The Tikvah Podcast

In April 2024, a court in Argentina ruled that the 1994 bombing of the AMIA, a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, was directed by Iran and carried out by Hezbollah. It was an official government acknowledgement of what was long thought to be true, and certainly the conclusion that the Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman had arrived at prior to being assassinated the day before he was due to testify.

Today, July 18, on the thirtieth anniversary of the AMIA bombing, Argentina’s current president, Javier Milei, announced his intention to prosecute Iranian leaders involved in the attack. To commemorate the anniversary, we’re rebroadcasting this week a conversation from 2019 that Jonathan Silver had with the rabbi Avi Weiss, author of a Mosaic essay on the subject from the same year.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Weiss_REBROADCAST.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:33pm EDT

This month, Keir Starmer was elected prime minister of the UK. He is something of a reformer in the Labor party, which, before him, had been led by Jeremy Corbyn. The two have a different public temperament and different public persona. They have a different attitude toward the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Corbyn normalized a degree of anti-Semitism within mainstream Labor politics that was so odious it forced ideologically committed Labor members who are Jewish to leave the party. Since Starmer took over, the party has made a conscious effort to put forward a different, more welcoming face toward Jews.

And what about beneath the surface? Is Starmer different in practice and policy toward Israel and the Jewish people? To answer that question, host Jonathan Silver speaks here with British journalist Melanie Phillips, who wrote an essay on the subject recently called "All Change."

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Phillips_Final_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:47pm EDT

For years, the Reform movement in America has allowed marriage between a Jewish and non-Jewish spouse, as long as the couple commits to raising their children as Jews. But a cultural taboo against intermarriage remained for Reform clergy, a taboo reinforced by admissions and ordination standards at the Hebrew Union College, the movement’s main seminary. Applicants who were in a long-term relationship with a non-Jewish partner were denied, on the grounds that modeling a Jewish home was expected of rabbis.

That changed this year. “Moving forward,” a recent letter from the president, provost, and board chair of the seminary announced, “the religious identity of a student’s or applicant’s partner will no longer disqualify students for admission or ordination.” The letter goes on to explain that this decision is the result of a process of internal deliberation, and that it brings what’s expected of the clergy in line with the reality of the broader Reform community.

In reaction, the longtime Reform rabbi Mark Cohn took to the Times of Israel with an article, called “The Anguished Dilemma of a Reform Rabbi,” lamenting the decision. In today’s conversation, Cohn joins Jonathan Silver to discuss the Reform movement’s attitude toward interfaith couples, the relation between clergy and congregation, the purpose and nature of religious leadership, and in this case, who is leading whom, why this decision was made, and what it could mean for the future of Reform clergy in America.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Cohn_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:33pm EDT

Shmuel Yosef Agnon is one of the masters of modern Hebrew fiction, who helped to spark the revival of modern Hebrew literature in Israel and around the world. His work is not only beloved, but also profound, laden with many allusions to the vast canon of traditional Jewish text that shaped his literary imagination: one hears in Agnon’s work echoes of the siddur, the Hebrew Bible, and an astonishing array of rabbinic literature. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1966.

 

Yesterday, Tikvah released a five-part, online video course introducing students to S.Y. Agnon’s short stories, novels, and anthologieswriting that strengthened the Jewish people in those pivotal 20th-century years when the state of Israel was reborn. The course is taught by Rabbi Jeffrey Saks, director of research at the Agnon House in Jerusalem, series editor of the S.Y. Agnon Library at the Toby Press, editor of the journal Tradition, and the founding director of the Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions in Jewish Education – ATID. This week, we bring you the audio from the first episode of Rabbi Saks’s forthcoming video course on the writings of Shay Agnon. To register for the course, go to tikvahfund.org/agnon.

