The Tikvah Podcast

There's a distinction often made between two common approaches to the human longing for wisdom. The first approach, philosophy, is considered the unassisted search for wisdom and truth, one that requires boldness, curiosity, and perhaps even impiety; it requires the philosopher to ask questions that can unsettle the customs and social habits on which any decent society depends. The second approach, biblical religion, is the product of revelation, of God’s disclosure to Moses and mankind the ways of creation and righteous living. The biblical desire to know requires submission and deference to an authority beyond all human pretensions, an authority that knows the human heart better than humans themselves do. Philosophy appeals to human reason; scripture appeals to divine revelation. They’re two fundamentally different modes of understanding, learning, and living.

This week’s podcast guest argues that this oft-drawn distinction between reason and revelation is all wrong. Dru Johnson is a professor at The Kings’s College in New York City, director of the Center for Hebraic Thought, and the author of a new book, Biblical Philosophy: A Hebraic Approach to the Old and New Testaments. In the book, Johnson argues that, beginning in the Hebrew Bible and extending even through the Christian New Testament, the Bible has a coherent manner of seeking out wisdom that bears all the distinguishing characteristics of a text with philosophical depth. Just like the Greek tradition, biblical philosophy is a distinct intellectual tradition that has its own answers to a great many of the pressing questions of mankind. Curious? Join him and Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to learn more.

Direct download: Dru-Johnson-Podcast-Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:09pm EDT

The Soviet Union was deeply against religion, and in particular was deeply against Judaism, so that the full embrace of Jewish religious observance, or the study of Hebrew, or the slightest approval of Zionism were often seen as criminal offenses against the state. Some Jews, like Natan Sharansky, resisted—brave refuseniks who wouldn’t give in to enforced secularization and who organized underground networks of Jewish life. Eventually, through American and international pressure, the Soviets allowed those desperate Jews to leave. But what of the Jews who didn’t flee, who remained in Russia even after the demise of the Soviet Union? What’s their story? 

David Rozenson, the executive director of Beit Avi Chai, a Jewish cultural center in Jerusalem, was born in the Soviet Union before his family escaped to the United States. Years later, as an adult, he returned to Russia and stayed there for years. On this week’s podcast, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he tells his family story, and explains why, despite his family risking so much to leave, he chose to go back and serve the Jews of the former Soviet Union.

Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.


Direct download: Rozenson_Final_2.1.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:39pm EDT

In 1958, the American author Leon Uris published Exodus, the novel about Israel’s founding that became an international phenomenon. Its hero, though an Israeli kibbutznik, was portrayed as a blond, blue-eyed man of culture and elegance, a portrayal reinforced by the film version of the novel, which starred Paul Newman. Whether or not this was his point, by portraying Israelis as racially white and as Western in their sensibilities, Uris was making it easier for most Americans to identify with Israel and its cause.

This week’s podcast guest, the frequent Mosaic contributor Matti Friedman, argues that Americans still see themselves in Israel―just not always in the way that Uris hoped. In a recent essay, Friedman finds in the American reaction to the Jewish state’s recent confrontation with Hamas the same mythology that once animated Uris’s writing—only in reverse. Where in Uris characters are portrayed with distinctly Western sensibilities so as to attract Americans to Israel, contemporary portrayals of Israelis are now advanced by those who wish to distance Americans―and the world―from Israel.

Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Friedman-FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:12pm EDT

Among European diplomats and public figures in the 1990s, it was universally believed that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was the central key to understanding the Middle East. It was their view that until Israel made peace with the Palestinians and enacted a two-state solution, the region would remain in constant chaos, a view that made Israel the subject of much European opprobrium. Since then, even through the second intifada and multiple wars with Hamas, Israel remains in largely the same position with the Palestinians as it was two decades ago. The broader Middle East, however, has changed dramatically, with direct results for European security. Europe has endured countless Islamist terror attacks and has seen a refugee crisis in Syria bring numerous migrants to its borders, redrawing the fault lines of its politics.

In light of all of this, are European leaders finally changing their views of the Jewish state? This week’s podcast guest, Benjamin Haddad, the director of the Future Europe Initiative at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, thinks that many are. In a recent essay, Haddad argues that the reaction of leaders across Europe to Israel’s recent confrontation with Hamas revealed a significant shift in European thinking about the Jewish state. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he explains the change he’s seeing, and why it’s happening now.

Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Podcast-Haddad-FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:10pm EDT