February 20, 2022

Soul on an Ice-Bound Sea

TRADITION’s esteemed editor emeritus, Shalom Carmy, joins our ongoing conversation about the state of humanities, considering ways that religious life benefits from studying secular liberal arts. If the humanities are not flourishing in the gilded enclaves of Orthodoxy, it is not only financial motives at play: “I fear that the Orthodox community, like the secular world it too often resembles, avoids serious engagement with the humanities, for other reasons. The heavy hand of social conformity robs individuals of solitude and independence. And one salient marker of that conformism is a profound unease and distaste for individual or communal self-examination and soul-searching engendered by the encounter with a great humanities education.”
February 17, 2022

The BEST: Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”

Moshe Kurtz writes on Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” – “Regardless of the promise of a life waiting on the other side, the pain of bereavement is real and sometimes overpowering. One can know that Rabbinic Judaism unequivocally believes in the immortality of the soul, but it is something else to fully internalize it into one’s psyche. Johnny Cash’s struggle to balance his faith commitments with his despondent emotional state is what makes this work of art both poignant and relatable for all people of faith.”
February 15, 2022

PODCAST: Shubert Spero and “Doing” Philosophy

The TRADITION Podcast recently caught up with R. Shubert Spero, who just published “The Problematic Metaphors of Righteousness,” his 26th essay in our pages. We discussed the wide range of his philosophical interests over his long rabbinic and academic careers, the formative influences on his thought, and the central role Religious Zionism plays in his work.
February 13, 2022

REVIEW: Sarna’s American Jewish History

As the preeminent scholar of American Jewish History Jonathan Sarna’s teaching, writing, and research have expanded the scope of the field. Zev Eleff’s review of two new books helps us gauge how Sarna has helped us understand ourselves and our past.
February 10, 2022

The BEST: Maus

Israeli illustrator Shay Charka explains how Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” liberated Jewish culture by appropriating anti-Semitic stereotypes: “Spiegelman’s most significant contribution to the rehabilitation of the Jewish spirit after millennia of persecution culminating in the Holocaust is specifically through his depictions of Jews as mice.”
February 8, 2022

The Primacy of Law in Love

Tova Warburg Sinensky reads R. Norman Lamm’s classic work “A Hedge of Roses” and demonstrates how her grandfather’s 1966 overview of the laws of Jewish family purity is much more than a defense of a once-neglected halakha. In fact, it is a subtle and profound philosophical treatise about how Jewish law serves to protect loving relationships, including, but not limited to, the marital union. 
February 6, 2022

REVIEW: Hokhma LiShlomo

The arrival of a large tribute volume is usually noteworthy, both for the potentially significant writing and scholarship it will contain, and for helping us frame the accomplishments of the festschrift’s honoree. The recent publication of “Hokhma LiShlomo: Essays in Honor of Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin” delivers on both counts, says Yitzchak Blau in reviewing the book. “This volume, honoring a rabbi with a distinguished resume, contains enough variety and interest to merit a worthwhile place on our bookshelves. The topics covered successfully convey the range of accomplishment of the honoree.”  
February 3, 2022

The BEST: Vermeer’s “Geographer” and “Astronomer”

Chaim Brovender writes on the value of art as he interprets two works by Vermeer: “Surely these ideas can be stated in religious language and are found in the words of Hazal. But not everyone can appreciate the wonder in the world through the word, and not everyone can appreciate the love that is expressed in creation through the use of language. Vermeer enables us to look upon these notions through an amazing representation of reality.” 
February 1, 2022

A Bleak Outlook for Orthodox Humanities

Joining the conversation on the state of the humanities in the world and within Orthodoxy in particular, Chaim Waxman responds to Menachem Kellner, bringing the sociologist’s skills to sound a pessimistic note while reminding readers “Ya gotta believe!”