Tuesday, October 07, 2008

New Periodical: Tradition vol. 41 no. 2 (take 2)

I'm reposting the contents of the latest issue of Tradition with brief summaries:

  • A Tribute by R. Reuven Bulka - A brief but informative description of R. Wurzburger's views and attitudes.

  • The Words of the Master and the Life of the Student by R. Shalom Carmy - Describing R. Wurzburger by, among other things, comparing him to R. Soloveitchik.

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  • Reflections on Torah Education and Mis-Education by R. Marc Angel - An intentionally non-rigorous article lamenting the simplification of Torah that is taught in schools, particularly about issues that R. Slifkin touches on (Torah, science, Chazal's statements).

  • The Problem of Identity in Rashi, Rambam, and the Tosafistsby R. J. David Bleich - Discusses the philosophical problem of identity, i.e. are we defined by our physical bodies or our memories or something else? Imagine having a brain transplant. Which body is the real you? R. Bleich tries to deduce from halakhah a dispute between Rashi and the Rambam over whether our identity is defined by a spacial-temporal contiguity (Rambam) or the causes that led to our existence (Rashi). I'm surprised that he did not even briefly discuss issues of the soul, which seems quite relevant to this topic.

  • A Tiny but Articulate Minority by R. Alan Brill - A great review of R. Wurzburger's views and publications. A little heavy on the philosophical jargon, particularly in the notes, but manageable.

  • Mitsva Surprises: Gleanings from Sefer Haredim by R. Reuven Bulka - A survey of the mitzvos listed in Sefer Charedim that relate to thought and emotion rather than action.

  • On Cleaving as Identification: R' Soloveitchik's Account of Devekut in U-Vikkashtem Mi-Sham by R. Shalom Carmy - An enlightening study of R. Soloveitchik's main point in his important essay, U-Vikashtem Mi-Sham.

  • Memorial Tribute for Rabbi Walter S. Wurzburger by Jordan Cherrick - A brief but interesting essay about R. Wurzburger's views and contributions that adds to the previous essays.

  • The Odd and Instructive Habits of Non-Observant Jews: A Look at Berit Milah and Pesah by R. Emanuel Feldman - A discussion of the links between the two positive commandments whose non-observance is punished with kares.

  • Ideas and Eternity by R. Hillel Goldberg - Hard to describe but seems to discuss the futility of trying to contribute an idea that will last into posterity.

  • Did Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer Label Rabbi Zechariah Frankel "An Apostate"? by R. Shnayer Z. Leiman - Dr. Leiman makes the case that, contrary to the claims of some historians, R. Hildesheimer called a different Frenkel an apostate -- one who was literally an apostate (i.e. he converted to Christianity) -- and not R. Zechariah Frankel.

  • The Status of Peace as a Moral Virtue by R. Sol Roth - R. Roth eloquently presents the case for peace from the Jewish tradition, pointing out that it overrides other important concerns but not entirely.

  • Holocaust Commemoration and Tish'a Be-Av: The Debate Over "Yom Ha-Sho'a" by R. Jacob J. Schacter - In a fascinating exploration of the history and reasons for the religious opposition to Yom Hashoah, R. Schacter pops some myths and sets the record straight.

  • Is there Science in the Bible? An Assessment of Biblical Concordism? by R. David Shatz - Dr. Shatz subjects to detailed examination a number of prevalent attitudes towards understanding the Torah's creation narrative. He points out a number of flawed arguments on multiple sides of the debate. Personally, I am open to concordism (showing that science corresponds to the Torah, like Gerald Schroeder and others attempt) but I don't see it working within the text, as R. Slifkin has ably demonstrated. Additionally, the rate of change in science ("shifting sands") is so fast that it seems implausible to peg any specific theory to the text, even though Rishonim did just that; science changed much more slowly in their time. Even Dr. Schroeder's science is outdated, in that he requires a universe that is 15.8 billion years old (The Science of God, pp. 60-71) while estimates have since been revised down (a NY Times article earlier this year [link] that has the consensus at just under 13.7 billion).

  • Radical Theology in Defense of Faith: A Fourteenth-Century Example by R. Michael A. Shmidman - Another nod to R. Slifkin, this one slightly less than explicit. R. Shmidman discusses a 14th century traditionalist who, in arguing that the Rambam was overly radical, ends up espousing a view limiting divine knowledge to only the past and the present in order to allow for free will.

  • Paradise Lost or Outgrown? by R. Shubert Spero - In a sequel to his controversial 1999 article allegorizing the Flood, R. Spero argues in detail that the story of the Garden of Eden was an allegory to the psychological evolution of man.

  • "With Your Permission": Zimmun in Cyber-Halakha by R. Joel B. Wolowelsky - I found this article discussing R. Yaakov Ariel's different responses regarding asking permission in bentching from the hostess to be interesting, insightful and generally correct. However, the author overlooked the argument in these posts (I, II).

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