Finding Our Place in a Universalistic Age

Finding Our Place in a Universalistic Age

Jul 6, 2018 By JTS Alumni | Commentary

By Rabbi Juan Mejia (RS ’09)

Israel and Humanity is the magnum opus of Italian rabbi and polymath Elijah Benamozegh. Born in the cosmopolitan city of Livorno in Italy in the early nineteenth century (only one year before JTS´s founder Rabbi Sabato Morais was born in the same city), Rabbi Benamozegh was a distinguished community leader, printer, kabbalist, and public intellectual both in Jewish and non-Jewish circles. In his erudite but extremely approachable and poetic treatise, Israel and Humanity, Benamozegh presents a bold and refreshing view of Judaism vis-a-vis other religions (with special emphasis on Christianity). 

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God, Judaism, and Divine Law

God, Judaism, and Divine Law

Mar 9, 2018 By Matthew Goldstone | Commentary

We all know that divine law is supposed to be true, unchangeable, universal, and make sense . . . right? Wrong. In fact, for the Rabbis, precisely the opposite may be the case. As Christine Hayes argues in her book What’s Divine about Divine Law, many of our preconceptions about what makes Jewish divine law “godly” are, in fact, incorrect.

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Finding the Golden Apple

Finding the Golden Apple

Jan 26, 2018 By Tim Daniel Bernard | Commentary | Text Study

The Sage has said, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings (maskiyyot) of silver” (Prov. 25:11). Hear now an elucidation of the thought that he has set forth. The term maskiyyot denotes filigree traceries . . .  When looked at from a distance or with imperfect attention, it is deemed to be an apple of silver; but when a keen-sighted observer looks at it with full attention, its interior becomes clear to him and he knows that it is of gold. The parables of the prophets, peace be on them, are similar.

—Moses Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed (trans. S. Pines) (11–12)

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Korah: Democrat or Demagogue?

Korah: Democrat or Demagogue?

Jun 23, 2017 By Alan Mittleman | Commentary | Korah

Korah is the first left oppositionist in the history of radical politics.

–Michael Walzer, Exodus and Revolution (111)

How shall we read the Korah story? What is his rebellion about?  Is Korah the first left-wing radical? He seems to want to level the distinction between leaders and masses. All of the people are holy, he claims. There is no need for a priestly caste which, in the wilderness setting, is a governance class.

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Teaching Mahshevet Yisrael: The Universalist / Particularist Issue

Teaching Mahshevet Yisrael: The Universalist / Particularist Issue

Feb 14, 2017

Elie Holzer: “Jews, Non-Jews, and Teaching the Hasidic Homily: Hermeneutic Approaches and Pedagogical Deliberations”

Avinoam Rosenak: “Machshevet Yisrael as an Encounter: Jewish Philosophy or Judaism as a PhilosophyEducational Implications”

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Jewish Particularism and Universalism

Jewish Particularism and Universalism

Feb 13, 2017

Marc Silverman: “‘Free Jews’ and Their Views on Jewish Culture and Its Interface with Other Peoples’ Cultures”

Yossi Turner: “Jewish Learning and the Non-Jew: Toward a New Particularist-Universalist Paradigm”

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Thinkers with an Educational Orientation: Exploring the Universal and the Particular

Thinkers with an Educational Orientation: Exploring the Universal and the Particular

Feb 12, 2017

Ari Ackerman: “Universalism and Jewish Nationalism in the Educational Philosophy of Mordecai Kaplan”

Daniel Marom: “Jewish Educational Roots and Implications of Zamenhof’s Global Esperanto Movement”

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The Blasphemer’s Twin

The Blasphemer’s Twin

May 20, 2016 By Tim Daniel Bernard | Commentary | Emor

This week’s parashah ends with a sin:

וַיִּקֹּב בֶּן-הָאִשָּׁה הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִית אֶת-הַשֵּׁם וַיְקַלֵּל.

The son of the Israelite woman pronounced the name [of God] and cursed. (Lev. 24:11)

Maybe we don’t need to overthink why a law code seen as given by God would determine that cursing God is problematic, but how severe a crime is this? Evidently, Moses was uncertain: the culprit was detained while Moses checked in with God (Lev. 24:12). Perhaps the negative consequence of this act seems unclear. After all, what harm can possibly come to God through human words?

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