Light in the Darkness? Hanukkah and its Possible Pagan Origins


What are the cultural-evolutionary origins of our Holiday of Lights? To be sure, the rabbis of the Talmud tell us in Tractate Shabbat 21a that the miracle of Hanukkah is what we teach our children, and perhaps why we eat latkes and jelly doughnuts, all laden with (way too much) oil. However other accounts of the story, including one other rabbinic source – the Al Ha’Nissim paragraph added to the Amida and Birkat Hamazon during the holiday – make no mention of this miracle.

Guarding Souls: Saving Life in the Age of Science and Technology


When God instructs Adam in Eden from which tree he is forbidden to eat, the instruction is fairly clear. God said, but: “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Gen. 3: 2-3). Genesis 2 differentiated between the tree of knowledge and the tree that was in the midst of Eden. Knowledge, and how it is communicated, can cause all sorts of problems. SMARTPHONES CAUSE DEPRESSION – You have probably seen the headline in capital letters more than once. Sometimes they add ANXIETY too.

Are Jews Smarter?


Debate abounds about its beginning, but all agree that the Anthropocene epoch is in full swing. The newly coined geological era is characterized by humans’ global impact on the Earth’s ecosystems and even on evolution itself. Did the period begin with the agricultural revolution more than 10,000 years ago? Did it begin with the industrial revolution? Did it begin when we started to mine and burn fossil fuels? No matter. We are in the era and confronting the many ethical dilemmas we as humans are creating with our own hands.

The War of Cultures: An Evolutionary Analysis


At the Schechter MA graduation ceremony in Jerusalem a few months ago, the master of ceremonies, Jacky Levy, a well-known Israeli media personality, asked a poignant question in the context of the awarding of the Rabbi Marc and Dr. Henia Leibhaber Prize for Religious Tolerance in Israel, of which he himself is a recipient. The Liebhaber Prize was established 18 years ago in the wake of the political/religiously motivated assassination of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Does Jewish Law Permit Internet Surveillance? Responsa in a Moment: Volume 7, Issue No. 8, June 2013


Since The Washington Post broke the story on June 7th, the media has reported that the NSA (National Security Agency) of the United States has been engaged in massive surveillance of electronic communications via the PRISM program for at least six years in order to locate and apprehend terrorists.

An Evolutionary Look at Jewish Religious Practice


Last November SIJS hosted a one-of-a-kind conference in conjunction with the Binah Yitzrit Foundation of Austin Texas. The theme of the conference was Judaism in Evolutionary Perspective. To some, a dialogue between Judaism and evolutionary theory seemed like shatnez. * To most of the nearly 150 participants, the papers presented touched them on a very intuitive level. In truth, the evolutionary study of religious beliefs and practice has spawned a great deal of research in the last two decades. However, the studies, with a few notable exceptions, focus on Christian practice and theology. There is a veritable dearth of studies in the literature that directly addresses Jewish religious practice in evolutionary perspective.

A Responsum Regarding the Environment and Air Pollution Responsa in a Moment: Volume 3, Issue No. 2, October 2008


The Rotem Amfert company wants to open a new phosphate quarry at Sdeh Brir near Arad. It is 3.5 km. southwest of Arad (population 27,000), right next to the 2,500 Bedouin of El Fura, and 3km. from the Bedouin town of Kseifah (population 10,000). Sdeh Brir contains 65 million tons of phosphate, which is enough to be mined for 35 years. Four years ago, 5,800 residents of Arad signed a petition against this quarry. The Mayor of Arad then commissioned a telephone poll of Arad, which determined that 88% of the residents opposed the quarry. On May 22, 2005, the Arad City Council decided unanimously to oppose the quarry. Even so, in 2007 the Rotem Amfert Company renewed its request to open the quarry.