From the Facebook Files

A Sefer Torah, the traditional form of the Heb...
A Sefer Torah, the traditional form of the Hebrew Bible, is a scroll of parchment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the words of one self-declared atheist in a superb debate on Facebook:

“How useful is the Bible in guiding our moral decisions?”

That’s a fair question. Indeed, it is worth widening it to “How useful is any textual guide to morality, ethics, or personal behavior?” Whether you follow Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, Buddhavacana, Shruti, the Avesta, or Peter Singer‘s Practical Ethicsthe question is the same. How useful is any of these?

The answer is that the core text of any ethos is only as useful as you make it. My family and I find Torah useful every single day, often many times a day. But I know plenty of my fellow tribesmen who do not. And I know the more I study, the more I apply it.

But the question cannot be answered by anyone who does not know because they have not made a good  faith effort to try.

Been to Aish yet?

About Aish.com.

By the way, have I mentioned how much I love Aish.com? Along with Chabad.org and Torah.org, Aish.com is just a superb guide to those of us on our own walk-in-the-desert journeys to Teshuvah.

It all begins with learning, and Aish.org is all about education. If you haven’t seen the site yet, go and spend some time. If nothing else, check out the Window on the Wall, watching the Kotel 24/7.

Study Online: Rav Kook

 

A. I. Kook (d. 1935), Chief Rabbi of Palestine
A. I. Kook (d. 1935), Chief Rabbi of Palestine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rabbi Kook on Weekly Torah Portion (Parsha), Jewish Holidays and Psalms (Tehillim).

Rabbi Chanan Morrison’s superior site that offers commentary on the Torah, the Tehillim, and the events on the Jewish calendar based on the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Israel Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel.

The site is a treasure trove and worth spending time – at least an hour a week – looking through what is on offer.

The call of the shofar

The call of the shofar
HBH”C Ploni ben Nistar

A beautiful post that captures the essence of why we blow the Shofar at this season.

I have heard a number of shiurim and D’varim about this topic, but this one stands near the top.

Happy Elul. May your days be filled with contemplation, wonder, and a love of Hashem.

Did the Rav Drop a Bombshell?

Joseph Soloveitchik
Joseph Soloveitchik (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yoram Hazony, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, has written a provocative review of a remarkable work by Orthodox rabbi, Talmudist, and Yeshiva University professor Joseph B. Soloveitchik, best known in the Torah community as “The Rav,” in Commentary. 

Hazony suggests that the Rav, in his posthumously-published book The Emergence of Ethical Man, framed an argument that “contemporary Jewish thought is based on medieval premises that are themselves alien to Judaism.” In essence, Hazony believes that the Rav was calling into question everything written in and about Judaism since at least the Renaissance, and possibly before.

As a consequence, Judaism cannot field an alternative to European thought, for it has itself, in a sense, succumbed to European thought. Jewish thought will therefore have to go back to its roots, to the Hebrew Bible and the classical rabbinic texts, and from them derive a “new worldview” that will be different from both the neo-medieval Jewish thought of modern times and the non-Jewish philosophical schools that await a new challenge from within Judaism.

I’ve spent the past four days wondering whether I should order The Emergence of Ethical Man, hoping perhaps to come to my own accommodation with the sheer intellectual mass of Jewish thought by redlining everything written after the Rambam.  and decided a few moments before sitting down to write this that I would not. What convinced me was this post by Rabbi Gil Student at his excellent blog Hihurim Musings. Rabbi Student concludes:

As I understand R. Soloveitchik’s words, they provide no basis to suggest that he breached any theological boundaries in Emergence, certainly not any of the Rambam’s 13 Principles. He remains an innovative thinker within Orthodox Judaism as traditionally understood.

All of which makes me realize that I am intellectually outclassed. I’m going to stick with the basic texts for a while, but in the meantime I’m going to watch this discussion from the sidelines.

Partners in Torah

Judaism, Torah, Jews | Partners in Torah.

This site promises you the opportunity to learn any Jewish subject with your own private teacher for 30-45 minutes a week over the phone.

Very cool…

Torah Thought of the Day

This one really got to me:

“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom
Let not the mighty man glory in his might
Let not the rich man glory in his riches
But one should only glory in this:
That he understands and knows Me,
that I am the Lord,
Who exercises mercy, justice, and righteousness on the earth.
For in these I delight, says the Lord.”

Yeremiachu 9:22-3

Amen, selah

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