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Drawing on Rabbi Akiva’s aphorism that “everything is foreseen but free will is given,” novelist Dara Horn eloquently describes the tension at the heart of Jewish family life. The tension in theology between what is given to fate and what to free will is mirrored in parenting by the tension between what is innate and what […]

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A Jewish Theory of Humor

July 29, 2014

In a discussion of Sholem Aleichem, Dara Horn elucidates two classic theories of humor. The first, from the literary critic Henri Bergson, states that we laugh when something “mechanical” is “encrusted on the living.” We laugh at others’ expense. The other theory, authored by Sigmund Freud, involves laughing at ourselves to release ourselves from a […]

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During Tikvah’s advanced institute on the “Jewish Idea of God”, Ein Prat Academy’s founding CEO Micah Goodman presented some of the challenges associated with Maimonides’s Aristotelian understanding of God. Perhaps most problematic is the question of whether this vision of a static and unchanging God is really compatible with the Bible’s depiction of a God […]

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Founding CEO of Ein Prat Academy Micah Goodman discusses the move from polytheism to monotheism as a revolutionary transition. This transition was much more than the simple exchange of a belief in many gods for a belief in One. The more radical and consequential break—pointing us to the very heart of the Jewish idea of […]

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During Tikvah’s advanced institute on “Liberalism, Conservatism, and the Jews”, Hoover Institution scholar Peter Berkowitz discussed Michael Walzer’s account of the Talmudic parable of the oven of Akhnai. Is the oven pure? The rabbis say it is, but Rabbi Eliezer dissents, first appealing to logic but then appealing to miracles. “If the law is as […]

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In God’s House

July 14, 2014

Does Judaism conceive of God as having a dwelling place here on earth? During the course of Tikvah’s advanced institute on “The Jewish Idea of God,” Micah Goodman, founding CEO of Ein Prat, explores a tension between the account of the tabernacle in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers and the account of the tabernacle in Deuteronomy. […]

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In the popular imagination, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is remembered for his involvement in civil rights, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the cause of Soviet Jewry. But, as Rabbi Shai Held demonstrates in his new book, Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence, Rabbi Heschel was first and foremost a theologian and philosopher of religion. What are his core ideas, and what are his main religious insights? How did he develop his views of covenant and love, his fear of the unbounded ego, and his unique interpretation of human and divine agency? How can Rabbi Heschel’s thought inspire the Jewish community and challenge religious people everywhere to recapture the wonder that opens them up to God’s call?

Watch as Rabbi Dr. Shai Held, cofounder, dean, and chair in Jewish Thought at Mechon Hadar, discusses Heschel’s legacy and situates his work within contemporary Jewish theology and the philosophy of religion. The event was recorded before a live audience on February 25, 2014 at the Tikvah Center in New York City.

Watch the event here.

Nineteenth century political emancipation brought citizenship rights to European Jews. In How Judaism Became a Religion, Leora Batnitzky explores how this new political reality affected Jewish philosophy and the Jewish people. The prospect of secular citizenship challenged Judaism’s premodern integrity, and drove Jewish writers, intellectuals, and rabbis to grapple with how to recast Judaism as a “religion,” emphasizing its private faith over its national call to public practice. The transformation of Judaism as a religion – and reactions to it – is the driving question of modern Jewish thought to this day. What does Judaism gain and lose as a religion? What effects, positive and negative, has this modern transformation yielded? How does conceiving of Judaism as a religion relate to Zionism and the refounding of a Jewish State for the Jewish People?

Watch as Leora Batnitzky, Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies, Professor of Religion, and Chair of the Department of Religion at Princeton University, discusses the intellectuals who recast Judaism as a modern religion, those that opposed the change, and the legacy of modern Jewish thought today. The event was recorded before a live audience on February 20, 2014 at the Tikvah Center in New York City. For information on other upcoming Tikvah events, please check our Events page.

Watch the event here.

Catholic Israel? Hardly...

February 11, 2014

A dilemma: What do you do when the categories in which you are accustomed to think already commit you to certain conclusions – conclusions  that, when stated explicitly, you are inclined to resist? Such a dilemma is at the heart of Professor Leora Batnitzky’s illuminating and erudite study of modern Jewish thought, entitled How Judaism Became a Religion. It is also suggested by the title of a review by Professor Michah Gottlieb, published in Summer 2012 in the Jewish Review of  Books: “Are We all Protestants Now?” Rav Kook? Solomon Maimon? Rabbi Soloveitchik? The Ba’al Shem Tov? … Protestants, all?

Peruse Professor Gottlieb’s summary and critique of the argument here and then join us at the Tikvah Center on February 20th for a discussion with Professor Batnitzky of the book and of its implications for dilemmas facing the Jewish people today. RSVP for that event through this website, while seats still remain.

Read the full essay here.

Sinai and Sin

January 30, 2014

Last week on Shabbat, synagogues around the world turned the page from parshat Yitro (Exodus 18:1 – 20:23) to parshat Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1 – 24:18). The steady flow of narrative, beginning with The Beginning and moving through Noah, the Patriarchs, the birth of Moses and his call from the burning bush, the plagues and exodus from Egypt, the arrival at Sinai and the epiphany that sounds forth in the Decalogue – this current of sublime narrative gives way to lengthy descriptions of law and ritual. How should we think about this pivot in style? What does it reveal about the deep character of Judaism’s sacred text and about Judaism itself? In this Jewish Review of Books essay, Hillel Halkin offers his characteristically erudite and luminous perspective.

Read the full essay here.