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Ḥakirah Vol. 34 has been mailed and is also available from Amazon


Read our lead article Rabbinic Authority and Leadership on the Contemporary Scene by Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff

On the day Ḥakirah Volume 34 went to press, we heard the devastating news that our dear friend and member of our editorial board, Rav Dr. Sheldon (Sender) Epstein, passed away. We plan to dedicate our forthcoming Volume 35 to רב אלכסנדר בן ר' יהושע פאליק ז"ל. May his memory be a blessing.

In this edition of Ḥakirah our focus is on recent Jewish history, a period that saw the destruction of European Jewry, the rise of the Jewish state after two thousand years of galut, and the rebirth of a strong Torah community. In our lead article, “Rabbinic Authority and Leadership on the Contemporary Scene,” a prominent Jewish historian looks at the decisions of Gedolei Yisrael at the time of the impending Holocaust, their attitude towards Zionism, and the actions they took to rebuild the Torah way of life after the war. The next essay in our Jewish History section is a translation of a speech delivered in 1919 in celebration of the life and work of Theodore Herzl. In it, Rav Eliyahu Kaplan, the head of Hildesheimer Seminary and a gadol b-Torah firmly rooted in the Yeshivah world, explains Herzl’s major accomplishment as reconstructing the identity of the Jewish people as a Jewish nation. The next essay, “The Order to Close the Volozhin Yeshivah and Expel Its Roshei Yeshivah,” is a translation of the original 1892 Russian document ordering the closure of the major Torah institution of the 19th century, detailing how the gentile authorities presented their actions to the world. This closure was an early precursor of the all-out assault on Judaism that was to follow. The final article in the section, “Why Did the United States Not Save the Six Million?”, places America’s reticence to do more to save the Jews of Europe into the context of American history and argues that anti-Semitism had little to do with it.

The Jewish Thought section also deals largely with the modern world—with modern thinkers and modern thought. In an essay titled “The ‘Children of Prophets’—Vox Populi as Literal Vox Dei?” the author follows how Hillel’s characterization of the Jewish people as the “sons of prophets” was understood by Jewish scholars throughout the generations. In later years, Zionist rabbis saw this evaluation as an explanation as to why the common people, not the rabbis, were taking the lead in the establishment of the State of Israel. Two essays deal with the relationship of other modern-day thinkers with Orthodoxy’s premiere thinker, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zṭ”l. “Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik: Neighbors Behind Fences” contrasts the approaches of two Rabbinic scholars in developing a philosophical path for Modern Orthodoxy, with that of Rav Soloveitchik ultimately prevailing. “A Jewish Response to the Numinous: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Critiques of Rudolf Otto” shows how the Rav’s religious thought differed from that of the great Christian philosopher of the twentieth century by being distinctly Jewish. The last two articles in the section return to the era and thought of Rambam, his formulation and intent in the thirteen ikkarim that form the eternal base for Jewish philosophy. The essay titled “Rambam’s Authenticity” disputes a reading of Rambam’s words in the thirteen ikkarim that has caused some to question Rambam’s sincerity. The other article, “The Ikkarei Emunah of Mishneh Torah,” argues that Rambam changed his mind in later years about the ideal formulation of these fundamental principles but not about their content.

In our Torah and Medicine section, in an essay titled “The Jewish Attraction to the Medical Profession in Physicians’ Own Words: A Mesorah of Medicine,” an accomplished physician begins with the writings of Rambam and continues to the works of the present day to show that it is the Torah itself that draws Jews to medicine. In the next essay, “Spiritual Immunity,” the authors expand upon the words of Or Ha-Ḥayyim to demonstrate the parallel between the functioning of the human immune system to protect the physical body and the soul’s spiritual system enabling man to fight sin and latch on to kedushah. The final essay in the section, “Nonmedical Use of Adderall: Halakhic Considerations,” relates how the inappropriate use of a drug has become common in our community and argues that it causes health risks and violates halakhah.

The articles in our Minhag section, “Friday Night’s ‘Ribon Kol Ha-Olamim’—the Second Half of ‘Shalom Aleikhem,’” and “Gadlu: Position and Bowing,” examine two common practices and delve into the reasons for the variation in their execution. In our Talmud Torah section, “Be-Shuv Hashem Et Shivat Tziyon”: A Widely Misunderstood Biblical Phrase” argues that an often-quoted verse in Tehillim is generally misinterpreted. In “Searching for Elijah the Prophet” the author gives added insight into the Talmudic rule of leaving some issues unresolved “until Elijah comes.”

Our first Hebrew article is a convincing refutation of the claim that Rav Yaakov Emden’s Megillat Sefer is a forgery and introduces us to some of his statements that were considered controversial. The second article explains the important uses of stem cells in new medical treatments and discusses the halakhic problems this raises. Another article discusses the wide acceptance in Ashkenaz of saying Kol-Nidrei and attributes it in part to the beauty and emotional impact of the ceremony. Our final article is a follow up to an earlier one, which suggested there were variant texts of the Sefer Torah used by the Rishonim in Ashkenaz. In this article, the variances in pesuḥot and stumot are discussed.

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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