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Rabbinic Figures

Where Did the Gaon Go? Where Did the Gaon Go?
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 by Lawrence Grossman | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Eliyahu Stern's new book portrays the Vilna Gaon as Eastern Europe's Moses Mendelssohn.  But can the ascetic, who backed the persecution of Hasidim, seriously be associated with individualism and democracy?
The Most Influential Jewish Philosopher You Never Heard Of The Most Influential Jewish Philosopher You Never Heard Of
Monday, November 12, 2012 by Diane Cole | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Adapt or die: this principle now permeates discussions among not just biologists but anthropologists, sociologists, and even theologians seeking the origins of religion in an evolutionary need for group survival.  
Max Lilienthal’s Aborted Return Max Lilienthal’s Aborted Return
Wednesday, October 31, 2012 by Allan Arkush | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

In Bruce L. Ruben’s new biography Max Lilienthal: The Making of the American Rabbinate, about one of the pioneers of the American Reform movement, I was surprised to learn that Lilienthal almost made a second trip to Tsarist Russia.
The Brain Death Wars The Brain Death Wars
Thursday, September 13, 2012 by Shlomo Zuckier | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

When does a human life end? A 2010 monograph by a rabbinic body, a recent book by an independent scholar, and a forthcoming book by another rabbinic organization are the most recent entries in what is among the most discussed halakhic debates of recent times.
The Birth of Conservative Judaism The Birth of Conservative Judaism
Tuesday, July 10, 2012 by Lawrence Grossman | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

My little corner of Queens, New York, where the six Conservative synagogues that existed two decades ago have dwindled to two, epitomizes the national movement. 
Englishing the Talmud Englishing the Talmud
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

According to a rabbinic tradition recorded in the Talmud (Shabbat 12b), God’s angels do not understand the Aramaic language in which the Talmud itself is mainly composed. As many a modern reader can testify, they’re hardly alone.
The Chained Wife The Chained Wife
Thursday, June 14, 2012 by Micah Stein | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Yafa Friedman lives in a modest, two-story townhouse in Brooklyn. This past Sunday, the shades were drawn as a group of 30 protestors marched outside the house chanting, "Yafa Friedman—stop the abuse!"
Sleepless on Shavuot Sleepless on Shavuot
Thursday, May 24, 2012 by Moshe Sokolow | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Two practices long associated with Shavuot, the "time of the revelation of the Law" (z'man matan Torateinu), are the enrolling of children in religious school and the marathon all-night study vigil (tikkun leyl Shavuot).
Make Yourself a Teacher Make Yourself a Teacher
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The meanings of "Torah" are inexhaustible, but its plainest sense is "teaching." It does not exist apart from being communicated. That circulation between human beings, and between humans and God, both gives Torah life and teaches us that Torah itself teaches life.
Hitting the Jackpot Hitting the Jackpot
Thursday, March 8, 2012 by Micah Stein | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Who doesn't like Purim? Besides the costumes and candy, the story itself has all the politics, sex, and violence of a juicy HBO series. In case you missed it: "Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted to destroy the Jews, and had cast a pur—that is, a lottery—with intent to crush and exterminate them."
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Editors' Picks
Memorializing the Rav David Shatz, YU News. On the occasion of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik's 20th yahrzeit, some thoughts on how his thought will be conveyed to a generation that did not know him.
Rashi the Preacher Martin Lockshin, H-Net. The medieval rabbi Rashi has traditionally been viewed as an analyst of biblical text.  But a new book argues that some of Rashi’s commentary was less exegesis than pedagogy.
The Jew and the Giant Olive Natan Slifkin, Rationalist Judaism. The midrash says a person should eat an olive's worth of matzah at the Seder.  But halakhists today reckon the amount required at 10 times the size of an actual olive.
Deconstructing Dayeinu Avi Shafran, Cross-Currents. "Would it really have 'been enough for us' had God not, say, split the Red Sea, trapping our ancestors between the water and the Egyptian army?"
Plato and the Haggadah Nathan Lopes Cardozo, Cardozo Academy. In the Phaedrus, Plato bemoans the inadequacy of the written word.  So too, on Seder night, it is not sufficient for us to read the Haggadah—we must hear it.
Rav Ovadia’s Revolution , Menachem Mendel. “Like Coca-Cola, l’havdil”: A video documentary on the idiosyncratic, infuriating genius of the Baghdadi gaon and the transformation of Sephardic Jewry in Israel.
The Underside of Uman Cnaan Liphshiz, JTA. Every Rosh Hashanah, thousands of Hasidim make a pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav in Uman, Ukraine—and many end up in the hospital.
Rabbis for Slavery Howard B. Rock, Tablet. Today, New York’s Bnai Jeshurun Synagogue is a bastion of progressive politics. But on the eve of the Civil War, its rabbi was a champion of slavery.  A cautionary tale.
Election Year Dos and Don’ts Susan Paykin, Religious Action Center. The Reform movement’s RAC explains what the IRS says a rabbi can and can’t do during an election campaign.  Unfortunately, the lines are a little blurry.
Two Rabbis, Two Philosophies Daniel Treiman, Times of Israel. At the recent political conventions, Rabbi David Wolpe and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik each spoke powerfully to the contrasting political ideologies of the parties that they were addressing.