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Jewish Thought

Rav Ovadia Rav Ovadia
Tuesday, October 12, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

One of the more outsized personalities in Israel's history is Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the longtime head of the Shas political party, who has just marked his ninetieth birthday.  The foreign public knows of him, vaguely, as a right-wing fanatic. But the truth and perhaps the tragedy of the man are far more complicated and fascinating.
Romancing Hasidism Romancing Hasidism
Thursday, October 7, 2010 by Allan Nadler | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Hasidism has a long history of concurrently repelling and enchanting modern Jews. Today, its distinguishing features—isolationism, religious fanaticism, and aggressive rejection of all things modern, including not only non-Orthodox Judaism but the very idea of secularity—are inexplicable, if not abhorrent, to much of world Jewry.
The God of the Kabbalists The God of the Kabbalists
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Judaism is often thought of, with justice, as a religion in which faith and dogma take a back seat to behavior and action. Yet the library of Jewish theology is rich—or at least it once was. For many religious Jews today, the multiple dislocations of the last few centuries have left a void where God used to be.  Increasingly, though, and not a little surprisingly, that void is being filled by sophisticated theological works informed by the seemingly obscure and fantastic doctrines of Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition.
Be Joyful Be Joyful
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Alongside the more colorful and distinctive rituals of the Sukkot festival—the taking-up of lulav and etrog, the sukkah itself—there is another command, less concrete and more penetrating: "And you will rejoice." Indeed, the passage in Deuteronomy (16: 14-15) concludes, v'hayita akh sameah, translatable as "you will be altogether joyful," or even "you will be only joyful."
The Best Proletarian Novel Ever Written The Best Proletarian Novel Ever Written
Thursday, September 16, 2010 by D.G. Myers | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Comparisons between the Great Depression and current economic conditions "remain relevant," says the financial columnist Robert Samuelson—"and unsettling." Economic growth for this year's second quarter was a paltry 1.6 percent; unemployment hovers above 9.5 percent; sales of existing homes have fallen to their lowest rate in more than a decade; consumers show little sign of having recovered their confidence. At such a moment, American literature must surely be ripe for a revival of the Marxist-inspired "proletarian novel."
A Grim Teaching A Grim Teaching
Friday, August 27, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Every first-year law student knows that hard cases make bad law. In Israel, a particularly hard case lies in the ongoing controversy around an inflammatory Hebrew-language volume of Jewish religious law (halakhah) that offers justifications for violent treatment of non-Jews in general and of Israel's foes in particular. The debate has highlighted longstanding divisions within Israeli society; now that the courts and the police have gotten into the act, it has also highlighted the difficulties of drawing meaningful lines between free speech and incitement.
Psalms for the Perplexed Psalms for the Perplexed
Wednesday, August 18, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Some mainstream Israeli musicians have recently been turning for material to religious texts; others have become immersed in the musical traditions of Sephardi Jewry. The two trends have come together in a new album, Mizmorei Nevukhim ("Psalms for the Perplexed"), by Kobi Oz.
The Soul and the Machine The Soul and the Machine
Thursday, August 12, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The astounding growth of the Internet, computer technology, and artificial intelligence is a commonplace of our time; so is the challenge each poses to familiar ways of commerce and culture, and even to our basic understandings of humanity. Some of the farthest reaches of these developments are expressed in the "singularity" envisioned by the futurologist Raymond Kurzweil: a dazzling world in which, by the end of this century, humans will have so thoroughly merged with fog-like nano-computers that our bodies will no longer have a fixed form and we will, at long last, wield total control over—or be wholly at the mercy of?—an utterly...
Kabbalah and its Discontents Kabbalah and its Discontents
Friday, August 6, 2010 by Aryeh Tepper | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Aside from a small circle of students and admirers, Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag was an unknown figure at his death in 1954. Today, religious schools and New Age "educational centers" around the world are actively spreading his ideas, and his writings are being analyzed by professors and graduate students. After spending an hour in the rabbi's stone mausoleum, the pop-diva Madonna emerged with tears in her eyes. Who was this person to whom scores of pious (and impious) Jews and non-Jews are turning for inspiration?
The Other Talmud The Other Talmud
Friday, July 16, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

A Jewish classic known as much for its obscurity as for its great significance took another step into the light this spring with the online publication of its oldest and most reliable version. The classic is the Jerusalem Talmud, and the version is a parchment manuscript, known as the Leiden manuscript, written in 1289 by a Jewish scholar and copyist in Rome.
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Editors' Picks
Plato and the Talmud Alan Avery-Peck, Review of Biblical Literature. Philosophically, "Athens" and "Jerusalem" represent wholly incompatible viewpoints on the truth. Not so, argues a new book. (PDF)
Budget with the Bathwater Jerusalem Post. The Trajtenberg Committee on Socioeconomic Change is wise to advise Israel not to jettison the responsible fiscal policies that helped it weather the 2008 economic crisis.
Seven Thousand Ways to Say "Happy New Year" Lydia Aisenberg, Givat Haviva. Telling the story of Zionism through Rosh Hashanah greeting cards. (With images.)
Forgive Me Moshe Halbertal, Jewish Review of Books. In explaining the laws of forgiveness, the Talmud relies on stories, adding uncommon depth not only to the law but to the theme of forgiveness itself.
Brave New World Mary J. Loftus, Huffington Post. A law professor and Orthodox rabbi contends that new reproductive technologies should be embraced—cautiously, and within limits—for the good they can do.
Toward a Jewish Humanism Shai Held, Haaretz. The moral philosophy embraced by a religious-Zionist leader in the mid-20th century is in urgent need of revival.
Bibi's Brain Allison Hoffman, Tablet. Netanyahu's senior adviser, an American Jew, has done more to shape Israel's relationships in recent years than any man aside from the prime minister himself.
Expert Deception Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz. Israel's social protesters are appealing to the authority of a "team of experts"—really just utopian fantasists making elementary economic errors.
May a Jew Say “Jehovah”? Ari Enkin, Torah Musings. Whatever the true pronunciation of the Hebrew letters Y-H-V-H, it surely is not the first word in the name of the well-known Christian group.
Torah Archeology Yair Ettinger, Haaretz. Breaking an unwritten taboo, the first ultra-Orthodox conference on the findings of biblical archeology has been held before a packed audience.