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TITLE: Introduction to the Tevet 5763 Edition
Author: Dr. Eugene Korn

Welcome to the Tevet 5763 edition of The Edah Journal. This edition continues to probe the universe of Torah values: their relation to the halakhic process and changing socio-historical conditions, the nature of their claim on faithful Jews, the tension between Torah ideals and specific implimentations, the issues they raise in the moral and spiritual lives of committed Jews, and the challenges they present to Am Yisrael

The Edah Journal is privileged to present the first full English translation of Rav Nahum Eliezer Rabinovitch’s magisterial Hebrew essay, “The Way of Torah” (Darkhah Shel Torah). This seminal work breaks new ground by positing a theory of historical evolution Torah values consistent with Orthodoxy’s insistence on the Torah’s divine origin, by defending the spiritual necessity of political liberty, and by arguing for the halakhic illegitimacy of religious coercion in any contemporary polity. Just as Torah ethics have legitimately evolved from a once historically-necessitated polygyny to today’s ideal of monogamy, so too should Jewish religious life move from the past need for  coercion to the moral ideal of freedom where each person’s Tzelem Elohim is fully realized. R. Rabinovitch also lays the halakhic ground for Jewish democratic political theory. Because the essay moves so boldly within these topics, it has broad implications for Jewish philosophy, politics and halakhic practice in the public arena. 

Rabbi Reuven Singer discusses the nature of non-technical Torah values (e.g. the quest for qedushah, humility in prayer, rest on Shabbat), and extends the debate over whether such values can generate formal halakhic prohibitions. Can rabbis legislate non-mandated Torah values or should they more rightly use these values to persuade and inspire? Can there be pluralistic debate and legitimate divergent practices over such values? These questions are crucial for understanding differing rabbinic opinions regarding women’s prayer groups and other behaviors hitherto unknown in traditional halakhic communities. 

Lippman Bodoff offers a comprehensive analysis of the roots of Jewish mysticism and martyrdom in the Middle Ages, questioning whether either is consistent with normative halakhah and whether the contemporary turn to mysticism and messianism threaten authentic religious life today. He challenges scholars to reassess these phenomena and the consequences of the kabbalistic flight from history and social responsibility.

The prominent Israeli writer Bambi Sheleg reflects upon the erosion of any axiological consensus amongst Israelis today the concomiitant breakdown of communal responsibility. Sectorialization and conflicting special interests now reign supreme. How can Israel as a multicultural Jewish society solve its internal problems if it continues its traditional “culture of adversity” and makhloket that now erects sociological and existential walls between Jews?

Lastly, Rabbi Dov Linzer pens a review essay of Rav Yehudah Herzl Henkin’s important book, Equality Lost, a work that contains both expository reflections and pesaq in so many of the gender issues that bedevil contemporary religious life. Rav Linzer sees Rav Henkin as a critical poseq for Modern Orthodoxy, one keenly sensitive to feminist issues but who has no political agenda or predisposition to leniency or stringency. The two issues of the contextualization of halakhic values and the status of non-mandated Torah values raised by Rabbis Rabinovitch and Singer respectively, also reverberate in Rav Henkin’s writings.

We have chosen to reprint Rabbi Naftali Harcsztark’s call for papers in Jewish education that first appeared in the Tammuz 5762 edition of The Edah Journal. The extended deadline for submission of papers is June 1, 2003. We hope to publish an edition devoted to Jewish education later that year.

The essays in this edition raise vital questions for Modern Orthodox life and should stimulate reflection on future directions for halakhic and religious living.  Please send your responses to journal@edah.org for posting in the journal. I look forward to your participation in this crucial discussion.

B’shalom,

Eugene Korn, editor

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