Jewish Ideas Daily has been succeeded and re-launched as Mosaic. Read more...


Tu b’Shevat: What Sorts of Trees are We? Tu b’Shevat: What Sorts of Trees are We?
Friday, January 29, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Deuteronomy 20, discussing the laws of war, and in particular siege, forbids the cutting down of fruit trees, adding, in an ambiguous and tantalizing phrase, "ki ha-adam etz ha-sadeh." The words can be translated as a simple if enigmatic statement ("for man is a tree of the field") or as a question (in the rendering of the JPS Torah,"are trees of the field human?"). The classical commentators were likewise divided. The Talmud, reading the phrase as a statement, is moved to offer a prototype of a human "tree of the field": a virtuous sage, a worthy teacher and role model. Rashi, the...
Let My People In Let My People In
Thursday, January 14, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Debates over conversion to Judaism show no sign of abating, least of all in Israel. Last week, the legal adviser to the country's chief rabbinate declared that all conversions may retroactively be annulled at any time. In the ensuing firestorm of criticism, even some on the religious Right chimed in, especially those reflecting a historically more lenient Sephardi approach. A great deal of institutional politics is involved here, including between the ultra-Orthodox in Israel and the Modern Orthodox in the United States; some of this came to light in the recent disgrace and resignation of an ultra-Orthodox foe of the moderates....
The Harshness of Creation The Harshness of Creation
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 by | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Like the 2004 tsunami that devastated southeast Asia, yesterday's catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, a poverty-stricken country with a legacy of home-grown violence and suffering, inevitably provoked the terrible question: where was God? One answer derives from Jewish religious sources, and specifically from the teachings of the Kabbalah. It has to do with tzimtzum, or contraction: that is, God's own contraction and limitation of Himself in order to make space for the finite—and invariably flawed—worlds of physical nature and human action. The idea was most famously developed in Safed, Palestine by the 16th-century kabbalist Isaac Luria as part of a complicated, esoteric myth...
The New Syncretism The New Syncretism
Friday, December 11, 2009 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

In today’s Wall Street Journal, a professor of religion casts a gimlet eye at the widespread religious promiscuity in contemporary America. “Americans are swingers as well as switchers,” he writes, “flirting with religious beliefs and practices other than their own without officially changing their religious affiliation.” As more and more Americans “are now bellying up to . . . the ‘divine deli,’” the result is a “melting down [of] the sharp edges of the world's religions,” to the detriment of all parties. Among American Jews, the best-known variant of the syncretistic syndrome is the “JewBu” phenomenon, a do-it-yourself hybrid of...
Abortion: Is There a Jewish Perspective? Abortion: Is There a Jewish Perspective?
Thursday, December 10, 2009 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Controversy over the Obama administration’s proposed overhaul of American health care has dwelled in part on the issue of public subsidization of abortion. Although the bill passed by the House upheld the status quo and banned such subsidies—to the dismay of its liberal supporters—the subject has not faded from sight. Amid the turmoil, little attention has focused on the question of abortion itself, its moral and ethical status. Is there a distinctive Jewish view of this matter? In practice, to judge by survey results and voting patterns, Jews hold the most permissive “pro-choice” views of any group in the American population,...
Page 15 of 15« First...1112131415
Editors' Picks
Whose Bible Is It Anyway? Lawrence Schiffman, It has become received wisdom that the Bible was an open canon—incomplete—when the Dead Sea Scrolls were composed.  But that is a reflection of Christian theology.
A Habsburg Hanukkah Matti Friedman, Times of Israel. How did the ornamental headgear of an Imperial soldier, emblazoned with the double-headed eagle, emblem of the Holy Roman Emperor, come to be a hanukkiah?
Hanukkah Musings Gil Student, Ari Enkin, Torah Musings. From whether a convert can recite the Al ha-Nisim blessing to how to eat a donut, here are the answers to Hanukkah questions you never thought to ask. (E-book)
Of Rabbis and Maccabees Reuben Livingstone, Jewish Chronicle. The rabbis never deny the necessity of self-defense.  So, why does the Talmud’s discussion of Hanukkah downplay the military exploits of the Maccabees?
Rain Check Arnold A. Lasker, Daniel J. Lasker, Conservative Judaism. The date on which we begin praying for rain is based on Iraqi agricultural cycles and a calendar mistake.  But it’s not likely to change before the Messiah comes.
Proving Religious People Aren’t Crazy Steve Fuller, Times Higher Education. In The God Problem, sociologist Robert Wuthnow defends believers against charges of irrationality.  The fact that he needs to do so is a sign of the times.
Your Dialogue, My Dialogue Peter Berger, American Interest. Today the Western world is inundated with interfaith dialogues.  Is the underlying reason simply the fact that religions finally see they must face a world of religious pluralism?
Chabad, the Corporation Maya Balakirsky Katz, Sh'ma. By not appointing a successor, the Rebbe sowed the seeds of Chabad's institutional transformation from a Hasidic dynasty to a successful religious corporation.
Online Ordination Josh Nathan-Kazis, Forward. As Conservative and Reform synagogues in America opt for rabbis ordained through cheap online correspondence courses, official seminaries might soon struggle to compete. 
On Judaism and Homosexuality Aharon Lichtenstein, Pages of Faith. Should Jewish communities treat homosexuals as beyond the pale even in circumstances in which they embrace people who violate the Sabbath or don’t give to charity?  (Transcribed by Dov Karoll)