20 12, 2023

Aristotle’s view of the soul

By |2023-12-20T08:01:07-07:00December 20th, 2023|Jewish Books|

  The popular concept of the existence of a “soul,” a person’s personality separate from the body, which survives the body’s death and lives on for eternity, while accepted as axiomatic by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, is not in the Hebrew Bible. The Torah has the Hebrew word nefesh, which means “soul” in Modern Hebrew, [...]

14 12, 2023

What we don’t know about Jacob, the third patriarch

By |2023-12-14T07:11:25-07:00December 14th, 2023|Jewish Books|

  Much about Jacob in the Torah is obscure. This is good because the Torah wants us to think about esoteric subjects. We enjoy them and learn much from our thoughts when we think about them. The following is a sample of the obscure items. Jacob is the third of the patriarchs. Why are there [...]

8 12, 2023

Misconceptions about Hanukkah

By |2023-12-08T08:11:52-07:00December 8th, 2023|Jewish Books|

  Many people have wrong ideas about the Jewish holiday Hanukkah. The following are a few examples: The holiday name is spelled in different ways in English such as Channukah, Chanukkah, Hannukah, and Hanukkah. None are wrong. Hanukkah does not celebrate a victory over the Greeks. Due to Alexander's conquests, the Greeks ruled many kingdoms, [...]

30 11, 2023

The Chanukah story does not battle against Greek culture

By |2023-11-30T08:11:47-07:00November 30th, 2023|Jewish Books|

  Many people are mistakenly convinced that the Jewish holiday of Chanukah celebrates the victory of the Jewish religion over Hellenism and that the enemy was Greece. Neither supposed fact is true. The Jews in Judea, Egypt, and other diaspora countries had a longstanding favorable relationship with the Greeks and Hellenism well before and long [...]

19 11, 2023

What We Do Not Know About Joseph

By |2023-11-19T08:05:48-07:00November 19th, 2023|Jewish Books|

  Jacob’s beloved son Joseph committed some inexplicable acts, raising many questions, such as whether we consider him a good man. Many Jews call Joseph Yosef Hatzadik, meaning “Joseph the righteous one.” Is this accurate? A minority of “pious” people apply terms like “holy” and “righteous” to people and items when the majority feel otherwise. We [...]

16 11, 2023

Do all people believe in the same God?

By |2023-11-16T11:15:26-07:00November 16th, 2023|Jewish Books|

     Since people of many religions say they believe in God, can we say that all people believe in the same God? I think the answer is no. I’ll explain why. First, I think the concept of belief is wrong. It was introduced into Judaism by the then-Jewish, later Christian, Paul, who attempted to [...]

29 10, 2023

Does God Know Us?

By |2023-10-29T08:26:48-07:00October 29th, 2023|Jewish Books|

                                                                           Famous Jewish philosophers had conflicting views about prophecy and divine providence. People can accept or reject their views. Many Jews are convinced that Jews are judged by their behavior, not by their [...]

23 10, 2023

Review of Vashti’s Daughter

By |2023-10-24T06:19:41-07:00October 23rd, 2023|Jewish Books|

    Raven West's novel “Vashti’s Daughter” is brilliant. I enjoyed it. Every page. I would call it a fantasy, with the best meaning of the word. It is somewhat akin to J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books, but better. The plot is excellent and moves at a delightful speed. It is very creative and [...]

22 10, 2023

Who was Abraham?

By |2023-10-22T10:44:57-07:00October 22nd, 2023|Jewish Books|

The Torah does not clarify much about the patriarch Abraham. Much is obscure. This is good. It prompts us to think. And when we think, we learn. And there is much in Abraham’s life that can improve our lives and make it better.   Why is there no miraculous birth story for Abraham as for [...]

16 10, 2023

The Biblical Flood and the Gilgamesh Myth

By |2023-10-16T09:08:21-07:00October 16th, 2023|Jewish Books|

  There are remarkable similarities between the biblical story of the flood and the more ancient version of Gilgamesh. The Babylonian epic Gilgamesh was written on twelve tablets around 2000 BCE and has survived in several versions. It was discovered in 1839 among the ruins of a buried library in the excavated ancient city of [...]

15 10, 2023

Ancient Brutalities

By |2023-10-15T11:59:18-07:00October 15th, 2023|Jewish Books|

                                                                            The Odyssey                                                            Translated by Emily Wilson   I read another translation of “The Odyssey” in the [...]

4 10, 2023

I made a mistake

By |2023-10-04T06:41:55-07:00October 4th, 2023|Jewish Books|

Dear Friends, I made an embarrassing mistake. I apologize. There is a Yiddish expression, which in English can be translated as “Men think, but God laughs.” The idea is that every human makes mistakes. I want to add, however, that while this is true, it is not true that God mocks us. I wrote to [...]

27 09, 2023

Are the “miracles” in the Elijah and Elisha tales natural events?

By |2023-09-27T09:07:46-07:00September 27th, 2023|Jewish Books|

  There is a greater concentration of miracles in the Elijah and Elisha stories in the biblical book Kings than in the Exodus tales.[1] Are all of them natural events? Maimonides would answer yes, they were natural events, not miracles. In his Guide of the Perplexed 2:48, Maimonides emphasizes that whenever the Bible states that an event, [...]

22 09, 2023

What does “Man of God” mean?

By |2023-09-22T06:34:50-07:00September 22nd, 2023|Jewish Books|

  The biblical book Kings describes the Deity as Y-h-v-h, as did the Five Books of Moses. It also calls the Deity Elohim, generally translated as “God,” as does the Five Books. Yet, it describes the prophet Elisha as a “Man of Elohim,” not a “Man of Y-h-v-h.” Why? A related question. Are the many [...]

