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In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Reducing the Sublime to a subject

By Jonathan Rosenblum



An examination of knowlege and Truth --- and the responsibilities in embracing both


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Anyone who ever studied Talmud in depth knows how maddeningly difficult it can be to reach any firm conclusions. Certain proposed solutions are easily enough rejected as nonsense. But even the greatest commentators often reach radically different results, and each of the opposing schools can successfully reconcile its conclusions with every relevant case to be found in the more than 2,700 folios of the Talmud.

The Ramban (1194-c. 1270) in the introduction to Milchemes Hashem concedes that there is no such thing as an absolutely irrefutable proof in Talmud, such as we find in geometry and trigonometry. At first glance, it appears that the Ramban is admitting that the study of Torah is in some respect inferior to that of mathematics.

Rabbi Yitzhak Hutner (1906-1980), in one of his most strikingly original essays (Pachad Yitzchak, Chanukah 9), however, explains the difference between Torah study and mathematics in terms of the different nature of the phenomena under investigation. That difference implies no inferiority to Torah study. Mathematics, indeed all science, deals with the investigation of a world in statis. Since the phenomena under investigation are static, or change according to established rules, it is possible to prove or disprove various hypotheses.

The Torah, however, deals with a world in flux, one in the process of coming into being. Our Sages say that there is no mitzva (religious duty) in the Torah that does not contain within it the power of transforming the natural order. Torah study is in a sense the ultimate example of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which posits that the very act of observation affects that which is being observed. Every bit of Torah study -- the greatest of the mitzvos -- changes the world. In a world in constant flux, always moving closer to its ultimate goal or retreating from it, there can be no perfect proofs because nothing stays the same.

The difference between the science pioneered by the Greeks and Torah study has its roots, writes Rabbi Hutner, in two distinct covenants the Divine made with man: the covenant of Noah and the covenant with the Jewish people at Sinai. At the former, the Lord promised Noah that He would never again destroy the world. He established the seasons, and declared that they "shall not cease." The Noahide covenant, then, is one to preserve the status quo "to all generations forever."

At the same time, the Almighty imposed seven commandments on all of mankind without consulting Noah. Mankind had no part in the creation of the covenant. Afterwards, each person has free will to choose whether or not to follow the Noahide Laws, but they became binding without any human consent. As the sign of this covenant, the Divine pointed to the rainbow. According to the Ramban, the rainbow existed prior to the Flood; only now He specified its role as a reminder of His promise to never utterly wipe out mankind again.


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The covenant of the Torah is completely different in nature. Had the Jewish people not declared "we will do and we will listen," the laws of the Torah would never have become binding upon us. Our prior acceptance was the precondition for the giving of Torah. Thus the Jewish people created the covenant of the Torah through a positive act of mental affirmation. (Similarly, in Jewish Law, Halacha, one can create a monetary obligation by affirming the obligation, even where there was no preexisting loan.)

The creative component is what distinguishes the covenant of the Torah. It is that component which is hinted at in the verse, "Behold, I have placed before you good and evil. Choose life." The verse refers to the giving of Torah, and the words "before you" to the Jewish people alone. For while all people have free will to observe or not observe the laws incumbent upon them -- the seven Noahide Laws in the case of non-Jews and the 613 commandments of the Torah in the case of Jews -- only the Jewish people created the obligation itself through a positive choice.

Unlike the rainbow, an aspect of nature that was appropriated as the symbol of the Noahide covenant, the symbol of the covenant of Torah is bris milah (circumcision), an act that transforms the natural. The Greeks worshipped the human body, and considered it perfect. The Jews, however, insisted that physical perfection is only achieved through a creative, positive alteration of the natural body. Only after his circumcision, does the Torah refer to Abraham as "tam," complete or perfect.

Because the laws of the Torah only became obligatory upon us by virtue of an act of human creativity, they contain the power to transform the world. They do not merely preserve the world as it is -- which is the function of the Noahide covenant; they are designed to bring a new world into being.

That task of transformation is the unique province of the Jewish people. The covenant of the Torah is not given to "all generations" equally, like the Noahide covenant. Through our Torah study and mitzva observance we are constantly changing the world. The Divine can be deduced within nature. "Raise your eyes on high and see Who created these," Isaiah instructs us. The wisdom revealed within our diurnal world also commands respect. That is why we make a blessing, "Who has given of His wisdom to flesh and blood," upon seeing a wise man of the nations.

Through the Torah, however, the Divine is apprehended directly. Upon seeing a great Torah scholar, we make a different blessing, "Who shares His wisdom with those who fear Him." The difference between the blessing on a great scientist and that made upon seeing a great Torah scholar reflects the difference between scientific knowledge and Torah wisdom. The former is "given" by the Lord to man; once received it does not create an ongoing connection: the latter is "shared"; it forges a lasting bond between the Creator and the one possessing Torah knowledge.

Our unique task as Jews is to connect directly to the Divine through His Torah, and to thereby participate in the creative task of bringing a new, more perfect, world into being. The Greeks attempted to subsume the study of Torah within the realm of Greek wisdom. The "darkness" mentioned in the opening verse of the Torah, say our Sages, refers to Greece, in particular to the translation of the Torah into the Septuagint. That very act of translation reduced the Torah to the level of another branch of Greek wisdom, and its study to another form of investigation of natural phenomena.

The Chanukah lights symbolize our victory over the Greeks --- the preservation of the unique nature of Torah. When we light Chanukah candles, we recite the words, "these lights are holy, we are forbidden to use them, only to look upon them." That direct looking at the lights reminds us that our task is to apprehend the Divine directly -- "by your light shall we see light" -- and not through deductions based on investigation of the natural world.

Only if the Jewish people reconnect to the creative realm that is above the stars through Torah and mitzvos, can we hope to escape our current situation and once again celebrate the victory of, as the traditional Chanukah prayer puts it, "the weak over the strong, the few over the many, of the pure over the impure, of the righteous over the wicked."

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JWR contributor Jonathan Rosenblum is founder of the Jerusalem-based Jewish Media Resources. A respected commentator on Israeli politics, society, culture and the Israeli legal system, who speaks frequently on these topics in the United States, Europe, and Israel, his articles appear regularly in numerous Jewish periodicals in the United States and Israel. Rosenblum is also the author of seven biographies of major modern Jewish figures. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Yale Law School.


© 2011, Jonathan Rosenblum