Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought is a quarterly Orthodox Jewish peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Rabbinical Council of America. It covers a range of topics including philosophy and theology, history, law, and ethics.
Dispatch from Ukraine
1:00:53RCA – Rabbinical Council of America and its TRADITION Journal present a special conversation from the frontlines of Jewish life in Ukraine with Rabbi Mordechai Bald, Chief Rabbi of Lviv, in conversation with RCA President Rabbi Binyamin Blau, and TRADITION editor Rabbi Jeffrey Saks. Help support the Lviv Jewish community's emergency fund: https://lauderfoundation.com/ukraine
The Rebellion of the Daughters
45:26In the period preceding World War I a surprising number of young Jewish women in Habsburg Galicia left their traditional Orthodox homes for life in the Catholic Church (mostly in the Felician Sisters’ Convent in Krakow). Although the Jewish community tended to portray this phenomenon as kidnapping, and some families involved government authorities in their attempts to recover their daughters, the situation was far more complex. In her new book, “The Rebellion of the Daughters: Jewish Women Runaways in Habsburg Galicia” (Princeton University Press), historian Rachel Manekin performs a brilliant work of detection, revealing to her readers the inner lives of these young women. Delving into Polish police records, trial transcripts, and other first-hand materials and letters, Manekin introduces us to a world of intrigue, complicated family dynamics, relations between Jews and their surroundings, associations with the Church, as well as precursors to feminist thinking. She shines a new light on history that has implications for the Jewish world in all times and places. The relevance for contemporary educational practice is profound, and Manikin draws a straight line from the tragic events described in her book to the establishment of the Bais Yaakov movement and other advances in women’s Jewish education that have ongoing contemporary impact. “The Rebellion of the Daughters” was recently reviewed in TRADITION by veteran educator Beverly Gribetz (open access here). In this episode of the podcast we bring together author and reviewer for a conversation about the book, the world it explores and its meaning for our own. Rachel Manekin is associate professor of Jewish studies at the University of Maryland. She is the author of “The Jews of Galicia and the Austrian Constitution: The Beginning of Modern Jewish Politics.” Dr. Beverly Gribetz has recently retired as the Principal of the Evelina de Rothschild-Tehilla School in Jerusalem.
Shubert Spero and “Doing” Philosophy
47:21In TRADITION’s Fall 2021 issue, we published an essay penned by Rabbi Shubert Spero – a longtime contributor to our pages. In fact, this essay, his 26th in TRADITION, arrived 60 years after his first appearance in the journal and coincided with his 98th birthday. We took the opportunity to spend an afternoon chatting with Rabbi Spero in his Jerusalem apartment about this essay, “The Problematic Metaphors of Righteousness,” along with matters related to the philosophy of language and morality, and issues he has encountered over his long rabbinic and academic career in “doing philosophy” in the service of getting at the underlying questions which should animate contemporary Jewish life and practice. We also turned our attention to his thinking about Zionism and the state of the State of Israel. Rabbi Dr. Shubert Spero served in the rabbinate for over 30 years in Cleveland prior to his Aliyah in 1983. In Israel he was the Irving Stone Professor of Jewish Thought at Bar-Ilan University, and has published widely on halakha, morality, the Holocaust, the thought of Rabbi Soloveitchik, Religious Zionism, and many other topics in numerous articles and books. Visit the archives of TraditionOnline.org to read the open-access version of his most recent essay and all of his contributions to TRADITION.
