The Tikvah Podcast

The Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem is the holiest physical site in all of Judaism. Religiously observant Jews ask God to restore the Temple and its services each and every day in the traditional liturgy. For thousands of years, Jews had no access to the site on which that Temple stood, until 1967, when Israeli forces reunited Jerusalem. Since then, Israel has by special arrangement ceded some forms of control of the Temple Mount to religious Muslim stewards supported by the government of Jordan. Under this arrangement, Jews may go up to the site—and many more have been doing so in recent years—but they are not allowed to pray there.

Why does Israel allow Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount, but not Jews? Why are more and more Jews venturing there? On this week’s podcast, the rabbi and professor Jeffrey Woolf surveys the history of the Temple Mount, and explains why, despite its roots in the very distant Jewish past, the site remains a fixture in the religious imagination of the Jewish people. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, Woolf also explores some of the political dilemmas the site represents, both in domestic Israeli politics and in the Jewish state’s relations with its Muslim neighbors.

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.

Direct download: Woolf_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:28pm EDT

The idea of equality has a long and intricate history, one that this week the philosopher, rabbi, and writer Zohar Atkins joins the podcast to discuss. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, he looks at how various thinkers in the Western intellectual tradition have thought about equality. Together, they discuss thinkers of equality as various as Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Luther, and Hobbes and Rousseau and Hayek. Through it all, their point of departure is the foundation of the Western canon: the Hebrew Bible.

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.

Direct download: Atkins_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:34pm EDT

There is the argument and there is the context in which that argument is made. It’s easy to sing the praises of American life when you’re sitting in the United States, but you’d likely to express yourself differently if you were explaining your views in Soviet Russia. The context of the argument does not, of course, determine its truth or falsehood, but it does help clarify what’s being said and why. This is true for all arguments, from those made by Socrates and the rabbis of the Talmud to philosophers and politicians today.

On this week’s podcast, to understand the distinction between argument and context and how it relates to political and religious communities of ideological homogeneity, we turn to one of the 20th century’s greatest thinkers, the German Jewish philosopher Leo Strauss and his 1952 essay “Persecution and the Art of Writing.” Our guide to the essay, and this week’s podcast guest, is the Yale professor of political science Steven Smith, the author of several books about Strauss’s thought. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, Smith explains how, in the view of Strauss, writers like Plato and Maimonides used esoteric writing—writing that expressed true beliefs in a careful and guarded way so as to protect themselves from backlash—to get their ideas across, and he ponders the implications that such an interpretive approach can have for writers ancient and modern.

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.

Direct download: Smith_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:15pm EDT

Beginning Saturday night, the Jewish people will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. During the festival, Jews traditionally study the book of Ruth, the biblical text that tells the story of a non-Jewish widow who becomes the great-grandmother of King David.

To help uncover why the book of Ruth is so beloved, and to make sense of the intertextual references and literary allusions at work in it, the Harvard professor Jon Levenson joins this week’s podcast. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, he explains how the narrative drive of Ruth moves from death to life, and reveals how its principal figures manifest the virtue of ḥesed, traditionally translated as loving-kindness, and meaning loyal devotion.

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.

Direct download: Levenson_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:31pm EDT

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