What Time Is It? Professor Dr. Ari Ackerman on Heschel's Approach to Ritual and Sacrifice


Whether it is the yearly rituals of Passover celebrations or the familiarity of Shabbat rituals each week, Jewish observance creates sanctuaries of time. Dr. Ari Ackerman, Dean of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies and Senior Lecturer in Jewish Thought, explores Abraham Joshua Heschel’s concept of architecture of time and how ritual helps create holy spheres in our lives. The accompanying article focuses on Heschel and Moses Maimonides’ differing perspectives on ritual sacrifice.

God of History or God of Wisdom? Dr. Ari Ackerman on Parshat Yitro


This week in Parshat Yitro The Ten Commandments are revealed, and with them another lens of viewing God. Dr. Ari Ackerman, Dean of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies and Senior Lecturer in Jewish Thought, calls attention to one of the great debates of Jewish Thought between Judah HaLevi and Maimonides. Should we view God  through the lens of power as seen in history or through the lens of wisdom as seen in our natural surroundings? 

Abraham Joshua Heschel and Spiritual Education


We are in the opening weeks of the 2017 fall semester at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. One of the innovative aspects of this year’s academic program is the introduction of a new program on Jewish spirituality. It is composed of three primary elements: Kabbalah and Hassidism; World and New Age spirituality and spiritual education. In the spirit of this exciting new program, I would like to briefly explore one of the most significant Jewish philosophers of the twentieth century, Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), whose approach to Jewish education places spirituality at its center.

Halakhic Engagement with Modern Challenges: New Publication of Rabbi Chaim Hirschensohn, Malki Bakodesh, Part II


Essential to modern Jewish existence is the search for models that attempt to reconcile the dual commitment to tradition and modernity. It is of prime importance to bring to light examples that illustrate the balance between Torah commitment and openness to new challenges posed by modernity and post-modernity. This explains the recent interest in the halakhic works of Rabbi Chaim Hirschensohn (1857-1935), a fascinating model of integration of Torah learning with modern values. Rabbi Hirschensohn was born in Safed and strived to modernize the religious community in the land of Israel. Hounded by Jerusalem zealots who called for his excommunication, he eventually immigrated to the United States in 1904. There he served as rabbi of four communities in Hoboken, New Jersey, until his death in 1935. His prolific writing includes over 20 books on halakha, philosophy and Biblical and Talmudic commentaries.

Eliezer Schweid on the Relation between Halakhah and Secularism


One of the most significant cultural trends in Israeli society is the resurgence of interest in Jewish texts among circles of secular Jews. The return of secular Jews to the Jewish bookshelf began in the mid 1970s as part of the cultural reconfiguration that followed the Yom Kippur War. It has accelerated, however, in the last fifteen years, particularly since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, producing numerous initiatives and institutions involving joint secular-religious study of Jewish texts and independent secular engagement with traditional sources. It has grown to the extent that it has been characterized as a fourth stream within the cultural and social constellation of Israeli society.

Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn: Early Advocate of Jewish Law Coexisting with Modern Society


The Religious Zionist community has struggled with the proper balance between modernity and tradition. In their attempt to identify models of dedication to Torah with openness to modernity, Religious Zionist scholars have recently turned to R. Hayyim Hirschensohn (1857-1953) as offering a pattern for the possible integration of Torah learning and modern values.