Archive for 'Word Focus'

A Short History of the Sabbatical Year in Late Antiquity

Sometimes even the most obvious biblical passages can be perplexing. One interesting verse is a case in point:

“Therefore, do not say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we do not then sow or reap our crop?’ I will bestow such blessings on you in the sixth year that there will then be crop enough for three years. When you sow in the eighth year, you will continue to eat from the old crop; and even into ...

Learn More

The Hasidic origin of “Simcha Monica” formerly known as, “Santa Monica”

Some time ago,  I had a friendly discussion with Rabbi Yisrael Goldberg, a young Chabadnik who lives in Israel. In the course of our talk, he mentioned that in California, the late Rabbi Avraymo Levitanski   (a former teacher of mine) had recently died. Avraymo was a great man; he was a brilliant scholar as well and an exceptional human being. He was definitely one of the finest Chabadniks I have ever known. On a light note,  Yisrael told me how Avraymo ...

Learn More

Two Medieval Jewish Thinkers on the “Image of God”

The concept of the Imago Dei ( “Image of God”) has fascinated Jewish thinkers since the time of Philo and Ben Sira. For now, we will focus only on two famous medieval thinkers: Saadia Gaon and Maimonides.

Saadia points out in his philosophic classic that בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים  (B’tse’lem ´élöhîm= “in the likeness of the Divine image”) is figurative language for God bestowing special honor unto humankind, which He did not confer unto the rest of Creation. This distinctiveness is visible in ...

Learn More

Rediscovering the Soul-Breath of the Sabbath

While it is true that many translations of the Bible such as the New Revised Version Standard (NRSV), the King James’ Version (KJV) and others render the verb וַיִּשְׁבֹּת (wayyišböt) as “rested,” a more accurate translation is “ceased,” i.e., “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because He ceased from all His work which God created to make” (Gen. 2:2). Ramban (12th century) interprets these words to mean “He ceased performing all His creative work.” Hence, for God, the ...

Learn More

“Lady Wisdom–the Firstborn Daughter of Creation”

Sometime during the fifth or fourth century B.C.E., the Wisdom/Sophia tradition began to infiltrate Jewish religious sensibilities. At first it was introduced as a series of epigrams containing proverbial wisdom; however, in theological terms, the notion of Sophia came to personify God’s own wisdom. Over the centuries, this new concept influenced generations of Jewish thinkers and mystics—especially during the medieval period when Jewish thought renewed its historic love affair with Greek wisdom. Abraham Ibn Ezra (c. 1089–1164) asserts that the ...

Learn More
Page 1 of 4 1234