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Hakirah Vol. 32 has shipped, and is also available from Amazon.

View and print the complete “Letters Section and “Maimonides on the Messianic Era: The Grand Finale of Olam Ke-Minhago Noheg by James A. Diamond


This volume of Ḥakirah emerges amidst a period of uncertainty, unease, and change, both in the world in general and in the Jewish world in particular. The articles in this issue deal with the challenges of responding to changing times and circumstances, both historically and in our own era.

Our Jewish Thought section deals with Israel’s response to change and to modernity in general. Our opening article, “Maimonides on the Messianic Era: The Grand Finale of Olam Ke-Minhago Noheg, shows that Rambam’s core messianic teaching is an outgrowth of his entire religious perspective “which eschews divine intervention and promotes human initiative.” The second article, “For the Love of Humanity: The Religious Humanism of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch,” looks closely at Hirsch’s universalist vision and seeks to use it as a guide for dealing with modernity. In “The Search for the Elusive Center: Norman Lamm and American Orthodoxy,” the author explains that Rabbi Lamm’s goal in renaming Modern Orthodoxy as Centrist Orthodoxy was to clarify the movement’s ideology and enhance its attractiveness. He contends, however, that “the failure of the attempted rebranding illustrates the internal contradictions of an Orthodox Judaism open to the intellectual and social currents of the wider world” and then points out new challenges that still need to be faced.

A collection of the private correspondence of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zẓ”l, opens a window into the Rav’s views on a host of issues. Of special interest are letters dealing with his relationship to the State of Israel. While the Rav never ceased his great support for the State of Israel—one letter confirms his support for Mizrachi—other letters show he also recognized secular Zionism’s anti-religious trends and sought to oppose them. Ultimately, he refuses to vie for the chief rabbinate, explaining that the time dedicated to politics would not enable him to learn and teach Torah properly, and concluding, “I am a melamed. In yet another letter, “A Letter from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik to Aaron Zeitlin,” the Rav speaks of his belief—in direct opposition to that of Israel’s leaders—that the new State of Israel must be guided by the philosophy that emerges from halakhah and that, indeed, the entire world needs to be guided by it.  Rambam’s messianic view lies at the heart of the Rav’s vision of a New World Order emerging from the sources of halakhah.

In our Jewish Law section, in “Tax Ethics in Rashba’s Responsa to Saragossa,” we see the universalist potential of halakhah, as the insights of one of our greatest rishonim are echoed much later by the legendary justice, Judge Learned Hand. Another article in this section, “Criminal Proceedings Against a Jew in a Non-Jewish Court for Get Refusal: The Effect on the Validity of the Get,” argues that modern government institutions can be used to aid Jewish courts in preventing the state of igun.

 In our History of Halakhah section, an article titled Matan Torah: What Was (and Was Not) Transmitted at Sinai” discusses which parts of the Torah she-be-‘al Peh were revealed by Moshe and what was left for the rabbis of future generations to derive. Another article, “The Repeal of Tosefet Shevi‘it: The Role of Discovered Traditions, Indirect Nullifications, and Asmakhtot in Annulling a Rabbinic Decree” gives added insight into the rabbinic process of making takanot and highlights different strategies taken by amoraim and later commentators to explain various developments in the history of halakhah.

In our Talmud Torah section, the author of “Solomonic Wisdom vs. the Letter of the Law: A Midrashic Reading,” in a close midrashic reading, finds the reason for Shlomo’s tragic error and finds in this midrash a polemic against Greek philosophy and its adaptation by Christianity. In “Sefer ha-Tappu’aḥ, The Book of the Apple: Aristotle Expresses an Interest in Jewish Concepts,” we learn of a work that was of considerable importance to several cultures in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance. In this work, “the views reputedly expressed by Aristotle are consistent with Jewish beliefs, indicating (suggesting) Aristotle’s acceptance of Jewish theological concepts, articulated on his deathbed.” The article titled “Shield of Abraham” gives a new perspective on the word magen, tracing its meaning to the garden (gan) of Eden. Finally, an essay on “The Sanctity of Tefillin” explores the nature of kedushah and demonstrates that the donning of tefillin is halachically comparable to entering the Beit ha-Mikdash.

One of our Hebrew articles deals with Moshe and Parashat Mishpatim and gives insight into the interplay between narrative and halakhah in the Torah. The other article addresses the issue of aveilut for one who feels no pain in the loss of his relative.

In our History section, “Jews Not Allowed on the Temple Mount After the British Capture of Jerusalem” asserts that “the Jewish response (or lack of response) to the changing status quo on the Temple Mount during the decade after the British occupation of Jerusalem made it easy for Great Britain to deal with the Arab demands for control of the Temple Mount.”

As we look for a path forward in the post-Covid era—in which hostility to Torah values increases daily—we must seek guidance from the writings of Rambam, Rav Hirsch, and Rav Soloveitchik among others; the realization that our decisions have lasting consequences must be constantly on our minds.


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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