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Wrestling with Tradition

Reconstructing Jewish Community through Negotiating Shared Purpose

Chantal Tetreault

engagement, interpretation, and often public disagreements about how to create and maintain Jewish community. Wrestling with tradition does not entail shared beliefs or shared Halakhah (Jewish religious laws and rituals), or even a shared spiritual practice

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Democratic and Anti-democratic Roots of the Israeli Political System

Benyamin Neuberger

from religion. Because neither Islam nor Judaism traditionally differentiates the secular political sphere from the spiritual and religious sphere, liberal democracy conflicts with their worldviews. Halakhah, like the Islamic Shari'a, sets out a body of

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The Liturgical Understanding of Psalms in Judaism

Demonstrated with Samples from Psalms 90–106, with a Special Focus on Psalm 92, Mizmor shir leYom haShabbat

Annette M. Boeckler

The usage of a text within liturgy adds new meanings to the text. This article gives an overview of the understandings of Psalm 92 within its Jewish liturgical usages. The understanding is influenced by the general attitude towards psalms in Jewish liturgy, by popular interpretations in the Midrash (Jewish legends), by Kabbalistic views and by its meaning within halakhah (religious law), but also by the music that is commonly attributed to it within the service. The article shows how a text that originally had no relationship with Shabbat became, thanks to its headline, an important study text about the essence of Shabbat.

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Hitchabrut or Connecting - Liberal Houses of Study in Israel as Political and Spiritual Expression

Adina Newberg

Over the last fifteen years Israeli culture has witnessed the development of batey midrash (houses of Jewish studies) modeled after traditional batey midrash, but without regard for halakhah and open to men and women alike. They represent an attempt to connect and reconnect to the sources of Jewish learning and strive to reconcile uni- versalistic and pluralistic aspects of Israelis' identity with their Jewish identity that has been dormant since the establishment of the state of Israel. With a reflective and pluralistic educational approach the batey midrash present opportunities for exploration of students' relationship to tradition, to Israel and Zionism, God, their communities, their own spiritual path, and the 'other' in all its representations. As the continu- ing conflict with the Palestinians renders existence in Israel ever more difficult, more existential questions arise, requiring a deepening of the Jewish connection so that the two sides' worlds are in dialogue.

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Soloveitchik's 'No' to Interfaith Dialogue

Angela West

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, one of the outstanding figures of modern Orthodox Judaism in the twentieth century, was opposed to interfaith dialogue and more particularly, to theological dialogue with the Catholic Church. In guidelines laid down in his paper 'Confrontation' in 1964 he proposed that Jews and Christians should discuss social and ethical problems together, but not matters theological. Since he was personally well acquainted with non-Jewish secular learning and had a philosophically sophisticated understanding of the role of halakhah, there has been much speculation as to why he sought to restrict dialogue in this way. Fifty years after 'Confrontation' was issued, it may be useful to re-examine his reasons and motivation in this matter and consider what relevance it has for contemporary interfaith relations.

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New Prayers, Here and Now: Reconnecting to Israel Through Engaging in Prayer, Poetry, and Song

Adina B. Newberg

Israelis who have until now viewed themselves as "secular" in the rigid Israeli dichotomy between "religious" and "secular" are finding new ways of creating communities of meaning that connect to Jewish sources and yet stay aligned to values of pluralism and humanism.

These communities that do not follow the letter of the halakhah are developing in highly "secular" environments such as Tel Aviv and Nahalal and create Shabbat and holiday services combining live music, traditional prayers, and newly created prayers. By doing this, they come nearer to finding a closer echo and a truer mirror to their concerns and spiritual searches while, at the same time, finding spiritual expressions to their deep longing for connection to Judaism. Beyond the services and the communities that are forged, a new identity that bridges aspects of secularism, humanism, and spirituality is being created.

The article analyzes the reasons for this relatively new phenomenon in the context of Israeli religious and political life, and the existential crisis that has evolved as a result. The article also describes in detail two such communities as examples of this development.

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European Jewry Cannot Be Effective as a Force in Europe Unless It Becomes a Pluralist Community

Jonathan Magonet

There are two aspects of this proposition. The first one depends on our understanding of the pluralist nature of European Jewry. The Jewish community of Europe is de facto pluralist, as any attempt to define the basis of our identity makes clear. Jews consider themselves as Jewish on religious, cultural, intellectual, ethnic or political grounds, and any combination of the above. That very diversity seems to be the only uniting factor that can hold together such a disparate group of people. Moreover Jews are also deeply influenced by the different national and cultural characteristics of the societies to which they belong. The classic basis for Jewish unity in Halakhah, Jewish law, has been seriously undermined by the fact of emancipation. What was formerly a total system encompassing all aspects of life, has effectively been reduced to only two areas where power remains with religious authorities, matters of status, who is a Jew and who may marry whom, and the particular form of religious practice they adopt.

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The Jewish Centrality of Israel

The 1958 ‘Who Is a Jew?’ Affair as a Case Study

Ofer Shiff

basis of a personal declaration, even in cases that contradict Halakhah. On 20 July, the Israeli government approved the instructions to accept the ordinance, thereby sparking a coalition crisis with the religious parties, which perceived it as liable to

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The Temptation in the Garden of R. Hiyya bar Ashi and His Wife

Admiel Kosman

[relations with] a married woman, and accepted upon himself [to impose on himself his punishment] by force of repentance [since he wanted to repent for his sin, by] the law of the four court-imposed death penalties [the halakhah prescribes four forms of

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The Hyphen Cannot Hold

Contemporary Trends in Religious-Zionism

Hayim Katsman

Approach to Religious-Zionism Since the beginning, Religious-Zionists have expressed a variety of ideologies and demonstrated different levels of commitment toward strict adherence to Halakhah. While some authors and political figures argue that there is