The Tikvah Podcast

From the Pittsburgh shooting to rising anti-Semitism in Europe, from the U.S. embassy move to the Trump Administration’s exit from the Iran deal, from Michael Chabon’s controversial speech at Hebrew Union College to Israel’s new nation-state law, 2018 has been a big year for the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Through it all, the Tikvah Podcast has tried both to stay above the fray—at a remove from the news cycle—and to be engaged with the contemporary challenges facing the Jewish people throughout the world. Our hope is that by treading this unique path, we’ve helped you, our listeners, deepen your understanding of Jewish affairs, Jewish philosophy, Jewish texts, and Jewish statesmanship.

So as the year comes to a close, we bring you selections from a few of our best conversations from 2018. We hope these excerpts shed light on the past and give us some guidance, and maybe even inspiration, for the future.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: End_of_Year_Podcast_Mash-Up_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:28pm EDT

“Hark, my beloved knocks! ‘Let me in, my own, My darling, my faultless dove! For my head is drenched with dew, My locks with the damp of night.’”

The fifth chapter of the biblical Song of Songs tells the story of two lovers who long for each other, but see their reunion thwarted by lethargy and indifference. The great commentators of the Jewish tradition have long seen the Song of Solomon as an extended metaphor for the relationship between God and the People of Israel. The Almighty knocks at the door of His chosen nation, but will Israel answer His call?

That is the question Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik posed to a rapt audience at Yeshiva University on Israel’s Independence Day in 1956. Delivered in the tense days leading up to the Suez Crisis, Soloveitchik’s speech, titled “Kol Dodi Dofek,” “Hark, My Beloved Knocks,” uses the Song of Songs to place before American Jews a hortatory call: through the creation of the State of Israel, God knocked at the door of the Jewish people. Will the Jews of America open the door and stand beside the reborn Jewish state in its hour of need?

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver is joined by Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter for a discussion of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s speech, later published as a short book entitled Fate and Destiny. Rabbi Schacter describes the dramatic historical background of Soloveitchik’s address and guides us through the “six knocks” that demonstrate God’s involvement in the creation of the State of Israel. He also discusses Rabbi Soloveitchik’s attitude toward suffering, messianism, and secular Zionism in a conversation as relevant today as when it was first delivered over half a century ago.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

If you enjoy this podcast and want learn more from Rabbi Schacter about the life and thought of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, we hope you will enroll in Rabbi Schacter’s online course, “Majesty and Humility: The Life, Legacy, and Thought of Joseph B. Soloveitchik.” Visit to sign up.

Direct download: Schacter_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:17am EDT

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.”

Thus speaks Jesus in the Book of Matthew, condemning the forerunners of Judaism’s great rabbis for neglecting the spirit of the law, even while upholding its letter. Such condemnations are found throughout the New Testament, and this classic Christian critique of halakhah, Jewish law, has been repeated throughout the millennia by Jewish and Gentile critics of traditional Judaism. Yet, Judaism’s sages have long maintained that halakhah represents the will of the Almighty, and that its careful study can allow us a glimpse into His mind.

How can the study of rules surrounding marriage and divorce, the Sabbath and tort law, draw us closer to God? This is one of the questions at the heart of Professor Chaim Saiman’s new book, Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law, published by Princeton University Press as part of the Tikvah Fund’s Library of Jewish Ideas series. This remarkable book—written for laymen and experts alike—demonstrates how the rabbis of the Talmud use the language of law to tackle questions of values, theology, beauty, the nature of man, and much more. Behind the legal details of the Oral Torah lies an entire body of thought about the deepest questions of human life.

In this podcast, Professor Saiman joins Tikvah Senior Director Rabbi Mark Gottlieb to discuss his book. They explore what makes the study of Talmud so peculiar in our modern world, the deeper meaning of rabbinic legal discourse, and whether the word “law” is even a fitting way to describe the intricate system of value-laden practice that makes up the halakhah.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Engineered to Perfection” by Peter Nickalls.

Direct download: Saiman_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:16am EDT