Archive for March, 2010

Meditations on the Nature of Biblical Spirituality

Unlike the Greek philosophers and poets of antiquity, the ancients of Judea did not perceive God as a philosophical construct, nor as a static timeless being, nor as an impersonal cosmic process, energy, force or intelligence and certainly not as a sentimentalized ethical ideal (as expressed by Feuerbach,  Freud, and M. Kaplan). Our spiritual ancestors never apologized  for using human language in describing God.

The ...

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The Castration Complex and the Halachic Mind

At one of my classes, some student asked a pretty interesting question: In Orthodox Judaism, can a woman perform brit milah (ritual circumcision)?

A Talmudic Discussion

There is a controversy in the Talmud  regarding this very issue between Daru bar Papa who cites in the name of Rav, and Rabbi Yochanan, who differs with Rav. Here is the substance of the argument. Daru b. Papa held that only someone who is obligated to observe the precept of circumcision can act ...

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Who Says an Orthodox Woman Can’t Serve as a Rabbi? (Part 2)

Let me apologize if the following material seems obtusely worded. Some rabbis have a serious problem expressing coherent thoughts that appeal to common sense. Clearly, some of our ancestors were lacking in this department. The Talmudic style of reasoning called, “pilpul” (“peppered” didactic reasoning) can appeal to the inner sophist we all have. At times, I like to refer to this style of argumentation as, “rabbinicspeak,” and to understand or argue with it, you have to almost think like a ...

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Who Says an Orthodox Woman Can’t Serve as a Rabbi? (Part 1)

This past week, the Jewish Star updated its article about the maverick Modern Orthodox named Rabbi Avi Weiss, who recently backed down from a confrontation with the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America) over his decision to offer ordination to a Sara Hurwitz, as an Orthodox rabbi.

Frankly, I am not surprised at all by the series of events that ensued. Surprisingly, Agudath Israel spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran admitted that the issue whether women may become rabbis or not is not a ...

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Are Animals Endowed with a Soul?

The just man knows the soul of his beast, but the heart of the wicked is merciless.

Proverbs 12:10

The author of Proverbs stresses an important ethical lesson: a humane person considers the needs of his animals and acts kindly towards them.[1] The world of Creation is full of sentient beings, which also experience many of the joys and blessings that people commonly enjoy: like humankind, these creatures also experience pain. Suffering is a common language that ...

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