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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

“The Jackals” and “The Lion”: Animal Fables of Kafka and Rav Kook

In 1917, Franz Kafka (1883-1924), a surrealist writer living in Prague, published in Martin Buber’s Zionist journal, Der Jude, a short story entitled “Jackals and Arabs.” The plot of the story is rather simple; the meaning—like that of most of Kafka’s works—continues to mystify readers to this day. A European gentleman camped in the desert […]

Rav Kook and Rav Shlomo Elyashev (“Leshem”) (1841-1926)

Rav Kook and Rav Shlomo Elyashev (“Leshem”) (1841-1926) The Hebrew word “Kabbalah” means literally “receiving” or “reception.” Implicit is the idea that authentic Jewish mysticism is a received tradition, into which one  must be initiated by a bona fide master. Rav Kook’s rebbe in Kabbalah was none other than Rabbi Shelomo Ben Hayim Haikel Elyashev […]

The Two Faces of Messianism

(Adapted by the Author from “Du-Partsufin shel ha-meshihiyut,” which first appeared in Bezalel Naor, Avirin [Jerusalem, 5740/1980], pp. 16-24) Copyright © 2013 by Bezalel Naor   In Messiah Son of Joseph is revealed the characteristic of Israel’s nationalism per se. However the ultimate goal is not the isolation of nationalism, but rather the longing to […]