 

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Agnon_Final_MM2_4.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:18pm EDT

Last month, host Jonathan Silver spoke with the rabbi Shlomo Brody about Jewish military ethics. They spoke, in particular, about the Jewish ethical tradition’s conception of right conduct once a war has begun: how one ought to calibrate the force of a maneuver to the threat it is meant to neutralize, how one ought to balance collateral damage and civilian casualties with force protection, and other related questions. This week, Brody joins Silver once again to discuss the reasons nations go to war—that is, to discern in Jewish history, Jewish text, and the drama of modern Zionism, the ethical parameters of thinking about going to war in the first place. As with their previous conversation, this conversation is informed by Brody’s recently published book, Ethics of Our Fighters. 

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Brody2_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:58pm EDT

Jewish communities have just concluded the celebration of Shavuot, a pilgrimage festival in times of the Temple and the moment when, fifty days after the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt, God revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses. Those commandments form the foundation of the many rules and obligations inflected throughout the Jewish tradition. Indeed, after thousands of years of Jewish history, observant Jewish lives continue to be structured by what is known as halakhah, Jewish law.

What is halakhah? In 2018, the rabbi Mark Gottlieb sat down to answer that question with Chaim Saiman, one of the world’s foremost scholars of Jewish law and the author of a then newly published book called Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law. This week, in honor of the Jewish holiday that celebrates lawgiving, we bring you a rebroadcast of their discussion.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Saiman_Rebroadcast_Final_-_MM.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:10pm EDT

Since the attacks of October 7 and since the Gaza war began, a small but vocal segment of American Jews have joined in with the anti-Israel protests convulsing American cities and campuses. What are their ideas and where do they come from?

Elliott Abrams is the author of If You Will It, a book coming this fall on Jewish peoplehood. Also the chairman of Tikvah and a regular Mosaic writer, he’s been an observer of American Jewish life for a long time. In his view, the Jewish turn against Israel in America today is vastly different than the usual critiques one hears every Shabbat in every synagogue across the country. In other words, it’s not that these Jews don’t like the Israeli prime minister or other members of his governing coalition, or certain policies of the government or trends in Israeli culture. It's that they see Israel as a moral encumbrance on the Jewish conscience, and imagine that the Jews would be better off without statehood altogether. He recently developed this argument in an essay in Fathom called “American Jewish Anti-Zionist Diasporism: A Critique,” and here elaborates on it with host Jonathan Silver.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Abrams_2024_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:03pm EDT

Traditional readers of the Hebrew Bible, reinforced by rabbinic commentary, condemn the bloodlust, cruelty, exploitation of the weak, and exaltation of the strong that is on display in the Amalekite attack on Israel in the book of Exodus. But it’s not the Amalekites, the nomadic enemies of the Israelites, who are shocking for their sacralized violence; it’s the Israelites who are shocking for their ability to quiet that darker, natural impulse, and live out a different moral code. 

That is the thought that frames a recent essay called “Civilization Is from the Jews,” written by Andrew Doran, a senior research fellow with the Philos Project. Here, with host Jonathan Silver, Doran discusses his contention that what we think of as “civilization” came into the drama of human history in no other way than through God’s covenantal promise with Abraham and his children.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Doran_2024_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:59pm EDT

A stable if somewhat cold peace has endured between Egypt and Israel for nearly fifty years, a peace that includes serious diplomatic and security cooperation. Much of that has to do with Gaza. After Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, Israel and Egypt jointly imposed a blockade and began to control its borders, since each had its own reasons to fear Hamas. Hamas was, after all, an outgrowth of the very Muslim Brotherhood that threatened the Egyptian government’s rule.

Since October 7, Egypt has catapulted itself into a role as a key mediator between Israel and Hamas. The country’s leader, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has seen the crisis as a lever he could use to grow his country’s economy and restore some of its diminishing political clout. Has that worked?

Haisam Hassanein is an analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. In this podcast, he joins host Jonathan Silver to think through how Cairo assesses the war on its border, how it sees its own interests there, and what lasting consequences Israel’s war with Hamas may have on the future of Egypt’s relations with the Jewish state.

