September 21, 2018

This Sunday night, Jews the world over will begin observing the seven day holiday called Sukkot, or as it’s so oddly translated in English, the “Feast of Booths.” I prefer the clearer NIV Bible translation, which renders the word sukkah as “temporary shelter.” That really gets to what this commandment of the holiday is all about: leaving your homes for seven days to go camp out (usually in the backyard) in a temporary shelter. The reason for this strange ritual is… Read more

September 16, 2018

  That’s how most people translate it. But maybe they’re missing the mark. In a lecture I attended on this subject, Rabbi Menachem Leibtag pointed out that the Hebrew word “kippurim” (the plural of “kippur)—which is translated here as “atonement”—does not actually refer to atonement for sin when it’s used in the Bible. The most relevant context where the word “kippurim” appears is in the Book of Exodus, in which the Children of Israel are commanded to observe a seven… Read more

September 6, 2018

My apologies for the clickbait title. But, for once, it’s actually true! You legitimately would not believe what Rabbi Jacob Emden—one of the most famous and influential Western European rabbis of the 1700s—had to say about Christianity and Jesus in the first chapter of a book he wrote about Jewish history, entitled Seder Olam Raba Vezuta . For those who were eagerly anticipating another post about traditional Jewish approaches to controversial Bible verses, I’m sorry for this interruption in our… Read more

September 2, 2018

My last two posts about controversial Bible passages were a bit obscure. I’m sure many Christians are completely unfamiliar with the law of the female captive. It’s certainly not the kind of topic you hear a sermon about on Sunday morning. But today’s post is different. Today, I’m writing about the Biblical law of “an eye for an eye,” which is widely known and also widely criticized. It even has its own special name in Latin,—lex talonis—which means “the law… Read more

August 29, 2018

This post is the next installment in what will hopefully be a series on traditional Jewish interpretations of tough biblical passages. Today’s issue is the “Law of the Rebellious Son.” Here is the complete Biblical passage below: “If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the… Read more

August 24, 2018

As the title suggests, I am beginning a new series of articles for this blog on the topic of how Orthodox Jews interpret some of the (seemingly) morally problematic, controversial sections of the Bible. The stuff about sex and violence and everything else. You all know those verses. But you might never have heard about how ancient and medieval Jews interpreted some of these stories and laws. This post will highlight one example of those interpretations. Deuteronomy Chapter 21:10-14 contains… Read more

August 20, 2018

I’m moving backwards. In my first piece, I wrote about how Jews and Christians can have better interfaith conversations when they are sitting at the table and talking. This piece is about how to get Jews and Christians to come sit at the table in the first place. Because after 1,500 years of anti semitic preaching, persecution, and violence emanating from the Catholic Church and basically all Protestant sects, why should Jews trust modern Christians enough to sit down and… Read more

August 10, 2018

  In my last post, I explained what the idea of the Jews being a chosen people means to me, guided by the biblical texts and later Jewish philosophers. In this post, I want to talk about how Catholics understand Jewish chosenness. In broad strokes, for over a thousand years, the universally accepted Christian doctrine was that the Jewish people, while once chosen, lost that special status after rejecting Jesus. Since then, Jews have been exiled and cursed and forfeited… Read more

August 6, 2018

  My first post to this blog made the case for expanding opportunities for honest interfaith dialogue between Christians and Jews on the issues that matter most to us both. Efforts towards this goal have been going on since Vatican II and show no signs of stopping, despite pushback from religious extremists on both sides. So we are moving in the right direction. I just want us to get there faster, by improving the quality of the conversations we have…. Read more

August 2, 2018

This past semester, I was a visiting student at a local Catholic Jesuit university and took a course entitled “Jews and Christians: Entwined Histories.” This wouldn’t seem all that interesting, except for the fact that I’m an Orthodox Jew. Though my particular variety of orthodoxy generally embraces much of secular modern life, Christians and Christianity are treated with some degree of skepticism, or even suspicion. The blessing for the czar invoked by the rabbi from Fiddler on the Roof is… Read more

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