R. Yitzhak Twersky Between Law and Spirit
54:19In TRADITION’s recent Fall 2021issue we published a wide-ranging review essay, authored by Prof. Jeffrey R. Woolf, surveying the scope and significance of the writings of Rabbi Prof. Yitzhak (Isadore) Twersky zt”l, which were recently collected and published in Hebrew as “Ke-Ma’ayan ha-Mitgabar” (Law and Spirit in Medieval Jewish Thought), edited by Prof. Carmi Horowitz and published by Merkaz Zalman Shazar. The essay is available in our open-access archive: https://traditiononline.org/book-review-yitzhak-isadore-twersky-law-and-spirit-in-medieval-jewish-thought-edited-by-carmi-horowitz Order a copy of “Ke-Ma’ayan ha-Mitgabar”: https://www.shazar.org.il/product/%D7%9B%D7%9E%D7%A2%D7%99%D7%99%D7%9F-%D7%94%D7%9E%D7%AA%D7%92%D7%91%D7%A8-2 R. Twersky, who passed away in 1997, was a Hasidic Rebbe heading the Talne Shtibel in Boston, and university professor at Harvard, where he was an internationally lauded authority on Rabbinic literature and Jewish philosophy—recognized especially for his scholarship on Maimonides. But for those who know him, especially his Hasidim and graduate students (and those who could lay claim to both titles), R. Twersky was really so much more than these lines from his CV. We thought it would be enlightening to put Professors Woolf and Horowitz together for a conversation. As you’ll hear they discussed a wide range of subjects: Why translate Prof. Twersky’s English articles for an Israeli audience, and how does our understanding of the shape of his oeuvre change when the essays are gathered between two covers? What was his unique contribution to Jewish Studies? Why did he emphasize the interaction of spirituality and halakha? What is the legacy and long-range import of his work? Watch a video recording of this conversation: https://youtu.be/MC0eJIAV1GU Carmi Horowitz has taught at Ben Gurion and Bar Ilan Universities, served as Rector of the Touro Graduate School of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and of Lander Institute, as President of the Givat Washington Teachers College, and as head of the Michlalah Yerushalayim Graduate Program in Jewish Thought. Jeffrey Woolf teaches in the Talmud Department at Bar Ilan University, specializing in the history of halakha, Medieval and Renaissance Jewish History, the Philosophy of Rabbi Soloveitchik, and the interaction between Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Both Professors Horowitz and Woolf studied under and completed their doctorates with Prof. Yitzhak Twersky at Harvard University.
In Praise of Peshara
44:58Rav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg zt”l, who passed away in September 2020 at the age of 89, was a towering rabbinic authority who provided halakhic guidance to Jews throughout the world on a panoply of contemporary issues. He possessed a unique blend of phenomenal erudition and real-world perspicacity. When approached for his expertise on contemporary halakhic questions, such as the difficult 9/11 Aguna cases or various mamzerut issues, he would unflinchingly tackle every question, leaving no stone unturned in his rigorous and detailed analysis. One of his legendary traits was to apply the intricacies of halakhic discourse to the practical world of contemporary dispute resolution in the Jewish community. In so doing he brought traditional lomdus down to earth. To help readers gain an appreciation of his sense of practical halakha in the context of the modern beit din, TRADITION recently published a translation of his important essay “Shivhei HaPeshara” (Fall 2021) about the many practical advantages of deciding cases according to principles of equity or compromise, the standard utilized by many rabbinical courts today, and not simply according to strict halakha (din). This essay is an excellent introduction to understand R. Zalman Nechemiah’s halakhic thought and offers insight to the mind and heart of one of our generation’s most significant halakhists. As“In Praise of Peshara” is somewhat technical in nature we invited R. Yona Reiss and R. Daniel Z. Feldman, of TRADITION’s editorial board, to discuss it, unpack its ideas, and enable greater understanding of the issues. They each describe their own personal relationships with R. Zalman Nechemiah, and how this essay reflects larger themes in his worldview and jurisprudence. Subscribers can access “In Praise of Peshara” at: https://traditiononline.org/in-praise-of-peshara Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman is a Rosh Yeshiva at the RIETS, an instructor in the Sy Syms School of Business and the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and the spiritual leader of Ohr Saadya in Teaneck, NJ. He has authored nine volumes on Jewish law and thought, most recently “False Facts and True Rumors: Lashon HaRa in Contemporary Culture,” and serves as the Executive Editor of the RIETS initiative of YU Press. Rabbi Yona Reiss is the Av Beth Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council and a Rosh Yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) at Yeshiva University, where he holds the Rabbi L. Katz Chair in Professional Rabbinics. He is the author of “Kanfei Yona,” a compendium of essays and responsa about contemporary issues in Jewish law. (Read R. Reiss’ eulogy for R. Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, “Halakha Down to Earth” on TraditionOnline: https://traditiononline.org/13045-2.)