In the last few days, it's been widely reported that Egyptian mediators were responsible for surreptitiously changing the terms of a recent hostage negotiation between Israel and Hamas, thereby deceiving the American and Israeli negotiators. That news broke after the two recorded their conversation, and so while they won’t discuss it explicitly, this news can be better understood in light of how Hassanein describes how Egypt understands its own national interests.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Hassanein_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:24pm EDT

Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” has a long and poignant history that traces back to a poem originally written by Naftali Herz Imber called “Tikvateinu.” This week, to mark the 76th anniversary of Israel’s founding, the historian and author Asael Abelman joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to investigate that history. Together, they look at the biblical sources and national aspirations of the poem, examine some of the contemporary discussion surrounding it, and take stock of some of its mysteries and paradoxes. Foremost among those paradoxes is the fact that the state of Israel’s anthem is a song of longing for the day that there will be such a thing as a state of Israel.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Abelman_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:21pm EDT

After a long delay, the Israeli military’s advance into Rafah, the city in southern Gaza that is the last stronghold of Hamas’s fighting force and that now also hosts many civilian refugees from the rest of Gaza, may now be underway. Many in the U.S. are concerned that an Israeli push into Rafah will incur high numbers of civilian casualties. How does and should Israel think about that possibility?

The rabbi and scholar Shlomo Brody is the author of a new volume on Jewish military ethics, Ethics of Our Fighters. It is traditional in the intellectual and philosophical field of just-war theory to draw a distinction between the ethics of going to war and the ethics of fighting in war. Here, Brody and host Jonathan Silver discuss the latter subject—ethics in war—as it is seen through the Jewish tradition and the historical experience of the Israeli military.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Brody_2024_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 7:27pm EDT

Anti-Israel campus activism has never been more popular or unpleasant than it is right now. In years past, much of this activism was mixed up with nods to the desire for peace and a two-state solution that would allow for Palestinians to enjoy their own sovereignty alongside a secure Israel. That isn’t happening now. It certainly isn’t what is meant by the chants, now common at the most prestigious universities in the United States, that call for the globalization of the intifada or that give voice to the delusion that Israel can be unborn.

To analyze the protests, the protestors, and their slogans, Ruth Wisse, the scholar of Yiddish and Jewish literature and history, and the author of books including Jews and Power, joins Jonathan Silver.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Wisse_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:47pm EDT

Next week, Jewish families will sit at their seder tables and relive the drama of Jewish liberation from Egyptian oppression. The text used, the Haggadah, is one of the most widely read works of the rabbinic tradition. It has an inescapably national aspect, and its main themes, when seen in the right perspective, suggest to the rabbi Meir Soloveichik that it can be understood as a preeminent work of Jewish political thought: tackling themes of freedom and oppression, covenant and constitution, state and society, the nature of law and the dreams of a people.

Soloveichik discusses that and more here, in the first lecture in his eight-part course, “The Haggadah: A Political Classic,” which is available in full at meirsoloveichik.com.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Passover_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:17pm EDT

Yechiel Leiter is a distinguished Israeli public servant and thinker. A scholar of political philosophy, the head of the international department of the Shiloh Policy Forum, the former chief of staff to then-Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he is also the father of seven children—including five of whom are serving in Israel’s current war with Hamas. His oldest son, Moshe Leiter, himself a father of six children, fell in battle on November 10.

Here, he joins host Jonathan Silver to mark six months of the war, to talk about the obligations of Israeli citizenship, Zionism, and Judaism, to remember his son Moshe, and to share how he and the nation have mourned their lost children.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Leiter_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:55pm EDT

Whether or not haredi Jews should be required to serve in the IDF is a perennial question of Israeli politics, one that has caused political parties to form and disband, governing coalitions to rise and fall. It was the subject of a 2021 episode of this podcast with the haredi judge, editor, and rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer. This question has taken on a new intensity lately, as the October 7 attacks and Israel’s war in Gaza have unified most of the country in a belief that the haredi draft exemption is unsustainable, unwise, and unjust.

