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Hakirah vol. 28 has been printed and is on the way to your home. It is also available for purchase at Amazon.

All English article are available on Kindle including: The Secret Code of Esther; The New Siddur Avodat Ha-Lev; R. Moshe Isserles View on Christianity; BRCA Testing for Ashkenazi Women; Progressivism and Orthodox Judaism

The following article is available in full:

Siddur Avodat HaLev: A New Siddur and Insights on the Old
By: Aton Holzer and Arie Folger


Hakirah Volume 28, Spring 2020

Before the appearance of the coronavirus, the most pressing concern of the American Jewish community was the recent rise in antisemitism. And in the midst of the ravages of the virus, as has so often been the case in the past, it too became a reason for antisemitism in some circles. Our opening article, “Amalek from Generation to Generation,” traces the history of antisemitism to Kabbalat Ha-Torah and seeks to explain its root cause, concluding that Amalek’s hatred is for Judaism more than for the Jews themselves. Other articles in Ḥakirah 28 are related to this theme as they deal with Israel’s relationship to the nations of the world. The second article in the Jewish Thought section, “An ‘Ever Better’ Judaism? Progressivism & Orthodox Judaism,” argues that modern left-wing thought is in opposition to the eternal teachings of the Torah. An article in the History of Halakhah section, “A Positive Light on the Nations: R. Isserles’ Revisionistic Views on Christianity,” examines the predominant negative view of the Ba‘alei Tosefot towards Christianity and compares it with the more positive assessment of Rama generations later. An article in the Jewish Law section, “Loving the Convert Prior to a Completed Conversion: With a Test Case Application of Inviting Conversion Candidates to Pesach Seder and Yom Tov Meals,” suggests that the mitzvah of loving the ger applies even before the final conversion has taken place.

Antisemitism is also relevant in an article titled “The Code of Esther: A Counter-Investigation,” where the author investigates the claim that there is a hint in Megillat Esther linking the most prominent antisemite of ancient times to the Nazis of the modern era. Other articles highlight Israel’s determination to overcome persecution and return to their land.  In “Outlawed Visitors on al-Haram al-Sharif: Jews on the Temple Mount during the Ottoman and British rule of Jerusalem, 1517–1967” we see that despite an Arab ban and halakhic issues with ascending the Temple Mount, individuals still managed to ascend over the centuries. In our Minhag section, “Tehillat Hashem and Other Verses Before Birkat Ha-Mazon” traces the development of the custom to say certain Psalms and verses before Birkat Ha-Mazon and the practice of some people to add a few additional verses after Shir Hama‘alot. Here, too, the motivation behind the choice of these texts shows the yearning of Israel to return to Eretz Yisrael. And in an article in our Talmud Torah section, “‘David Melech Yisrael Chai VeKayam’: Kiddush HaLevanah, Midrash, Archeology, and Redemption,” we see how halakhah, minhag, midrash, history, archeology, and iconography interface to reveal how the Rabbis perceived kiddush ha-levanah as a means of maintaining Jewish sovereignty in their land.   

Other articles in our Talmud Torah section also show how modern discoveries and insights can be used to shed light on ancient texts and practices. In “The Original Understanding of Sea Sponges in mShabbat 21:3,” the author studies girsaos and history to attempt to prove that a later layer, added after the completion of the Talmud, introduces a new halakhic prohibition.  In “On the Meaning of the Word Ḥem’ah in Biblical Hebrew,” the author researches ancient and medieval sources and applies logic to reevaluate the translation of a word in the Bible. In “Idle Chatter or Vital Chat? A Janus-Faced Talmudic Dictum,” the author sheds light on Aggadic passages dealing with the completeness of the Torah and shows that “the same slogan [is] deployed by champions of particularism to support their viewpoint no less than by champions of universalism to support their contrary position.” And in a Hebrew article on the “kevad peh kevad lashon” of Moshe Rabbenu, the author uses many methods of Biblical analysis, including modern medicine, to suggest the meaning of this term.

Two important articles deal with contemporary issues affecting women. In a Hebrew article the author explains the unique problems involved with the agunah situation in Europe because of the governments’ intrusive regulations. In our Torah and Medicine section, the essay “BRCA Testing for All Ashkenazi Women: A Halachic Inquiry” explores medical and halakhic issues regarding whether a potentially life-saving procedure should be performed. Some of the issues weighed—possible medical benefit that comes with the knowledge of greater statistical susceptibility versus the psychological and life-style harm caused by this knowledge—are relevant to the precautions that have been almost universally accepted to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

In “­­A New Siddur and Insights on the Old,” contributing editors for the new RCA siddur explain issues and considerations in the production of a new siddur to enhance performance of the eternal mitzvah of tefillah in the 21st century.

Our opening article on Amalek contends that just as there is an external Amalek, there is also an Amalek within the human psyche, and that Israel is only harmed by the external Amalek when it has given an opening to the internal Amalek. The internal Amalek convinces man of his own centrality and invincibility. The pain and the fear that the coronavirus has generated throughout the world should spark the realization of how vulnerable mankind really is, and how dependent we are upon our Creator.  Our community was slow to recognize the danger and was particularly hard hit by this pandemic, but then quickly became integrally involved in combatting it. Many amongst us demonstrated both great courage and faith. It is incumbent upon us to evaluate our actions and understand our strengths and weaknesses. As the Biblical text implies and the Mishnah explicitly states, the response to the ravages caused by Amalek is turning our hearts to G-d.

 

Hakirah: The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought is a publication of Hakirah, Inc. a non-profit private foundation exempt under section 501 (c) (3).

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