18 09, 2023

Two witnesses prove God exists

By |2023-09-18T07:58:04-07:00September 18th, 2023|Jewish Books|

  The weekly portion of Haazinu (chapter 32), the penultimate Torah’s ending, is “The Song.” In it, because he realizes the significance of his message, Moses reemphasizes the benefits and consequences derived from observing and disobeying the divine law.   Jewish law generally requires, with few exceptions, two witnesses to produce evidence in a court [...]

14 09, 2023

A Digest of Judaism

By |2023-09-14T10:16:30-07:00September 14th, 2023|Jewish Books|

     II Kings 4 describes a troubled woman who discovers her son has died. She rushes to leave her home and seeks help from the prophet Elisha. Her husband did not know his son died. He asks her in verse 23, “Why do you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath?” [...]

4 09, 2023

Fights among the Zealots

By |2023-09-04T09:57:49-07:00September 4th, 2023|Jewish Books|

    Just as fights exist between religious Zionists, they exist among the Zealots. Judaism is destroying itself. Maggid Books in Israel has reprinted the original 1920 version of the classical mystical book Orot, “Lights,” by the famous Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook. The 2023 publication appears in its original Hebrew with a preface, introduction, [...]

30 08, 2023

Religious Zionists are destroying themselves

By |2023-08-30T05:37:16-07:00August 30th, 2023|Jewish Books|

  Yair Ettinger’s “Frayed, The Disputes Unraveling Religious Zionists” is eye-opening. He is revealing a dangerous situation that many people do not know exists. And those who know don’t know how to resolve the problem. The religious Zionist movement today in Israel is splintered. And each side, like squabbling children who fail to realize the [...]

28 08, 2023

Maimonides’ view of ideal humans

By |2023-08-28T09:27:40-07:00August 28th, 2023|Jewish Books|

  Professor Rabbi Dr. Michael A. Shmidman described “Isadore Twersky’s Unique Contribution to the Study of The Guide of the Perplexed” in five steps. These were Maimonides’ descriptions of ideal humans. They are people who enhance their thinking and study the sciences to understand how the world functions and use that knowledge to act and [...]

24 08, 2023

There are many important laws in the portion Ki Seitzei

By |2023-08-29T04:15:37-07:00August 24th, 2023|Jewish Books|

    The parasha Ki Seitzei (21:10-25:19) contains many laws. The Masorites of the first millennium of the Common Era counted 110 verses in the portion. They gave it the mnemonic Hebrew letters ayin lamed yud, whose numerical numbers total 110. The word means “upon me” and suggests that the Jew accepts the many laws [...]

20 08, 2023

What we don’t know about the biblical Abraham

By |2023-08-20T06:36:03-07:00August 20th, 2023|Jewish Books|

    Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Grossman, a professor at Bar Ilan University in Israel, published Abraham, The Story of a Journey. Maggid Books published it in 2023. The book is brilliant, very thoughtful, and informative. It was initially published in Israel in Hebrew in 2016. Atara Snowbell translated it into English. Her rendition is excellent, enjoyable, [...]

15 08, 2023

Why do we need judges?

By |2023-08-15T13:10:31-07:00August 15th, 2023|Jewish Books|

   The parasha Shoftim (16:18-21:9) begins with Moses requiring the Israelites, “You must make judges and officers in every gate that Y-h-v-h gives you for your tribes. They must judge the people with righteous judgment. They must not show any [special] respect to anyone nor take gifts because gifts blind the eyes of the wise [...]

15 08, 2023

Where does the Bible allow people to change Torah laws?

By |2023-08-15T08:35:04-07:00August 15th, 2023|Jewish Books|

  Two sources support the view that the Torah allows Jewish leaders, including rabbis, to change biblical laws, even radically.   First, the Torah gives multiple hints that its laws are designed for the ancient former slaves who were influenced by the treatments they received and other cultures. They are not ideal but commands that [...]

11 08, 2023

Why do we need to see?

By |2023-08-11T06:26:59-07:00August 11th, 2023|Jewish Books|

  The weekly biblical portion Re’eh (11:26-16:17) begins with Moses saying, “See, I set before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing is if you keep the commands of Y-h-v-h your God that I command you today. The curse if you do not keep the command of Y-h-v-h your God and turn aside [...]

7 08, 2023

Were the 613 biblical commands proclaimed at Mount Sinai?

By |2023-08-07T07:26:44-07:00August 7th, 2023|Jewish Books|

  As I wrote in my “Mysteries of Judaism IV”: “The first report that the Torah contains 613 commandments dates to the third century CE, when Rabi Simlai mentioned this concept in a sermon recorded in the Babylonian Talmud, Makkot 23b. The Talmud states: ‘Rabi Simlai gave as a sermon (darash Rabi Simlai): 613 commandments were communicated [...]

1 08, 2023

Disobedience to God’s ways has consequences

By |2023-08-01T11:36:33-07:00August 1st, 2023|Jewish Books|

   There are multiple changes in spellings and repetitions in Deuteronomy. This contradicts Rabbi Akiva’s view that God dictated the Torah to Moses, even every letter. He claimed that God is perfect and has no need to repeat what is communicated. If there is a change in spelling and seeming repetitions, they must be understood [...]

1 08, 2023

A note on the division of the Bible

By |2023-08-01T09:33:56-07:00August 1st, 2023|Jewish Books|

                                         Reflecting the ancient practice, the original Torah lacked divisions between words, sentences, and sections. These were added at later times. The subject of their introduction is complex because we no longer have all the facts, [...]

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