December 9th, 2013 by jtaubes
Jonathan Ziring was a participant in the Straus Center Semicha Seminar in 2011-2012.
Kohanim and Melachim: Two Types of Leadership
Yaakov, in his blessing of Yehuda says, “Lo Yasur Shevet MiYehudah U-Mehokek MiBein Raglav– The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet…” (Bereshit 49:10). The commentaries dispute whether this should be taken as a promise or a command, whether it refers to the descendants of the tribe of Judah or only those of the Davidic dynasty, whether it means the monarchy shall not permanently depart or even temporarily, and a host of other nuances. Perhaps the most fascinating position, however, is the view of the Talmud Yerushalmi (Horayot 5:2, Sotah 8:3) cited by Nahmanides to this verse – that there is a specific prohibition for kohanim, priests, to be appointed to the monarchy. Nahmanides even suggests that this relates to why the Hasmoneans, who were priests, were eventually destroyed. Read the rest of this entry »
December 2nd, 2013 by jtaubes
Miriam Pearl Klahr was a participant in the Straus Center and Tikvah High School Program in 2013
The Role of a Jew
The recent release of the Pew Research “A Portrait of American Jews” report has stimulated much discussion regarding the issues of Jewish identity, continuity, and assimilation. These questions are not new; they have accompanied the Jewish nation throughout all of exile. A Jew’s approach to exile is a running theme from one’s first introduction to Abraham, yet is particularly accentuated from the moment Yaakov and his sons descend to Egypt. In Parshat Vayigash the Jewish nation faces a new level of exile; for the first time it isn’t just one patriarch opposite a foreign land, rather it is a group of many families, an emerging nation. Read the rest of this entry »
November 25th, 2013 by jtaubes
Joseph J. Siev was executive director of the 2013 Tikvah-Straus High School Summer Institute at Yale
The Senatorial Trust
By the time Parshat Miketz rolls around, most Torah readers are inoculated to the stream of figures – ages, quantities, durations, dimensions – peppered throughout the text. And for good reason. Many are inessential for even a sophisticated understanding of the text, and close attention to figures too often bleeds into the realms of numerology and code-hunting. Yet the Torah periodically offers numbers of clear significance to the substance of the story, and an intriguing example is to be found in this week’s sedra. Read the rest of this entry »
November 22nd, 2013 by jtaubes
Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik published a Chanukah/Thanksgiving article in Wall Street Journal that appeared on November 21 2013 entitled “God Delivered the Pilgrims—and My People” Full text below Read the rest of this entry »
November 20th, 2013 by jtaubes
Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik’s article in the YU Chanuka To-Go entitled “God’s Providence and the United States: A Thanksgiving Reader on Judaism and the American Idea” is available here.
November 12th, 2013 by jtaubes
“Seeing Adam depicted here in the Grecian form seems almost the opposite of our biblical tradition,” Soloveichik observed. “In our texts, Man is made from ‘dust and earth.’ But if you see Man through this lens, the Fall from Heaven feels much more like a rebellion, whereas in Jewish tradition, we see it much more as succumbing to human frailty.”
“In the Sistine Chapel, you see that much more in the last scene on the ceiling, with the drunkenness of Noah—a dramatic depiction of human frailty from which there has to come a redemption,” Wisse replied.
Read the rest of this entry »
November 11th, 2013 by jtaubes
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Renowned Attorney Nathan Lewin Discuss Landmark First Amendment Cases at Straus Center Event
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution begins with a bold statement: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” How that statement shapes the interaction of religion and the public sphere in modern-day America, however, has been the subject of heated debate throughout American judicial history.
President Richard M. Joel introduces Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, center, and attorney Nathan Lewin, second from right. Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik (left) moderated the panel. Read the rest of this entry »
November 10th, 2013 by jtaubes
Rabbi Daniel Fridman was a Straus Center Semikha Seminar Participant from 2011-2012
Gid Ha-Nasheh: A Life of Resilience
Our forefather Jacob was a man who did not have an easy life. The Sages of generations past who commented that Jacob futilely desired to find a modicum of peace and tranquility in his challenging life were certainly on to something. As a father, he experienced the kidnapping and sale of a son, and the abduction and rape of a daughter. As a brother, he felt the sting of Esau’s hatred, and, as a son-in-law, of Laban’s depraved dishonesty. As a husband, he knew the grief of a beloved wife who suffered in her barrenness, and the overwhelming sorrow of losing her, cruelly, in childbirth. Small wonder, then, that when he was questioned by Pharaoh, he described his quality of life with a directness that might remind one of Hobbes’ thoughts on the state of nature; ‘short and bad, unequal to those of my fathers in their days of dwelling.’ Read the rest of this entry »
November 3rd, 2013 by jtaubes
Ari Lamm was a Straus Semikha Seminar participant in 2011-2012
Recreation & Worship in Proportion: Jacob, Rachel and Lady Madonna
Individuals who affiliate with our Modern Orthodox community, by and large, spend an inordinate amount of time engaged in activities that we normally classify as entertainment. Although cognizant of the Psalmist’s resolve to “set the Lord always before me,” our community tends to justify this behavior on the grounds that it provides the rest and relaxation essential for a healthy lifestyle. Although in principle rest and relaxation is important, in many cases the inordinate amount of time spent pursuing these particular activities – listening to music, reading for pleasure, etc. – is completely disproportionate to the time committed, on average, to explicit and acknowledged acts of ‘avodat Hashem (service to the Almighty). One of the many ways we might correct this imbalance is by imbuing activities that we normally treat purely as recreation with a seriousness of purpose that is conducive to a life lived in service to God. Read the rest of this entry »