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40 minutes | 24 days ago
Rabbi Sacks Bookshelves Project
Following his passing last November, TraditionOnline inaugurated The Rabbi Sacks Bookshelves Project, in tribute to R. Jonathan Sacks’ impact on the spiritual and intellectual life of our community, and examining aspects of his thought and teaching. Reading R. Sacks’ many books and listening to his lectures, one is not just impressed by his original insights and striking formulations, but also awed by his ability to integrate so many disparate sources. To read his work is to experience a well-guided tour of Matthew Arnold’s ideal of “the best that has been thought and said.” Throughout his writing, R. Sacks quotes broadly from Torah sources. Yet, he also reaches deeply into classical and contemporary writers on philosophy, history, politics, and society, including popular research in psychology, ethics, economics, and sociology. In this episode TRADITION’s associate editor Rabbi Chaim Strauchler spoke with three of the series’ many authors. They discuss why R. Sacks read and quoted the books that he did and the role those works played in his leadership and philosophy. They look at some common themes emerging from the project and the optimistic view of humanity with which R. Sacks leaves us, his readers and disciples. Our guests for the episode are: Rabbi Johnny Solomon is a teacher at Midreshet Lindenbaum and Matan, an editor at Mosaica Press, and an educational consultant. Dr. Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Jewish Studies of the University of Manchester, and at the London School of Jewish Studies. Rabbi Dr. Raphael Zarum is the Dean of the London School of Jewish Studies. TRADITION is grateful to the many authors who participated in the series, and to our partners at LSJS and at the Rabbi Sacks Legacy Trust. Watch the Zoom video recording of the conversation here.
39 minutes | 3 months ago
Decision-Making in Acute Critical Illness
The most recent issue of TRADITION (Winter 2021) contains “A Halakhic Framework for Decision-Making in Acute Critical Illness” by Judah Goldberg. The article explores the array of complicated decision making in difficult, traumatic times, including end-of-life decision making. This framework will help guide the interactions between physicians, clergy, and the acutely ill patient and his or her family in what are always, even under the best cases, complex circumstances. Rabbis Hershel Schachter and Mordechai Willig penned a “Rabbinic Postscript” which appears as an appendix to Goldberg’s proposal. Rabbi Dr. Judah Goldberg practices emergency medicine at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, at Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke, FL, and is on the teaching faculty at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerusahalayim.
29 minutes | 4 months ago
In 1953, Yale theologian H. Richard Niebuhr was asked, “To what extent did religious and specifically Christian convictions influence the development of American democracy; and, to what extent can that democracy be maintained in America, or be reproduced elsewhere, without the aid of such convictions?” In response, Niebuhr put forward a theory of America as a “covenantal community” – a model built on trust and the unspoken voluntary promise on the part of each member of the covenant that every decision one makes will be in the interests of enhancing the commonweal. Recently Daniel Friedman reflected on the trajectory of Niebuhr’s “covenant” idea and how it influenced the thought of the late R. Jonathan Sacks. Friedman did this as part of our “Rabbi Sacks Bookshelves Project,” a weekly column exploring some of the great writings in western philosophy, history, literature, social science, and more, which left their mark on R. Sacks’ writing. Friedman’s essay was authored and slated for publication weeks ago, but the production schedule meant it was coincidentally, perhaps fortuitously, published in the days following the recent unfortunate and unprecedented events in Washington, DC. In light of those events we thought it would be informative to chat with him about civil discourse, and the critical importance in binding the wounds of our society. He recently spoke with TRADITION’s Associate Editor, R. Chaim Strauchler. Together they consider practical applications for the concepts advanced by Niebuhr and R. Sacks in not “othering” our neighbors. Rabbi Daniel Friedman, senior rabbi of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, London, is completing a doctorate on American Christian attitudes to Israel. Click here to watch a Zoom video recording of the conversation.
55 minutes | 5 months ago
The COVID Vaccine and Halakha
The arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine is a long-awaited and blessed development that requires our gratitude to God, and the scientists through whom His work is done, for providing humanity the means to eradicate the pandemic and its deadly effects. In this podcast, R. Yona Reiss explains that vaccination constitutes a mitzva requirement based on the imperative of “guarding our lives” and preventing harm to others. According to halakhic triage rules, it is appropriate for those who are most vulnerable to take the vaccine first, including the elderly. Finally, he argues, we should exercise our obligation to sanctify God’s name by displaying vigilance in preserving and protecting human life. This episode was produced by TRADITION’s publisher, the Rabbinical Council of America, for its member rabbis, and is being shared with our listeners as a courtesy of the RCA and its executive director, R. Mark Dratch. For more on the obligation to vaccinate, see our recent article “Halakha Approaches the COVID-19 Vaccine” by Drs. Sharon Galper Grossman and Shamai Grossman. Click here to watch the ZOOM video recording of this episode. Rabbi Yona Reiss, a member of the TRADITION editorial board, serves as the Av Beth Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.
