Sunday 30 July 2023

439) Did early Midrashic rabbis know about Origen?

A 17th century edition of Bereishit Rabba housed in the Jewish Museum of Greece.


This article based extensively on the research by Professor Maren Niehoff[1] explores the possibility of an unlikely form of ‘dialogue’ taking place in Caesarea around the 3rd century CE between early Midrashic (i.e.,Tannaic or Mishnaic) rabbis, and Origen, an early Church Father. 

An analysis of some of the similarities between Bereishit (Genesis) Rabba and Origen’s Commentary on Genesis, raises the question of whether their authors had any knowledge of each other's writings. It appears that they may have, because not only do they sometimes deal with similar issues, but they seem to intentionally interact and, in fact, ‘correct’ each other. 

Sunday 23 July 2023

438) Seeking an interface between Halacha and archaeology

Rabbi Dr Yonatan Adler at an archaeological site.

This article, based extensively on the research by Rabbi Professor Yonatan Adler of the Institute of Archaeology at Ariel University,[1] deals with Halacha (Jewish ritual and civil law) viewed from an unusual perspective through archaeology, in addition to the written text. Of course, the legal rabbinic texts provide the indisputable and authoritative approach to the keeping of Halacha today, but our purpose here is to see to what extent archaeological evidence indicates how laws may have been observed in earlier times. It is only through this archaeological record that we can glimpse at details that are not apparent in the texts. 

Sunday 16 July 2023

437) The historical neglect of Tefilin

One of the oldest pairs of Tefilin, dated between 200-50 BCE, discovered in the Qumran Caves in the 1950s. (The dimensions are 1 X 2 cm).


Considering how normative the wearing of Tefilin is in contemporary religious and traditional societies, it is hard to comprehend the idea that this may be a relatively new phenomenon. During Talmudic[1] times (10-589 CE) and the later rabbinic periods of the Gaonim (589-1038 CE) and Rishonim (1038-1500), it seems that the mitzva of Tefillin was largely neglected for a variety of reasons that we shall discuss. 

Sunday 9 July 2023

436) A Hirschian rejection of Maimonides


This article, based extensively on the research by Professor Micha Gottlieb,[1] examines the sharp anti-Maimonidean writings by the nineteenth-century rabbi, Shimshon Refael Hirsch. In the previous article, “An 'enlightened' rejection of Maimonides,” we discussed how the Haskala (Jewish Enlightenment movement) wanted to adopt Maimonides as their official ideologue and ‘poster rabbi’ because he encouraged secular education, and elevated the position of the sechel (intellect) as the prime component of the human being. We then showed how this ‘enlightened’ focus on Maimonides was severely challenged by R. Shmuel David Luzzatto, initially a member of Wissenschaft des Judentums (the official arm of the Jewish Enlightenment). In this article, we examine another rabbi also somewhat associated with the Haskala, R. Shimshon Refael Hirsch (1808-1888), who similarly rejects Maimonides and his rationalism, but for different reasons. 

Sunday 2 July 2023

435) An ‘enlightened’ rejection of Maimonides


An 1830 edition of  R. Shmuel David Luzzatto's work Ohev Ger, It examins Aramaic translations of the Torah by Onkelos, analysing variant texts found in manuscripts and other sources. 


This article, based extensively on the research by Professor Micha Gottlieb,[1] examines the sharp anti-Maimonidean writings by an Orthodox nineteenth-century rabbi, R. Shmuel David Luzzatto (1800–1865). He lived during the Haskala (Enlightenment) Period and his writings reflect severe criticisms of the fact that the Haskala had adopted and appropriated Maimonides (1135-1204) as an example of ‘one religious leader worthy of emulating.