Can we rely on God to perform miracles?

Joshua 8 tells an unusual tale. Joshua assumed leadership of the Israelites upon Moses’ death. He led them across the Jordan River into the promised land of Canaan. He conducted them in several successful conflicts against the Canaanite inhabitants but lost a crucial battle. He was now worried, and was unsure whether he could be […]

What underlies the humor of Shalom Aleichem?

  Shalom Aleichem is the pen name of the famous writer Solomon Rabinowitz, who wrote hundreds of humorous tales in Yiddish, and became one of the three most famous early Yiddish writers, along with Mendele Mocher Seforim and Yitzchak Leib Peretz. He was the only one of the three who wrote in a humorous vein. […]

Did we sin?

  I bought a statue of the famed philosopher Aristotle. It is covered in heavy bronze. It is 14.25 inches tall. It looks great. I placed it next to the Maimonides books that I wrote because Aristotle (384-322 BCE) and Maimonides (1138-1204 CE) are my favorite philosophers. Both are rationalists. Socrates taught Plato, Plato taught […]

Jews, according to J. L. Kugel, shifted in their understanding of God

  James L. Kugel’s thesis in his new book “The Great Shift” is that the Bible describes God in different and evolving ways, depending on when the biblical book or section was composed, and this points to a developing idea about what God is and how God functions, as well as what humans thought about […]

The biblical Noah and the Gilgamesh Myth

                                        There are remarkable similarities between the biblical story of the flood and the more ancient version of Gilgamesh. The Babylonian epic Gilgamesh was written around 2000 BCE and has survived in several versions. It predates […]

An anti-Semitic book that influenced Dracula

  Trilby is a good novel with many flaws. One is that the author, George Du Maurier, the grandfather of the romantic novelist Dame Daphne Du Maurier (1907-1981), placed French sayings, parts of conversations, and even significant sentences and paragraphs in French, several times on every single page of his tale, making it impossible for […]

Did Martin Luther influence Nazi anti-Semitism?

  October 31 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation started by Martin Luther (1498-1501) who many scholars maintain inspired Nazi anti-Semitism. The October 1, 2017 article in Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper on Luther includes the following disturbing paragraph. “‘It is clear that Martin Luther himself was an anti-Semite by the end of his […]

We need to think about Maimonides

  It is good to be reminded of Maimonides, especially in this time when so many people are influenced by the idea that God wants people to have faith, that faith is all that is important, except, possibly, so some people contend, God created the world so that people can, indeed should, sit back and […]

Did Moses write the entire Torah?

 Ibn Ezra’s “Secret of the Twelve”   Did Moses write the entire Torah? Do traditional Jewish commentators differ on the subject?   Who wrote the story of the death of Moses? The twelve verses of Deuteronomy chapter 34 tell the story of the death of Moses. The introductory four verses narrate how God told Moses […]

A neglected biblical book: Chronicles

  Chronicles, books I and II, were originally a single book, but were, like Samuel and Kings, divided into two simply because the books were too long to be held in a single scroll. Chronicles together with the books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell the story of the Jews from Adam down to the fourth […]

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