41 minutes | 6 months ago
Service of God in the Classroom
TRADITION’s recent Fall 2020 issue was largely dedicated to a symposium on Mahashevet Yisrael – the educational challenges and goals of Jewish thought, ably guest edited by Mali Brofsky. Among the 11 essays in the symposium, we published a piece by R. Dov Singer, “Service of God as a Unique Discipline.” Rav Dov is the Rosh Yeshiva of the Makor Chaim high school in Gush Etzion and the founder of the Beit Midrash Lehithadshut and its Lifnim educator training program. In his essay Singer laid out a theory of how to educate toward spiritual connection and meaning. In this podcast, Mali Brofsky talks with Yehuda Chanales and Rick Schindelheim, who have been working closely with Singer in applying this process to the classroom in the Fuchs Mizrachi School, in Cleveland, as part of a groundbreaking partnership with Yeshivat Makor Chaim to enhance the culture of personal and religious growth in schools. In the episode they discuss the program outlined in Singer’s article, what the program really looks like in practice, the strengths and challenges of the suggested process, and how it is transforming the culture among both teachers and students alike. R. Rick Schindelheim has taught Judaic studies at the Fuchs Mizrachi School since 2013. His informal educational experience includes over a decade of work at Camp Stone in a variety of capacities. He is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and holds a Masters and Education Specialist degrees. R. Yehuda Chanales is Director of Educational Advancement and a member of the Judaic Faculty at Fuchs Mizrachi. He was former a faculty member at the TABC and MTA high schools, and is a three-time graduate of Yeshiva University, and most recently completed a Certificate in Advanced Educational Leadership from Harvard University. Watch the Zoom video recording of the conversation: https://youtu.be/D1upPSbWv0k
31 minutes | 6 months ago
The Philosophical Legacy of Jonathan Sacks
TRADITION joins with the Jewish world, and with lovers of wisdom everywhere, in mourning the untimely loss of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who passed away on Shabbat. Rabbi Sacks served as the Chief Rabbi of United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013, and was made a Life Peer in House of Lords in 2009. For many worldwide, his influence was felt through his dozens of books, countless essays, as well as his translations and commentaries on the Hebrew Bible and prayer-books, alongside his public speaking and presence on the world stage. Rabbi Sacks spent a distinguished life and career as a profoundly eloquent teacher and spokesman for Torah values within the Jewish community and throughout the world. R. Sacks served as a member of TRADITION’s editorial board, and, in fact, his very first scholarly essay, titled “Alienation and Faith,” was published in our pages in 1973. Written as a 25 year-old, it was a response – and respectful critique – of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s “The Lonely Man of Faith,” which we had published only eight years earlier. Re-reading the essay now we can identify themes and concerns which would occupy him as his mind matured and his eloquence flourished over the next half-century. To help us absorb the shock of his loss, and begin to assess R. Sacks’ legacy, TRADITION’s editor, Jeffrey Saks, spoke with Daniel Rynhold, professor of Jewish philosophy and Dean at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University. Together, they surveyed R. Sacks’ interests and achievements as a thinker in his native Britain and worldwide. Rynhold outlines how R. Sacks functioned as both a particularistic Jewish writer and a universalistic member of the western philosophical tradition; they discuss his role and impact as a public intellectual; and consider how his legacy will impact generations to come. Rynhold, a London native, enjoyed a personal relationship with R. Sacks, and shares memories of the great man’s impact on himself – personally, professionally, and spiritually.
75 minutes | 6 months ago
The story of Akedat Yitzhak, the binding of Isaac (Gen. 22), read in synagogues this Shabbat, has posed significant philosophical challenges throughout the history of Jewish and religious thought. In his newest book, “Unbinding Isaac: The Significance of the Akedah for Modern Jewish Thought” (JPS), Aaron Koller leads his readers on a trek of discovery into this most challenging biblical story — from Soren Kierkegaard’s understanding of the Akeda as teaching suspension of ethics for the sake of faith, through the role the story plays in the thought of Rabbi Soloveitchik. TRADITION’s Fall 2020 issue featured an extensive review of Unbinding Isaac by Alex S. Ozar (open-access here). We thought it would be interesting to bring the reviewer and his subject together for a discussion about this provocative book. As you’re about to hear, they had a lot to talk about. In this wide-ranging, dynamic conversation, Koller and Ozar discuss and debate the meaning of the Akeda for contemporary Jewish practice and life; how R. Soloveitchik’s philosophical outlook was shaped by world-historical trauma and the radical intellectual environment in which the Rav received his academic training; whether contemporary society really has moved beyond human sacrifice; and how, in light of Koller’s ambitious reading of the Akeda narrative, we might follow Abraham’s lead in achieving a more just world. Aaron Koller is professor of Near Eastern Studies at Yeshiva University. His previous book was “Esther in Ancient Jewish Thought” (Cambridge University Press, 2014). Aaron has served as a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and held research fellowships at the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research and the Hartman Institute. Alex S. Ozar serves as a rabbi with OU-JLIC and the Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University, where he is also pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy and religious studies. He received a BA, MA, and semikha from Yeshiva University. His writing has appeared (or is forthcoming) in such publications as Harvard Theological Review, Journal of Religious Ethics, Torah u-Madda Journal, Dine Israel, and Jewish Quarterly Review. Click here for the Zoom video recording of this discussion.
