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Rabbi Akiba and Ben Azzai’s Great Debate

The Sages of the first two centuries wondered: What is the most important principle of the Torah? Rabbi Akiba argued that it is the precept of “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).  Akiba’s brilliant student, Ben Azzai, differed: “You must not say: ‘Since I have been put to shame, let my neighbor also be put to shame, for if you do so, know that you are shaming someone who is made in the likeness of God.’”

Put in ...

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The Bible’s Most Famous Ghost Story: The Witch of Endor

The Bible’s Most Famous Ghost Story

In honor of the Halloween holiday, I thought we would examine one of the great tales of the supernatural found in the Bible. I originally wrote this piece as I was preparing for my Confirmation class. The kids really enjoyed it. One of the most remarkable and famous ghost stories of all time is the episode found in 1 Samuel 28 about Saul’s encounter with the Witch of Endor.  Over a thousand years ago, Jewish ...

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Why does the first verse of Genesis have seven words?

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ — In   the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth —

Why does the first verse of Genesis have seven words?

According to the Baale Turim, the first verse of Genesis contains seven words that allude to the importance of the Sabbath—the crown of Creation.  From its inception, the Sabbath was set apart from all the other days of Creation to eventually be observed by all humanind (cf. Isa. 56:2-7) through witnessing Israel’s ...

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Why does the Torah begin with the letter “beth”?

I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled.

AUGUSTINE, Confessions, Book XI

When it came to the beginning of creation, Augustine was not the only person who struggled with the meaning of time. Rabbinic wisdom teaches that there are some aspects to creation that are hidden; we cannot presume to know the mind of God. “Why does the Torah begin with the letter ...

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Goldstone’s Legacy

Richard Goldstone believes he was standing up for Israel and Jewish ethics. Let us assume that this well-respected judge had the best of intentions. Yet, his conclusion that Israel violated the human rights of the Palestinians strains the imagination beyond the breaking point. Is any kind of war justified according to Goldstone—especially when the enemy cynically deploys human shields while it shoots thousands of missiles over an eight year stretch of time? Not according to Goldstone.

Unfortunately Goldstone never bothered to ...

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