Articles by Alex Maged

“He Spoke Within a Cloud”: A Nebulous Narrative and its Normative Implications

Upon receiving news of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, sets off to meet the nation in the desert. Now Moses’ father in law, Jethro, the chieftain of Midian, heard all that God had done for Moses and for Israel, His people—that the Lord had taken Israel ... Read more →

What is Divine “Power?”

  Can God create a rock so heavy that even He cannot lift it? Theologians have been debating this question, known formally as the “omnipotence paradox,” since at least the middle ages. In a sense, the premise behind it is nonsensical: to suggest that something unlimited might actually ... Read more →

Cross-Pollination as a Method of Biblical Interpretation: A Case Study

When we pick up a work of military theory or a history of war, we expect it to be written clearly, factually, and to-the-point.  Metaphors, symbolism, and allegory belong to Du Fu, not to Sun Tzu; to Sophocles, not to Thucydides; to von Goethe, not to von Clausewitz. In most cases, our Torah ... Read more →

Moshe Strikes the Rock: Failed Leadership, or Failed “Followership?”

I. A well-known Native American proverb states: “Never criticize a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” This is straightforward advice, yet it can be notoriously difficult to implement. According to social psychologists, we tend to underestimate the role that people’s ... Read more →

On the Role of Reason in the Ethical Thought of Aristotle and R. Saadia Ga’on

Left[1] to their own devices, most animals do what they want, when they want. When they’re hungry, they eat. When they’re thirsty, they drink.  When they’re aroused, they copulate. When they’re tired, they sleep. In short, animals spend their days satisfying their instincts. And why ... Read more →

If Men Were Angels

1. “The Torah was not given to the ministering angels” On February 6, 1788, James Madison, the “father of the American constitution,” published Federalist No. 51, in which he outlined his plan for limiting the power of the federal government. “If men were angels, no government would ... Read more →

“And Isaac Brought Rebecca into the Tent”: A Patriarch’s Plea for Privacy

When the Midianite prophet Balaam attempts to curse the Israelites in the wilderness, Hashem frustrates his plans so that blessings issue forth instead. The elevated language and vague eschatological references which characterize these blessings render them notoriously difficult to decipher. ... Read more →

The Philology of Freedom: A Diachronic Analysis of Herut and Hofshiut

Many speak of Pesach as the festival of freedom, but the idea of “freedom” is rather abstract. Like “love,” “happiness” and “goodness,” “freedom” is an axiologically-loaded word whose import we intuitively apprehend yet whose precise meaning remains deceptively difficult to ... Read more →

Oblique References to the Philistines in the Story of the Ark’s Relocation to Jerusalem

In the second book of Samuel, King David capitalizes on a period of (temporary) calm by arranging for the relocation of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. There are many independent elements to this narrative, many of them puzzling, and each deserving attention in its own right. Let us begin ... Read more →

Is Teshuva Fair? Two Contemporary Views Regarding the Mechanisms of Repentance

Ever since we were children our teachers have taught us to believe that God will forgive our misdeeds if we perform teshuvah. Year after year we review this cardinal teaching of our faith, so that by the time we have graduated out of the Jewish day school system we practically take it for ... Read more →