Sunday 28 November 2021

360) Why was The Guide For The Perplexed intended to be a secret document?





Rambam (Maimonides, 1135-1204) places tremendous importance on the meaning and usage of words. He dedicates major sections of his Moreh Nevuchim (Guide For The Perplexed[1]) to explain how words are used in the Torah. He believed that most of the rabbinic world during his time misunderstood and misrepresented many basic words, especially those used in relation to G-d. Yet, for some reason, he also wanted this writing to remain hidden. This article explores some readings selected from early sections of the Moreh Nevuchim.

Sunday 21 November 2021

359) Is Torah Statutory Law or Common Law?



Are our modern perceptions of both secular and Halachic law responsible for the way we view the laws contained within the Torah? This article is based extensively on the writings of Rabbi Dr Joshua Berman[1], a professor of Tanach at Bar-Ilan University. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks refers to him as “one of the most original biblical scholars of our time.” Berman presents an interesting approach that allows one to understand how Law, in general, functioned in the Ancient Near East - and in fact, up to recent times. Although he does show theoretical rabbinic precedent, some may find his method theologically challenging while others may find it enlightening.

Sunday 14 November 2021

358) Why the Insatiable Need for Magic?



At what point does religion end and magic begin? Many of the magical activities and beliefs of some of the sages are, as we shall see, quite surprising. Have some religious practices become inherently magical, or is something declared “magic” only when performed (or believed) by the “other”, even if it is identical to ours? This article is extensively based on the research by Professor J H (Yossi) Chajes[1] who has opened up important vistas into the extent of Jewish magic.

Sunday 7 November 2021

357) Tehillim as a Rebellion against the Monarchy

                                       Political and Theological tensions in the Siddur


In this article, I propose that the early to central section of the Shacharit (morning prayer) service, known as Pesukei Dezimra - incorporated into the Siddur (prayer book)  only at around the 10th to 11th centuries - was related to the decline and eventual demise of the office of the Reish Galuta (Exilarch), occurring at that time. The Reish Galuta had overwhelming religious, political and social powers, indeed mirroring the status of a Jewish king. The general tenor of the Pesukei Dezimra (essentially comprising the last six psalms of Sefer Tehillim) is one of rebellion against, and minimising the role of, the monarchy and drawing focus, instead, towards a divine Kingship. In other words, it was a reaction against human intervention and intercession in a theology that was supposed to be monotheistic.

Simply put, this is an attempt at answering why it was that specifically the last six psalms of Sefer Tehillim were chosen to be inserted into an already well-established Siddur, at that late juncture in history. Was it a “re-enactment” of why those types of psalms were instituted in the first place when the parallel and original biblical monarchy was also in decline?

Although I do draw on previous scholarship (in Part I), this hypothesis (in Part II) is my own and any shortcomings or inaccuracies are entirely my own.