46 minutes | 6 months ago
Jewish Thought in the Contemporary World
TRADITION’s recent Fall 2020 issue features a fascinating symposium on “Jewish Thought in the Contemporary World: Educational Challenges and Goals,” guest edited by Mrs. Mali Brofsky who writes by way of introduction: “Meaning and complexity are the two essential values that lie at the heart of learning Jewish thought. These two concepts are central to an individual’s living a purposeful life, as well as to our creating a thriving culture and society. The search for truth and meaning shapes the discipline, as well as the attempt to cut to the core ideas upon which we build our values, our interpersonal interactions, our communities, and our culture. But this endeavor cannot be achieved without the second principle, complexity, which serves as the tool enabling this discovery of truth and meaning through intellectual excavation and thoughtful sharpening of ideas. Now, more than ever, the serious study of Jewish thought, both for its content – the serious exploration of intellectual, ethical, religious, and spiritual values and ideas – and for the critical skills it engenders is invaluable. It is inspiring to see that so many contemporary teachers are considering these issues with thoughtfulness, dedication, and commitment.” The eleven, wide-ranging entries in the symposium were authored by some of today’s leading thinkers, educators, and academics in North America and Israel. TRADITION thanks Mali Brofsky, herself a distinguished pedagogue in the field of Jewish thought, faculty member at MMY and a social worker in private practice. In this podcast Mali meets with 2 of the authors: R. David Bashevkin is the director of education for NCSY and an instructor at Yeshiva University. He recently published “Sin·a·gogue: Sin and Failure in Jewish Thought.” Dr. Daniel Rynhold is Professor of Jewish philosophy and Dean at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University. His most recent book, coauthored with Michael Harris, is “Nietzsche, Soloveitchik, and Contemporary Jewish Philosophy,” which was reviewed in our Summer 2019 issue. Click here to access the Fall 2020 symposium. Click here to watch the Zoom video recording of this conversation.
48 minutes | 7 months ago
“Nehemiah” by Yakov Z. Mayer
In TRADITION’s Summer 2020 issue we deviated from our normal habit and published a review of a work of fiction – Yaakov Z. Mayer’s new Hebrew novel, “Nehemiah” (Yediot Sefarim), reviewed for us by Dr. Shlomo Tikochinski (read it here). Mayer is a writer in the Israeli popular press, an academic, and a novelist. In his academic work he focusses on the printing of the Talmud, the history of Hebrew publishing. He is, as he calls himself, a “Historian of the Book” as a physical and cultural object in Jewish life. The release last autumn of “Nehemiah” caught the Israeli literary world by surprise. The novel focusses on Nehemiah Cohen, a historical figure, a 17th century rabbi and kabbalist who travelled from Poland to Turkey to meet the false messiah Sabbatai Tzvi – and Cohen’s eventual conversion to Islam in the wake of Sabbatai himself. The novel traces Nehemiah’s travels throughout Europe in the company of an enchanting cast of characters – some based on historical figures, others conjured through the author’s imagination. Students of Rabbinic literature will be interested in a novel which features the likes of the Magen Avraham, the Bach, Shach, and Taz, alongside others. In this episode Mayer chats with our editor, Jeffrey Saks, about the intersection of his academic, literary, and Torah study interests, and the production of this work; how those of us interested in those three realms can benefit from historical fiction; trends in 21st century Jewish learning and spirituality which are reflected in this novel about the 17th century; and the state of contemporary Israeli culture’s interactions with Jewish texts and language. Click here to watch the Zoom video recording of this session. (Apologies for the sound quality – the current lockdown prevented us from meeting in the TRADITION Recording Studio.)