This week, Pfeffer joins Jonathan Silver again to talk about how the matter now looks from within the haredi community. They discuss how Israeli haredim reacted to the October 7 attacks, the experience of the small number of haredim who have been serving in military operations since the war began, and what Pfeffer thinks they should do. Notably, he argues that, as a matter of Jewish belonging, haredi men ought to enlist and help to protect their country.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Pfeffer_2024_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00pm EDT

Nearly twenty-five years ago, at the turn of the new millennium, America came very close to selecting not only a Jewish vice president, but a proudly religious, Shabbat-observing, kosher-eating Jewish vice president: Joe Lieberman, senator from Connecticut.

Lieberman, who died this week, epitomized a certain spirit in American public life, when the great debates over the conduct of American foreign policy and the management of domestic affairs still admitted heterodox disagreement. He was also a key figure in the U.S.-Israel relationship, articulating as well as anyone in public life why the widespread support that Americans feel toward the Jewish state also had a strategic value in serving American interests.

In October 2019, Lieberman, by then retired from the Senate, was in Jerusalem, where he addressed the Herzl Conference on Contemporary Zionism. In that speech—later published in a suitably edited form in Mosaiche took a retrospective tone, looking back at the initial impulses that led Theodor Herzl’s ideas to take concrete form in modern Israel. He looked at the effect that Israel has had on American Jewry. And he honestly examined growing political trends that troubled him.

Today, we rebroadcast a 2019 conversation that Jonathan Silver had with Lieberman in which they discuss that speech and his career.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Lieberman_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00pm EDT

Neighborhoods have always played a distinctly important role in American public life. The neighborhood is the most intimate public setting outside of the home, the place where mediating institutions of common life—schools, stores, gyms, houses of worship—connect citizens to each other. American neighborhoods, however, have lately grown fragile and unhealthy, reflecting the nation's loneliness epidemic, its underwhelming public education system, its demoralized society.

Seth Kaplan is the author of Fragile Neighborhoods, a new book that diagnoses these dilemmas and that offers practical steps to nurse neighborhoods back to health. He joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss how Jewish neighborhoods might serve as models that could inspire other communities in the United States.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Kaplan_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:11pm EDT

In 21st-century America, the formation of families has become less common, and when people do get married and have children, they have fewer of them. According to demographers, for a population to reproduce itself, each family in it must on average produce at least 2.1 children. Americans are now reproducing at well below that number, a trend that comes with economic, social, political, spiritual, and moral consequences.

It's possible that government initiatives and financial incentives can encourage this number to rise. But in general there are mixed results when governments try to incentivize childbirth. This may be a sign that the forces undermining family formation are not primarily legal or economic, and that they are instead cultural attitudes and norms of behavior.

That possibility is what today's podcast guest, Timothy Carney, addresses in a new book, Family Unfriendly: How Our Culture Made Raising Kids Much Harder Than It Needs to Be. In looking for examples of communities that have developed healthy family cultures, his reporting took him to an Orthodox suburb of Washington, DC, where he spent Purim and Shabbat, and to Israel.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Carney_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:51pm EDT

During Israel's war against Hamas, it has provided direct aid to Gazans, and it has allowed for the distribution of foreign aid. Hamas has accused Israeli soldiers of intentionally targeting Palestinians as they gather to receive food, most recently on February 29. The Israeli military released video evidence to the contrary, but by the time they did so, international impressions were already set, and Israelis now wonder why they’re volunteering the wellbeing of their own soldiers, and their own resources, only to be met with international condemnation. To explain the historical and strategic context of the aid to Gaza that Israel gives and facilitates, Jonathan Conricus joins Mosaic editor and podcast host Jonathan Silver. Conricus served in the Givati Brigade of the IDF when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Since then, he's served as a combat commander, military diplomat, and IDF international spokesman, and has been acting as a spokesman in the months since October 7.
 
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: Tikvah_Podcast_Conricus_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:05pm EDT

One day after this phase of the war began, on February 25, 2022, the writer, former Senate staff member, Navy reservist, and executive director of the KKR Global Institute Vance Serchuk joined Mosaic‘s editor Jonathan Silver to discuss what was happening in real time. Two years later, he joins the Tikvah Podcast again to step back and ask some basic questions, and to offer his considered judgment on the state of the war.

