Hashkafah Category

Jewish Commentaries on Christianity

by R. Gil Student In the past, we have discussed briefly the halakhic debate over how to categorize the religion of Christianity within Jewish law. Does the incorrect belief in a trinity constitute polytheism or the worship of God and other beings (shituf)? Either way, it is forbidden under the Sinaitic covenant but if it is shituf, there are some ...

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Shul Challenges: Engaging Young Adults After COVID-19

by R. Aton Holzer, MD There has been a considerable amount of discussion online regarding the return to normalcy in Jewish communal life, and in particular, to the shul, after the pandemic has finally concluded. Anecdotally, rabbis have particularly noted the absence of young families in synagogue participation during this time, even to the extent allowed, and in activities that ...

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Aaron Koller’s Sacrifice of Judaism

by R. Rafi Eis Aaron Koller’s Unbinding Isaac: The Significance of the Akedah for Modern Jewish Thought (University of Nebraska Press/JPS, 2020) is a timely analysis of some of the dangers of contemporary forms of religious fanaticism, but his conclusions promote another set of perilous contemporary attitudes. The book has two purposes. Koller first explores the morality of the Akedah, ...

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Please Don’t Think The Vaccine Can Save Us

by R. Gidon Rothstein Sadly, it needs to be said before I can get to my point. Of course, I intend to take the vaccine, with gratitude to the researchers and heath care workers who have worked diligently on producing it. I wish I could get it faster, to be able to put this time of trouble behind me, and ...

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Say Your Sins, Say Your Truth

by R. Gidon Rothstein Speech Can Be Hard Because Speech Can Be Powerful One of the many valuable insights I have retained from reading Soloveitchik On Repentance has been the Rav’s explanation for the necessity of vidui, of saying one’s sins out loud, as part of the penitential process. Aside from its value for guiding our teshuvah, I suggest it ...

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Remember Your Creator

by R. Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg The Rambam includes an unusual phrase in his description of teshuvah which, when analyzed, completely refocuses and redefines the repentance process. The Rambam writes (Hilchos Teshuvah 3:4): Although blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a decree of Scripture,[1]A commandment of the Torah for which there is no obvious rationale. there is a subtle ...

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Must We Prove That God Exists?

by R. Gil Student In the past, we have discussed at length a number of suggested proofs, or arguments, for God’s existence. There is one more approach that I would like to explore. I. Skepticism Fails Rene Descartes started modern philosophy on its path by developing the methodology of radical skepticism. He devised a method of blank slate philosophy in ...

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Speak Your Truth: Moving Forward From Coronavirus

by R. Gidon Rothstein Adam Gopnik recently warned that we react to stressors such as the novel coronavirus with ideas we already held before, a worry I too have shared (although in looking for that link, I found this one, suggesting I’m also more locked into my own idees fixes than I’d like to think).  It’s part of the reason I try to find prior sources for my ...

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It Takes Two to Disagree

by R. Gidon Rothstein Learning to Disagree: Thoughts for When the World Renews I have interrupted my usual involvement with Akedat Yitzhak for seven weeks now, because a time of tzarah, of distress, obligates a response (I vividly remember mori ve-rabi R. Lichtenstein, zt”l, quoting Ta’anit 11a’s scorn for those who eat and drink during a time of trouble as if nothing were wrong, thinking to themselves shalom alekha ...

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Harsh Words for R Tarfon, Wise Words for the Rest of Us

by R. Asher Bush The Mishah in Brachos (daf yud) records the debate between Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai whether one must recite Shma at night in a lying down position (Beis Shamai), or is it permitted to recite it in any position (Beis Hillel). Following this it also recounts an event where R Tarfon relates that he was once ...

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