43 minutes | 8 months ago
For over a year TraditionOnline has been featuring a weekly column exploring different cultural treasures which have the potential to contribute to the spiritual life and mind. “The BEST” (whose title is drawn from Matthew Arnold’s well-known line about reading “the best that has been thought and said” as an antidote to the anarchy of materialism, industrialism and individualistic self-interest) has profiled a staggering array of items: from poetry, literature, art, film and television—you name it. In “The BEST” you’re as likely to encounter Harry Potter or the Twilight Zone as you are Shakespeare and Robert Frost. To mark the first anniversary of the column, its mastermind and editor, Chaim Strauchler, discussed “The BEST” with two of our regular authors: Naamit Sturm Nagel, a teacher of English and Jewish literature at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles, and Yitzchak Blau, Rosh Yeshivat Orayta and an associate editor of TRADITION. Chaim Strauchler is the rabbi of Shaarei Shomayim in Toronto, and an associate editor of TRADITION. Read his introduction to “The BEST” and to see an index of all the columns in the series: https://traditiononline.org/the-best-%d7%a2%d7%99%d7%93%d7%99%d7%aa/ Watch a Zoom video recording of this episode: https://youtu.be/fk37L6whv18
39 minutes | 8 months ago
A Sephardic Response to “Rupture and Reconstruction”
The central feature of Professor Haym Soloveitchik’s “Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy” (TRADITION, Summer 1994) was its focus on trends in Ashkenazic Orthodoxy of the twentieth century. Given Soloveitchik’s areas of scholarly focus, and the community he was describing, it could hardly have been otherwise. Our recent symposium on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the essay neglected to offer other perspectives on the issues from a less “Ashkenormative” angle. We were pleased to offer a corrective by publishing an essay by Joseph Dweck, “Rupture and Reconstruction: A Sephardic Perspective,” in our recent Summer 2020 issue. Rabbi Dweck is uniquely situated to reflect on this, serving as the Senior Rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Community of the United Kingdom. Dweck joins TRADITION’s editor, Jeffrey Saks, to discuss his essay, and trends in the community he leads. Among the topics the two explore is the impact and legacy of Rav Ovadia Yosef in crafting a pan-Sephardic religious tradition. Read Saks’ review essay in TRADITION (Summer 2007) which examined this question at length. Click here to watch the Zoom video recording of the session.
49 minutes | 10 months ago
Debates L’Shem Shomayim: Annexation
In this inaugural episode of “Debates L’Shem Shomayim” we explore the complexities around the annexation of territories in Judea and Samaria – a matter being hotly debated in Israel, Washington, and around the world. Arguing against annexation: Dr. Yoel Finkelman (National Library of Israel) Arguing in support: Prof. Jeffrey Woolf (Bar-Ilan University) Moderator: Mrs. Mali Brofsky, MSW This series is produced by the Rabbinical Council of America and its TRADITION Journal, with the goal of modeling a culture of listening and learning as we discuss important and difficult topics facing our community and the Jewish world. To watch a video recording of the session click here: https://youtu.be/qovGuEAMlrk
17 minutes | a year ago
Courage as a Jewish Value
In this special coronavirus episode of the TRADITION podcast, our editor, Jeffrey Saks, talks with Yitzchak Blau about his Winter 2009 essay whose titled asked the rhetorical question: “Is Courage a Jewish Value?” We have all been thinking about courage these days, especially in light of the many acts of resilience (spiritual and otherwise) in the face of Covid-19 to which we’ve been witness. Blau suggests that courage is a concept which lurks in the background of many Jewish texts. Why isn’t it more in the foreground? How do traditional Jewish sources explicitly endorse and emphasize the virtue of courage? Need courage rooted in religious values such as faith and trust in God entail an absence of fear? Rabbi Yitzchak Blau is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Orayta in Jerusalem’s Old City, and an associate editor of TRADITION. [The conversation, and Blau’s original essay, reference Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s “Redemption, Prayer, Talmud Torah” (TRADITION, Spring 1978), available in our archives.]
54 minutes | a year ago
R. Hershel Schachter on Hilkhot Covid-19
Hershel Schachter on Hilkhot Covid-19 As part of their important role in servicing rabbis and Jewish communities throughout North America and the world, the Rabbinical Council of America, publisher of TRADITION, convened a special conference call with Rav Hershel Schachter for the organization’s member rabbis on March 16, 2020. During the call Rav Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University, fielded questions on an array of topics concerning halakha in a time of coronavirus—from pre-Pesach preparations, to communal prayer, to mikva observance, and more. Listeners will recognize and appreciate Rav Schachter’s renowned erudition, and his deep concern for the supreme importance of protecting human life and health as a central value in Judaism’s moral and legal tradition. The conference call was meant to serve as a resource for communal rabbis who are facing unprecedented challenges in leading their synagogues and pastoring their flocks, and we thank the RCA for sharing it with readers of TRADITION and listeners of the podcast. Obviously each individual should consult with his or her own halakhic authority concerning specific questions. The conversation was convened and moderated by Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive director of the Rabbinical Council of America (www.rabbis.org).
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