Sunday 27 March 2022

377) Early Jewish Messiahs and their movements

Rambam's Letter to Yemen

In this article, we look at some of the early Jewish messianic claimants and their movements, of which there have been many throughout history.

Judaism is well-known for its rejection of the Christian Messiah, yet it embraced numerous other messianic claimants and developed an intricate and complicated relationship with messianism. With the current resurge in messianism in the Jewish world in general and in movements like Chabad in particular, it may come as a surprise that this rejuvenation is nothing new. We see that throughout Jewish history there has always been the belief held by significant numbers of the population, that we were on the cusp of the great eschatological event heralding the imminent arrival of an identifiable and righteous Messiah.

Sunday 20 March 2022

376) Babylonian influences behind the Mourner’s Kaddish

The first mention of mourners reciting Kaddish is found in the 13th century Or Zarua


Most discussions on the origins of the Mourner’s Kaddish as we know it today, only begin from around the twelfth century in Germany. It was there that the Kaddish - which had existed from much earlier times although not necessarily relating to mourning - was finally institutionalised as mourning ritual.

This article, based on the research by Professor David Brodsky[1], traces the development of the now widespread custom of reciting Kaddish for beloved ones who have passed away, and explores where the idea originates that a child can ‘redeem’ a deceased parent.  

Saturday 12 March 2022

375) New research on Maharal of Prague


Maharal is buried in the Old Jewish Cemetary in Prague


There has been a recent resurge of interest in R. Yehuda Loew ben Bezalel, known as the Maharal (Moreinu haRav Loew) of Prague (1520/5-1609). His legacy has been largely veiled by legend. However, the study of some hitherto unknown, unpublished or neglected manuscripts in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, by Professor Pawel Sladek[1] upon whose research I have drawn, may shed some light on his “intellectual biography”.

Sunday 6 March 2022

374) Stagnation in the inquiry into reasons for the commandments


 R. Shlomo ibn Aderet, El Rab d'España (The Rabbi of Spain) 1235-1310.


It is sometimes of great benefit to view theological ideas and concepts within their historical context. This way, one would not mistakenly think that the idea or concept has always been there since antiquity. So, for example, when it comes to the notion of ta’amei hamitzvot, or reasons for the commandments - whatever one’s personal view on the matter is - it does help to realise that it was only as late as around the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that the idea developed that the reasons for the mitzvot are beyond human comprehension. Until that time, it was quite common for rabbis to give rational or logical reasons for the mitzvot. But then the theology changed and the preferred approach became one of ‘transcendence’ whereby the reasons behind the Torah’s commandments were considered beyond human comprehension.