Can we say that science addresses only the physical world, while Torah deals with the metaphysical? Regarding the age of the universe, two recent Hirhurim posts addressed the apparent conflict between Torah sources and modern science. One poster (link) assumed that the conflict is real and cannot be resolved; therefore, he concludes that scientific cosmology must be rejected in favor of his reading of Torah sources. The other poster (link) asserted that there is authoritative precedent for interpreting Torah sources in accordance with the conclusions of modern science, thus eliminating any apparent conflict.

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Biblical Hebrew, Then and Now

Prof Shlomo Karni / As slaves in Egypt, did the children of Israel enjoy watermelons? Did young David go into a decisive battle carrying a school bag? Was there electricity in ancient Babylonia, during the exile and the time of the prophet Ezekiel? Curious? Read on. Scholars of the Hebrew language discovered that some 80% of Modern Hebrew is based on biblical Hebrew. Imagine, for a moment, that a time- machine could transport King David to today’s Jerusalem — a time span of some 3,000 years. He would manage quite well, thank you, with his Hebrew.

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Tikvah Fundamentalism?

R Elli Fischer / As I write this, I remain of two minds regarding the need to respond to Zachary Braiterman’s recent article, “Conservative Money and Jewish Studies: Investigating the Tikvah Fund,” which appeared in ZEEK and eJewish Philanthropy. On one hand, he levels a variety of accusations against an entity that I believe is doing a lot of good and important work. On the other hand, I wonder whether there is even a need to respond because even if he is correct he may still be wrong. One man’s reductio ad absurdum is the next man’s in hakhi nami (what one person deems outrageous the next deems perfectly reasonable).

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Hair Covering By A Bride

R Michael Broyde / As is widely known (see Yechave Da’at 5:62 for a review), there is a dispute among the poskim about when a bride needs to start covering her hair. Some say after erusin, some say after nesuin, some say after yichud, and some say not until the next morning. In my reply to Rabbi Shulman, entitled “Hair Covering and Jewish Law: A Response” which was published in Tradition 43:2 89-108 (2010) I made the following claim:

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9/11 Ten Years Later

R Basil Herring / It was said at the time that on 9/11 our world had changed forever. And indeed it was true – in the first place for the 2,976 grieving families who would never again see the smile, or experience the hug, of their husband, wife, mother, father, son, daughter, or cherished one. And in the second place, it was, and remains, true for those men and men in uniform who have protected each and every one of us with their exemplary selflessness. We are reminded of their heroic sacrifices large and small, offered in the penumbra of 9/11, whenever we see the names, and sometimes pictures, of the young, vital, and earnest, men and women in uniform killed before their time. Of course those who are “merely” wounded, in body or in soul, all too often remain unknown and unappreciated. But indebted we are, to all of them, for the fact that to date 9/11 has not been repeated on these shining shores in any similar fashion.

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Does Modern Orthodoxy Not Believe in Fun?

Avi Woolf / In the latest issue of Tradition (44:2), Rabbi Yitzchak Blau unleashed a powerful and thorough, if scattershot, critique of television from the point of view of the ideals of Modern Orthodoxy. Rabbi Blau argued emphatically in favor of getting rid of the television in the house, and having children and adults spend their time more constructively. This can be done by reading newspaper articles on serious issues of the day, reading serious books like Dostoevsky and generally being an intelligent religious Jew and democratic citizen.

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The Question of Time

R Moshe Meiselman / One of the outstanding areas of contention between the Torah’s teachings and current mainstream scientific thinking is the subject of dating. The perceived conflicts associated with this multifaceted topic seem to be, prima facie, irresolvable. The issue is not a new one. It was first discussed in our sources in medieval times. Ever since Aristotle science had claimed that the world had no beginning. His attitude was that the world has always existed just as we see it today. In more recent times Newton’s laws together with Laplace’s work seemed to have proven this conclusively.

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Blurring Distinctions in Theology, Geology and Paleontology

R Natan Slifkin / The new journal Dialogue includes an article by Rabbi Moshe Meiselman of Yeshivas Toras Moshe, entitled “A Question of Time,” which presents an approach regarding the age of the universe. But Rabbi Meiselman’s article does not just present itself as a suggestion. Rather, he entirely denies the legitimacy – not just the technical correctness – of alternatives.

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Controversy or Contrivance?

Rabbis Yosef Wiener and Yosef Ifrah / R. Broyde’s thesis is that the violation of complete uncovering of women’s hair is included under the category of das yehudis and therefore subject to local custom. This contradicts an explicit Talmudic passage in Kesubos 72a-b that the prohibition is das moshe and therefore an objective prohibition not subject to local custom. R. Broyde attempts to prove that this passage is not authoritative (lo kehalacha). However, his proofs are inadequate and riddled with logical flaws. Furthermore, no single Rishon indicates that the passage is not authoritative; in fact, many Rishonim and Acharonim clearly present it as normative Halacha. Tur and Shulchan Aruch,as well, do not consider it das yehudis; they are merely citing the text of the Mishna in Kesubos above.

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Keep the Conversation Honest

R. Aryeh Frimer / In the opening article, “Orthodox Feminism: Keeping the Conversation Honest,”[2] appearing in the first issue of Dialogue, R. Eytan Kobre attacks the theology and halakhic methodology of some of the more radical proponents of “Orthodox Feminism.” En passant, he also finds Modern Orthodoxy guilty of hypocrisy. This is because, on the one hand, the latter charge Haredi publications with hagiography and lack of historicity, while at the same time tolerating the misrepresentation of Jewish law and principles of faith by Modern Orthodoxy’s left flank (top of p. 2).

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