Enlightening the Eyes

The Full Spectrum of Jewish learning

The Bracha of Learning Differently

Do you learn differently than others? I do! I like to read aloud. Ever since I was little for me to truly “get” it, I would read my subjects aloud and with emotion. I think learning differently than others can be a bracha in disguise! You learn to take complex subjects and break...

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Hasidim: Traditionally Oriented with a Nuance

The “classic” imagery of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, i.e., the Baal Shem Tob that I was always familiar with was that of a charismatic revolutionary leader who overturned the established modes of religious thought and practice. Hasidim were depicted a pietistic group reacting against the Talmudic...

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The Prophetic and Messianic Kabbalah of Abraham Abulafia

There are various types of mysticism known from Jewish sources. All of them seek communion with or identity with the ultimate reality of G-d through direct experience or insight. The mystical experiences of Abraham Abulafia of the 13th century are categorized under the label of prophetic or...

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Respecting the Decision of the Rabbis

Many years ago there was a TV show called The Practice. As the name implies the show was about attorneys and their trials. In the midst of one trial, one of the lawyers mentioned that one of the reasons that a topic like abortion is so divisive and contentious in American society so many decades...

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The Tension between Torah and Prophecy

The decision of the rabbis to ardently oppose divine attestations in matters of legal disputation, i.e., Baba Metzia 59a-b, was tied to two essential concepts. The first dealt with the closure of the accepted prophetic canon after the deaths of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The second reason...

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Rabbi Jose Faur and the Decline of the Andalusian Tradition

The eminent Rabbi Jose Faur passed away last week. He was a unique Sephardic scholar and rabbi from the Syrian Jewish community. Orthodox trained he nevertheless taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Netanya College, and my alma mater, the Spertus Institute. HIs teaching at the Jewish...

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The Eternality of Punishment

Most Jews in the 21st century see hell as a Christian concept. The reality is much different. Competing views on the eternality of punishment are found in Jewish sources. One fascinating context for it is a discussion held in the Sephardic community of Amsterdam. The history of the community can...

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Roots of Rabbinic Judaism: An Intellectual History from Ezekiel to Daniel

I first came across Gabriele Boccaccini's works at the Siegal College of Judaica. I was working on master's thesis and had chosen the topic of Israelite/Jewish identity in the Second Temple period. Most scholars in the late 20th century have shifted away from the view that rabbinic Judaism was...

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Ancient Israel and the Book of Kings and Chronicles

While both texts are part of the Biblical canon, the book of Kings and the book of Chronicles were written in different periods of Jewish history during drastically differing political realities. The former was likely written shortly after the destruction of the First Temple; the latter was most...

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The Concept of Sonship in Jewish Thought

A friend recently asked me whether Christianity had been a topic of discussion at the three traditional Jewish institutions I studied at. I remarked that it was never a central topic of discussion, but that it did arise on occasion. When it did, there were three contexts in which the topic arose....

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