Guest Posts

John Hick and Orthodox Judaism

Prof Yehuda Gellman / On February 9, 2012, John Hick, one of the world’s leading and most famous philosophers of religion, passed away in Birmingham, England. Hick wrote or edited scores of books and for the past 50 years or so was the center of much discussion and controversy in philosophy of religion. Hick, a Christian, defended the meaningfulness of religious language when it was under attack by logical positivists and defended admirably against the problem of evil. Most of all, Hick advanced what he called “religious pluralism,” which he said was the view that there existed a supreme reality, he called it the “Real,” that was beyond our comprehension, but which was accessible by experience under various guises. These various guises were the ways different religions thought of and addressed the Real. He taught that all religions were dedicated to self-transformation away from egoistic orientation to reorientation toward the Real. At the same time, he said, the particular doctrines of a religion were not necessarily to be taken as true, but as ways of conceiving of the Real from different historical and cultural vantage points and varying means for self-transformation.

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Afikoman For The Brain

Afikoman For The Brain or: Four Post-Seder Questions Guest post by Shlomo Karni Shlomo Karni was Professor of Electrical Engineering and Religious Studies at University of New Mexico until his retirement in 1999. His books include Dictionary of Basic Biblical Hebrew:Hebrew-English (Jerusalem: Carta, 2002). Where do you find the words וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב at the end of the sentence? Where do ...

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Second Day in Israel

R Jonathan Cohen / An ancient enactment requires Diaspora Jews to observe Yom Tov Sheni, the second day of holiday. Their conduct when they visit Israel for the holiday is a matter of debate. While many classical authorities adopted the position that visitors observe two days of Yom Tov, just as they would in the Diaspora, the Chacham Tzvi is famed for ruling that they need observe only one day. See here for an excellent exposition of this well-known dispute. Increasingly well-known is the so-called “day-and-a-half” position, whereby some observances of Yom Tov Sheni are observed, especially the prohibition of melacha, while for other purposes the day is treated as a weekday or Chol HaMoed, as the case may be. Confusingly for the would-be visitor, there are a wide range of such “day-and-a-half” positions, each with different conceptual underpinnings and practical ramifications. Some of these positions rule essentially in one direction while being stringent to take into account the other position, while others seek an intrinsic balance on a fundamental basis, ruling that one is required to literally “split the day,” observing the second day for some purposes and not for others.

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Entry into a Church

R Michael Broyde / You asked me a very good question, and I take pen in hand to write you a reply. You asked whether my article from a few years ago, in which I noted that I thought that a communal leader may enter a church for the sake of hatzalat yisrael (the long term saving of Jewish lives, even when no specific life in in danger now)[1] , is consistent with the views recently expressed by our mutual teacher Rabbi Bleich שליט”אin his excellent and thoughtful analysis in Tradition regarding the entering of churches more generally (“Entering a Non-Jewish House of Worship” Tradition 44:2 73-103, 2011).[2] Indeed, a number of people have asked me if my analysis is consistent with what Rabbi Bleich put forward, and that is a tribute to his greatness as a teacher and as a scholar. Inconsistencies between my views and Rabbi Bleich’s should always be resolved in his favor, as the poskim clearly state, that disputes between a student and a teacher are always resolved in favor of the teacher; see Sanhedrin 110a. Su

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Compact And Rich

Prof Shlomo Karni / Lexicographers and linguists tell us that Biblical Hebrew has some 8,000 words in all –small by comparison to, say, Shakespeare’s English (around 20,000), or modern English (450,000). Despite such compactness, Biblical Hebrew has numerous rich lodes of words which are specifically unique to one – and only one – idea (noun, verb, etc.) on the one hand, and several synonyms on the other. Let us list just a few examples

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Selling to Buffett

R Jon Gross / “There are Jews in Nebraska??” That is the first question that every Jew from Omaha is asked when they travel outside of Omaha.The second question is always, “Do you know Warren Buffett?” It never fails. As the chief Rabbi of the state of Nebraska people also asked me things like, “does he come to shul?” and of course, “Can you get him to give money to the shul?” I have to admit, it got to me. I started to think that there was something wrong with me in that I had not established a solid friendship with one of the richest and most sought after people in the world. After all, he does live in the same city as me. And why isn’t he one of my donors? He has plenty of cash, surely he could spare a few bucks for Beth Israel Synagogue!

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Compassion for All Creatures

R David Sears / “God is good to all, and His mercy is upon all His works” (Psalms 145:9). This verse is the touchstone of the rabbinic attitude toward animal welfare, appearing in a number of contexts in Torah literature. The Torah espouses an ethic of compassion for all creatures, and affirms the sacredness of life. These values are reflected by the laws prohibiting tza’ar baalei chaim (cruelty to animals) and obligations for humans to treat animals with care. At first glance, the relevance of the above verse may seem somewhat obscure. It speaks of God, not man. However, a basic rule of Jewish ethics is the emulation of God’s ways. In the words of the Talmudic sages: “Just as He clothes the naked, so shall you clothe the naked. Just as He is merciful, so shall you be merciful…”[1] Therefore, compassion for all creatures, including animals, is not only God’s business; it is a virtue that we, too, must emulate. Moreover, rabbinic tradition asserts that God’s mercy supersedes all other Divine attributes. Thus, compassion must not be reckoned as one good trait among others; rather, it is central to our entire approach to life.

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“To Be” Or Not “To Be”

Prof Shlomo Karni / The verb “to be” (root: ה-י-ה or ה-ו-ה ) is among the most common in the Bible, as it is in other languages. Yet, it has several singular properties in the present tense of the frequent ‘simple’ stem (בִּנְיָן קַל, פָּעַל). We examine a few of those here. (A discussion of the forms and meanings of tenses in the Bible, especially the ‘exchange’ of meanings among the past, present, and future tenses — as compared to Post-biblical and current meanings— is found in, e.g., [1], [2], [3].)

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Who Is Poor On Purim?

Dear Rabbi Broyde, Here is my situation. I live in a well to do area and I am, by communal standards, very poor. We have nearly a baseball team of children all under 20, one of who has always been ill, and I work at a fine job that pays much less than most people in our community earn. Our home is somewhat run down as we cannot afford to maintain it, and many of the things that other children have in the community, my children do not have (but want), most of which are toys and luxuries but some of which we would like to have, also. So, we all share two cell phones, we almost never eat red meat, have no cable television and borrow our neighbors’ Wi-Fi for internet use on our only computer.

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Fossils and Faith

Prof Nathan Aviezer / I recently became aware of an essay by Mark Perakh, devoted solely to the theme that my book, In the Beginning, is total nonsense. Perakh’s essay, bearing the sarcastic title “The End of the Beginning,” is riddled with errors. Indeed, every page of his essay contains blatant errors, false claims, and illogical conclusions, as will now be shown. Before beginning my detailed critique of Perakh’s essay, there is a very important point to be made. In my books, I never bring any scientific facts or scientific arguments or scientific conclusions of my own. I always quote the leading scientific authorities. Therefore, when Perakh claims that my scientific discussion is all wrong, he is really asserting that the world-famous scientists whom I quote do not know what they are talking about. The reader should have no difficulty in choosing between accepting Perakh’s claims or accepting the scientific statements of Nobel Prize winners and scientists at the world’s most distinguished universities.

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