Rabbi Lamm and the Spirit of the Rabbinate
39:53In this episode of the TRADITION Podcast we talk with two contributors to our recent “Rabbi Norman Lamm Memorial Volume” about R. Lamm’s vision for the American rabbinate. R. Lamm served as a prominent pulpit rabbi for over a quarter-century, first in Springfield, MA, and then at Manhattan’s Jewish Center. As Rosh Ha-Yeshiva of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, he presided over the training of multiple generations of young rabbis who went out to have a profound impact in synagogues, schools, and organizational life. Our editor, R. Jeffrey Saks, spoke with R. Menachem Penner and R. Benjamin Samuels about their essays in the memorial volume, which explored R. Lamm’s energetic rabbinic leadership and his message and challenge to his rabbinic colleagues and students. Rabbi Menachem Penner is the Max and Marion Grill Dean of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Rabbi Benjamin J. Samuels, Ph.D., has been rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah in Newton, MA, since 1995 and teaches widely in the Greater Boston Jewish community. Watch a video recording of the conversation: https://youtu.be/2J3Znev0qCc Order your copy of the “Rabbi Norman Lamm Memorial Volume”: https://rabbis.org/product/tradition-norman-lamm-memorial-volume Sound clips in this episode from Rabbi Lamm’s Centennial Chag HaSemichah address, “There is a Prophet in Israel” (April 6, 1986), courtesy of the Lamm Heritage Archives: www.yu.edu/about/lamm-heritage
Family and Morality in Turbulent Times
42:13In this episode of the TRADITION Podcast our editor R. Jeffrey Saks speaks with Rachelle Sprecher Fraenkel, who teaches Talmud and Halakha at Nishmat and Matan in Jerusalem, is a Yoetzet Halacha, and the Director of Matan’s advanced halakha program. Rabbanit Fraenkel’s essay in our “Rabbi Norman Lamm Memorial Volume” explores R. Lamm’s writing, preaching, and teaching on the role of “Family and Morality in Turbulent Times.” Throughout the 1960s and 70s, from his synagogue pulpit and his perch as a public intellectual, R. Lamm confronted and addressed the array of cultural changes – and counter-cultural forces – that were afoot and threatening a life of sanctity and religious commitment. Her essay assesses the body of his writing on these topics, and demonstrates how groundbreaking he was at the time, and how enduring most of those messages remain over a half-century later. Order your copy of the “Rabbi Norman Lamm Memorial Volume”: https://rabbis.org/product/tradition-norman-lamm-memorial-volume
The Unrepentant Darshan
53:08In this episode of the TRADITION Podcast our editor R. Jeffrey Saks speaks with Dr. Erica Brown and Prof. Ari Goldman about their contributions to the “Rabbi Norman Lamm Memorial Volume.” They each wrote about aspects of Rabbi Lamm’s written record as a self-styled “unrepentant darshan” one of the Jewish 20th century’s peerless rhetoricians, who turned the synagogue sermon into an art form and used the power of the pulpit to commutate an array of messages and educate his flock in a most impactful way. They also shared with us how Rabbi Lamm’s teachings helped shape their own religious worldviews and have had profound personal effects on each of them. Order your copy of the “Rabbi Norman Lamm Memorial Volume”: https://rabbis.org/product/tradition-norman-lamm-memorial-volume Dr. Erica Brown is a well-known author and public speaker and a consulting editor at TRADITION. She is the director of the Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership at George Washington University: www.ericabrown.com Ari Goldman is a professor of journalism at Columbia University, and formerly the long-time religion reporter for the New York Times and author of “The Search for God at Harvard,” among other books: www.arigoldman.com
R. Lamm Memorial Volume Book Launch
1:39:15Congregation Rinat Yisrael of Teaneck, NJ, hosted a special Tikkun Leyl Hoshana Rabba remembering the legacy of Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm z”l, and celebrating the publication of TRADITION’s Rabbi Lamm Memorial Volume. Speakers: Rabbi Chaim Strauchler, Rabbi Jeffrey Saks, Yoetzet Halacha Tova Warburg Sinensky, Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky. Order the volume: https://traditiononline.org/rabbi-lamm-memorial Watch the video recording of the event at: https://youtu.be/0hbzaeGr6Ew
AUDIO EDITOR’S NOTE: Excavating the Thought of Rabbi Lamm
17:12In this installment of the TRADITION Podcast we present an audio editor’s column with Rabbi Jeffrey Saks’ essay, “A Man of All Spirits: Excavating the Thought of Rabbi Lamm,” read by the author. This is the introductory essay in TRADITION’s recently released “Rabbi Norman Lamm Memorial Volume.” This special issue of TRADITION contains 35 chapters by our community's leading rabbis, educators, and thinkers, exploring Rabbi Lamm’s literary legacy and contributions to Jewish life and learning. Click here to view the introductory material and table of contents, and to order your copy of “The Rabbi Lamm Memorial Volume.”