Hallel from Heaven and Hallel from Hell: The Post-Holocaust Responses of Paul Celan, Aharon Appelfeld and Meshulam Rath

Hallel from Heaven and Hallel from Hell – “Just as the praise of the Holy One ascends to Him from Heaven, so it ascends from Hell.” – (Midrash) What do poet Paul Celan, novelist Aharon Appelfeld, and religious legalist Meshulam Rath share in common? Two things. First, they all emerged from Tchernowitz (today Chernivtsi, Ukraine), capital of […]

Batei le-Gani (“I Came to My Garden”): Two Discourses of Rabbi Schneersohn and Rabbi Hutner Compared

By Bezalel Naor In the year 5710/1950, in honor of the tenth of Shevat, the yahrzeit of his paternal grandmother Rebbetzin Rivkah, Rabbi Yosef Yitshak Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, composed and distributed a ma’amar (discourse) to be studied on that day. As Divine Providence would have it, the tenth of Shevat (which fell on a […]

Book Review: Maimonides Between Philosophy and Halakhah: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Lectures on the Guide of the Perplexed

BOOK REVIEW BY BEZALEL NAOR Maimonides Between Philosophy and Halakhah: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Lectures on the Guide of the Perplexed Edited with an Introduction by Lawrence J. Kaplan (KTAV/Urim: Jerusalem, 2016) 256 pp. US $28.95 In the late 1970s, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik entrusted Lawrence Kaplan with the formidable task of translating his classic […]

Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha’s Mystical Encounter with Akatriel in the Holy of Holies: A Lesson for the Generation of the Holocaust

Said Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha: One time I entered to offer incense in the inner sanctum, and I saw Akatriel, Yah, Adonai Tseva’ot sitting upon an exalted throne, and He said to me, “Ishmael, my son, bless me.” I said to Him: “May it be Your will that Your compassion conquer Your wrath; and Your […]

Book Review: Nefesh HaTzimtzum by Avinoam Fraenkel

Bridging the Kabbalistic Gap Nefesh HaTzimtzum by Avinoam Fraenkel Vol. 1: Rabbi Chaim Volozhin’s Nefesh HaChaim with Translation and Commentary Volume 2: Understanding Nefesh HaChaim through the Key Concept of Tzimtzum and Related Writings (Jerusalem: Urim, 2015) Reviewed by Bezalel Naor Recently there has been a spate of English translations of the classic of Mitnagdic […]

Four Liberating Strategies

Four Liberating Strategies By Bezalel Naor In the non-Jewish world, the second of the Five Books of Moses is referred to as “Exodus.” Scholars tell us that this name derived once upon a time from Jewish sages; the Hebrew “Yetsi’at Mitsrayim” was translated into Greek: Exodus. The medieval Spanish commentator Nahmanides does in fact refer […]

Nahmanides’ Theological Boldness

Israel’s Reaffirmation of Vows If one reads the narrative of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai purely through the Biblical lens, unaided by Rabbinic commentary, the acceptance of the Torah on the part of Israel appears to be totally volitional. The shorter version of Israel’s formal acceptance reads: “The entire people responded together […]