Writings

There is an argument known as the Kuzari Principle. It tries to justify belief in whole swathes of the Biblical narrative, especially in the revelation at Mount Sinai. In this blog post, I hope to show that the argument is much stronger than it might seem. The name of the argument is slightly unfair, as it was first put forward not in R. Yehuda Halevi's Kuzari, but in Saadya Gaon's Emunot Vadeot.
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Rosh Hashana is a day to contemplate the need for great Jewish Ideas. A day to think big. To get out of our compartmentalized boxes. Hayom Harat Olam: Today the world is born. On Rosh Hashana the world should be newly created. This is specifically important for the future of Judaism.
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Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo Does Judaism really need animal sacrifices? Would it not be better off without them? After all, does the sacrificial cult not compromise Judaism? What does a highly ethical religion have to do with the collecting of blood in vessels and the burning of animal limbs on an altar? No doubt...
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Since the foundation of this blog, I have slowly come round to the following questions. These questions are not posted here because I have something by way of an answer to them; something that I’d wish to share. I don’t have answers. But the discussions that we’ve had on this blog have led me to...
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I’m marrying someone in a couple weeks. A lot of drama has arisen over his not being “Jewish” which made me wonder how the property of “being Jewish” works. First, the word “Jewish” can mean lots of different things. Here are some of the factors that seem relevant to people’s determination of whether or not...
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In our discussions of Eli Hirsch’s paper, this week, Aaron Segal raised the following criticism of Hirsch’s general approach to the Talmud. Segal said:   ‘We might wonder whether Hirsch’s assumption [that the disputants in the Talmud were making claims about the metaphysical nature of identity] compromises, to one degree or other, the religious value...
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  There is certainly much of interest in this excellent article both for philosophers and for Talmudists (and even more for those who are both).  I want to focus on just one issue, which is briefly addressed at several points in the article and which I take to be of some importance.  I tried to...
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I have read Professor Hirsch’s paper with much interest and enjoyment. I think that his article provides a benchmark for good scholarship in the philosophy of Judaism. I have a few questions on the paper, all of which are clarificatory. I would be interested to hear others’ thoughts on these points: 1. Is there any...
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After a discussion I had with my brother about the nature of Torah study (is it merely an intellectual exercise or something more?) I started wondering about the following issue after he quoted a relevant point related to Tisha be’Av, which was yesterday and is the day commemorating the destruction of both temples, among other...
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Having spent some time thinking about medieval approaches to the freewill problem – the apparent contradiction between God’s foreknowledge and our freedom – Rabbi Herzl Hefter introduced me to the work of the Chassidic Rebbe, R. Mordechai Yosef Leiner, otherwise known as the Izbicer. In this blog, I want to present what I take to...
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by Ben Elton Leopold Zunz (1794-1886) famously remarked that the Jewish Middle Ages did not come to an end until the French Revolution. He was making the important point that a state or religion does not become modern simply because it is exists in modern times. To be modern it must engage with modernity. The...
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When we established this blog, I wrote to the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Lord Sacks. He is surely one of the greatest living rabbis and one of the greatest living Jewish philosophers/thinkers/leaders, so, I asked him what he thought were the major tasks for the next generation of Jewish...
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So if one reads the philosophical literature on God’s relationship to time (e.g. Leftow, Swinburne, Plantinga, Hasker, Wierenga), one encounters the following phenomenon: those arguing for God’s being outside of time will draw on certain biblical verses in support of their position. Similarly, those defending God’s being inside time draw on biblical verses in support...
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What on earth is the philosophy of Judaism? There are six elements. Each has roots in the Pentateuch. It is part of the mystery of Jewish identity that these principles produce techniques that are fecund and unembarrassing in the hands of avowed secularists.
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It strikes me that the solution proposed by Maimonides to the freewill problem has been wrongly equated with the solution put forward by Boethius. In what follows, I try to explain how the two proposals differ. I’d love to hear people’s feedback on this, as I’m no real Maimonides scholar. Have other people noted this...
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Reviewed by Andrew Pessin, Professor of Philosophy, Connecticut College: ude.l1544707067locnn1544707067oc@ni1544707067ssepa1544707067 John Lennon and the Jews (JL&J;) is an extremely original and significant book. It should be read by every Jew, no matter where he or she stands on the long spectrum between strict religious observance and determined rejection of the same. Maghen — an American-born...
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