Mayer I. Gruber
Herbert W. Basser
The familiar “Hillel-meets-his-teachers” tradition (B. Yoma 35b) reveals a deeper story that features mystical, apocalyptic images representing none other than the beloved masters of early rabbinic culture. Here we find the image of a heavenly being enthroned on high that was identified in non-rabbinic circles with God’s demiurge (Enoch, Yehoel, Metatron). This provides evidence that rabbis defused the mystical stories that were leading to two-power challenges to rabbinic authority and to the increasingly antinomian positions of Jews inside and outside of Christian churches. We can therefore appreciate the Rabbis’ portrayal of Torah scholars as embodying true Enochian power.
Benjamin Franklin’s ideas and writings may be said to have had an impact on Jewish thought and practice. This influence occurred posthumously, primarily through his Autobiography and by way of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Lefin’s Sefer Cheshbon ha-Nefesh (Book of Spiritual Accounting, 1808), which introduced Franklin’s method for moral perfection to a Hebrew-reading Jewish audience. This historical development has confused Judaic scholars, and Franklin specialists have been largely oblivious to it. Remedying the record on this matter illustrates how even within the presumably insular world of Eastern European rabbinic Judaism—far from the deism of the trans-Atlantic Enlightenment—pre-Reform, pre-Conservative Jewish religion was affected by broader currents of thought.
In the liminal spaces between concretized biblical law and a world in which “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 17:6), the Rabbinic tradition developed enactments toward the pursuit of harmony and to minimize conflict. This paper delves into the role of one such mechanism, found throughout the primary sources, in an area of irrigation policy. The article seeks to understand the topic’s contours in the arena of rhetoric vs. reality. I argue that, contrary to initial appearances, the enactment of peace under discussion has every indication of being rooted in its social, legal and natural milieus.
The halakhah observed by the Beta Israel community is decisive and extremely detailed. This halakhic system, which was preserved and transmitted from one generation to the next as an oral tradition, can shed light on previously hidden aspects of the early halakhah. This article the examines Beta Israel practice regarding the levirate marriage (yibum), including its rationale and sources. Beta Israel refrained from performing levirate marriage. This abstention is surprising, since Beta Israel possessed the written Torah, and the Beta Israel halakhah generally follows the simple meaning of Scripture. Why, then, did this community not observe levirate marriage as set forth in the Torah? The article provides a detailed explanation of the reasons and seeks intimations in Jewish literature throughout the generations of the Beta Israel practice.
Rabbi Joseph Ber Halevi Soloveitchik (1903–1993), one of the most prominent religious Zionist rabbis as well as the leader of Modern Jewish Orthodoxy in the U.S., presented a theologically consistent approach to the issue of work and material production, to which he ascribed a religious value. His leading principle in his consideration of work and material production emerged from the Halakhic dictum, “You shall walk in His ways,” a commandment that demands that human beings follow the ways of God, emulating His actions and His attributes. In Rabbi Soiloveitchik’s view, just as God worked to fashion the world of matter, so must man work, take action, and create.