Issue 9.4: Hassidut

Hassidism was founded in the eighteenth century by Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer of Medzhibozh - better known as the Ba’al Shem Tov, or “Besht” - in the wake of the Khmelnitsky Massacres and Sabbateanism. Preaching the fundamental value of emotional religious fervor, appreciation of Godliness in the mundane, and the profundity of simple piety, Hassidism quickly took European Jewry by storm, attracting thousands of followers even as it became the subject of significant controversy.  Read more →

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Latest Articles

Keeping Our Oldest Story Relevant – The Haggadah of Don Yitzchak Abarbanel

Storytelling[1] has been a part of Jewish history since the inception of the Jewish nation. One of the first commandments we received as a nation was a multi-part commandment to tell the story of the Exodus from slavery over to our children – “and you shall tell your son on that day ... Read more →

The Science of the Past: Reading History on Shabbat

May one read history books on Shabbat? Although it may seem to be an innocuous activity, reading history actually poses several halakhic and hashkafic problems, some of which may apply even during the week. Perhaps a better question is, may one read history books at all? Various sources address ... Read more →

The Missing Two Hundred Years and the Historical Veracity of Hazal

Modern Jews often encounter a tug of war between scholarship and rabbinic tradition. Hazal have left us with an extensive and exacting record of what to do and what to believe. It is our task to sift through this record and determine which parts of this record are incumbent upon us today. While ... Read more →

Comparing the Parallel Historical Accounts of the Talmud and Josephus

Several historical accounts found in the Talmud are paralleled by accounts recorded earlier in the works of Josephus, the first-century Roman Jewish historian. While the rabbinic sages of the Talmud (Hazal) surely had historical traditions of their own, they likely had traditions from sources ... Read more →

Jewish Identity Informed by Historical Consciousness: A Contemporary Orthodox Perspective

In a recently published essay, Rabbi Dr. Carmi Horowitz presents a reverent intellectual-biographical sketch of his formidable teacher, the late Professor Isadore Twersky. In the course of describing the legacy of the complicated man who was simultaneously heir to the Talner Hassidic dynasty, a ... Read more →

Of Perspective and Paradox: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Analysis of Holiness

In[1] the opening of his famous essay “Sacred and Profane,” Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik writes, “In the same fashion that kodesh and hol form the spiritual framework of our halakha, so do the kodesh and hol determine the dichotomy of living experience into sacred and profane… This ... Read more →

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and the Problem of Biblical Criticism

Did the Rav, R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, deal with the major theological issues that result from the conclusions of Biblical criticism?[1] On the face of it, he did not. In fact, he seemed generally unconcerned with the historical-critical method that so dominates academia. In part based on this ... Read more →

Editor’s Thoughts: Nature and Its Discontents

  The word “nature” is rich with differing meanings. When a chemist describes something as “natural,” a purveyor of organic food products might disagree[i]. One person’s proclivity in any number of realms might be described as unnatural by those who do not share them, but is ... Read more →

Art, Torah, and Nature: An Interview with Rabbi Ozer Glickman

Rabbi Ozer Glickman is a Rosh Yeshivah at RIETS and teaches about the intersection of Halakhah and business at Sy Syms School of Business. Over the last few months, Rabbi Glickman and I have chatted about a number of topics. Through these conversations, his deep knowledge of art history, the ... Read more →

The Natural and Spiritual Light: The Duality of Hanukkah

Idolatry, the single greatest temptation of the ancient Jew, holds the attention of the biblical narrative with a choking grip until the destruction of the first Temple. Rambam explains this obsession as a gradual evolution.[i] When man first bowed to the luminary bodies he did so as an ... Read more →

Bricks and Stones: On Man’s Subdual of Nature

Like so many of the stories that make up the first sections of Bereshit, the Torah’s account of the Babylonian bricklayers, builders of the “Tower of Babel,” is extraordinarily cryptic. Interpretations abound, and one would not be hard-pressed to find many varied explanations of this ... Read more →

For it is not in Heaven…or is it?: On the Halakhot and Hashkafot of Space Travel

On the twentieth of July 1969, after four days of travel, two men set foot on the moon for the first time in history. Hundreds of millions heard Commander Neil Armstrong’s famous words “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” as he traversed the final frontier.[i] The ... Read more →

The Jewish Response to the Theory of Evolution

The question of how to proceed when science and Torah seem to be in conflict is not new among rabbinic figures. Over the centuries, various strategies have been used to provide what is, in the views of each individual rabbinic authority, the proper approach when this occurs, whether it be ... Read more →

Of Sensitivity and Humility: An Exposition of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein’s Approach to the Suffering of Others

  Over the course of the last century, two immeasurably significant events occurred in Jewish history. The first was the Holocaust, which consisted of the murder of six million Jews and the suffering of countless more. The second was the establishment of the State of Israel, a redemption ... Read more →