A Philosophy of Jewish Law

halacha

The most defining characteristic of an observant Jewish life is fidelity to the halacha, to Jewish law. The halacha is an all-encompassing system that governs a person's life from the moment they wake up in the morning until they go to sleep at night. There is little area in one's daily routine that is not nuanced by Jewish law. A person who maintains a life devoted to halacha is often asked about the perceived burden of doing so.1 How is it possible to live life encumbered by so many details … [Read more...]

The Rutgers Webcam Tragedy and The Right to Privacy

In the tragic story of the suicide of Tyler Clementi, the former Rutgers student, whose privacy was violated by his roommate, Dharun Ravi1, the need to emphasize the right to privacy becomes ever more pronounced. In a world where leaders of major corporations and trendsetters declare that "privacy is no longer a social norm,2" it is incumbent upon the voice of our religious and ethical traditions to re-assert the inherent dignity of each individual person.Indeed, privacy has been a hot … [Read more...]

Abraham and Biblical Intertextuality

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Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot has published a remarkable new book Mikra and Meaning (Maggid Books, 2012) in which he demonstrates his tremendous fluency with the Biblical text and his mastery of the rabbinic tradition surrounding it. Each chapter takes the reader on an adventure exploring the intricate and varied ways of understanding the narratives presented in Tanach and plumbing the depths of the tradition for layers upon layers of meaning.I had the distinct privilege of studying under Rabbi … [Read more...]

Torah Learning as the Foundation of Community

It was a little over a year ago that I wrote an article for the religion magazine First Things in which I argued that the foundation for building a large umbrella inclusive community cannot rest on shared prayer alone. I wrote: "Perhaps we require a different paradigm for Jewish inclusiveness. For a generation we have relied on shared ritual. But ritual runs directly into contentious issues such as gender separation, and leads to the stark contrast of the highest or lowest common denominator. … [Read more...]


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