Wednesday 27 September 2023

446) Mashiach is just two Amens away


Shirei Yehuda by Yehuda Leib Zelechow, Amsterdam, 1697


This article – based extensively on the research by Professor Elisheva Carlebach[1] − explores how (just after the failed messianic awakening of Shabbatai Tzvi, and just before the emergence of the Chassidic movement) a new trend in messianism began to develop. This new messianism was advanced by the likes of Yehuda Leib of Zelechow, and it promoted the notion that the ‘imminent redemption’ was dependent upon urgent attention to the prayers. His theological hypothesis was that two specific “Amens” in the prayer service have generally been ignored by the congregations − and this is holding up the messianic redemption. 

Sunday 10 September 2023

445) ‘Mainstreaming’ Chassidism in 19th century Poland

Jakub Tugendhold's Jerobaal


This article based extensively on the research by Professor Marcin Wodzinski[1] looks at an unlikely defence of Chassidim by Jakub Tugendhold (1794-1871) a member of the Polish Haskalah (Enlightenment movement). The Haskalah is generally regarded as a more enlightened, academic and scientific movement, often in direct philosophical conflict with Chassidism which it regarded as a form of Jewish superstition. The Haskalah movement began in Germany but in the early nineteenth century, it had spread to Poland. The issue of Chassidism was not just one component of the battle of the Haskalah against traditionalism, it became the major point of contention, especially in Warsaw, which became the “primary battleground of this struggle” (Wodzinski n.d.:13). There were one or two voices from within Warsaw that argued somewhat in favour of the Chassidim. Jakub Tugendhold and Marcus Jastrow were among the small number of non-Chassidim who lent their support to  Chassidism. 

Sunday 3 September 2023

444) R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik and R. Abraham Joshua Heschel on inter-religious dialogue

R. Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972)
R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993)


This article explores two very different approaches to inter-religious dialogue. On the one hand, R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993), a leader of Modern Orthodox Judaism and Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University, did not promote Jewish-Christian dialogue on the other hand, R. Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), a professor at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America did engage in inter-religious dialogue. 

Both came from important rabbinical families. R. Soloveitchik came from a line of outstanding Lithuanian Talmud scholars and R. Heschel was the grandson of the Apter Rebbe and went by the same name ‘Avraham Yehoshua’ as his illustrious grandfather who was buried next to the Baal Shem Tov. 

R. Soloveitchik and R. Heschel were friends. Both rebelled against their family traditions of not engaging in secular studies and went to study at the University of Berlin, emerging with doctorates in Philosophy in the early 1930s. Both were admirers of Kierkegaard and were interested in Existentialism (Kimelman 2004:2).[1]