What are its causes? On what basis can one decipher the truth from the conflicting narratives about the war in Europe, in Ukraine, in Russia, and in the United States? What have we learned about the deployment of novel military technology? What sorts of alliances have emerged or been strengthened, and what can we learn from them? Has the invasion of Ukraine helped the West relearn the necessity of military force, and chastened some of the most idealistic discourse about human rights and multilateralism? How does the war in Ukraine shed light on the state of U.S.-Russia relations and competition?

Serchuk recently returned from the Munich Security Conference, where he spoke with foreign officials about the state of the war. And, this August, he’s teaching a specialized seminar on U.S.-Russia Relations as a part of the Security Studies Program at the Hertog Foundation in Washington, DC. If you’re an advanced undergraduate, a recent college graduate, or a young professional working in national security, foreign policy, or related fields, you might consider applying to study with Mr. Serchuk. Applications are available at hertogfoundation.org, and they are due on March 4.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Serchuk_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:07pm EDT

The outstanding rabbinic authority and philosopher of the Middle Ages, Maimonides, was also a physician. After writing The Guide of the Perplexed, his great philosophical treatise, he turned his attention to composing works of medicine. He produced ten: On Hemorrhoids, On Cohabitation, On Asthma, On Poisons and Their Antidotes, Regimen of Health, On the Causes of Symptoms, Extracts from GalenMedical Aphorisms, Commentary on Hippocrates’ Aphorisms, and a Glossary of Drug Names.

In all of these, Maimonides is preoccupied with organizing, clarifying, simplifying vast expanses of text into usable guidelines. That’s one reason why the production of and instruction in aphorisms was so important for him—they were designed to be easy for physicians and their patients to remember. And there was a lot to remember. According to Maimonides, a doctor must know all about anatomy, symptoms, the health and sickness of the body and its parts, how to restore health when a person is sick, and food and diets, medicines, bathing, bandaging, and the various instruments that a medical doctor would need to use.

To get a sense of all this, the Maimonides expert Yehuda Halper sits down with host Jonathan Silver to focus on one particular medical work, Maimonides’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ Aphorisms. Many now will be familiar with Hippocrates because the popular Hippocratic oath that inducts physicians into their profession is attributed to him. But in Maimonides’ time, medical research often took the form of commentary on the ancient writings of Hippocrates. One of Hippocrates earliest and most authoritative commentators was Galen, an ancient Roman doctor, and in his commentary, Maimonides applies his reason and empirical experience in the medical field to both of them. Along the way, Halper, in the fourth and final episode in their mini-series on Maimonides, explains how Maimonides thinks about the nature of authority, about the role and also the limits of tradition, and about the domain of reason and observation in human life.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Halper_4_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:33pm EDT

In the 1850s, when a young Italian Jewish boy named Edgardo Mortara fell ill, his family’s Christian maid had secretly baptized him in hopes that he would be restored to health, or that if he died, his soul would be saved.

This meant that when Edgardo survived and his baptism was revealed, the church saw him as a Christian child, not a Jewish one—and it was forbidden by Canon law for a Christian child to be raised by Jewish parents. So Edgardo, then six years old, was removed from his family against their wishes by the pope, and brought to Rome where he was instructed in the Catholic faith and eventually became a priest.

This is the background to a new work of short fiction, “The Story of My Family,” written by the great American Jewish writer Cynthia Ozick and published in the March 2024 issue of Commentary. In it, Ozick retells the kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara as it is remembered by Edgardo’s nephew’s daughter who, by the time of the story, has moved to America. From there, she reflects on the way that Edgardo’s life and priesthood haunted his nephew, that is, her own father.

To discuss her new story, Ozick joins Mosaic’s editor and podcast host Jonathan Silver this week. Together, the two investigate the meaning of a tale about a Jew who becomes a tormentor of the Jews, and how such theological disturbances can rattle future generations.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Ozick_2_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:25pm EDT

This week, the Tikvah Podcast at Mosaic returns to the towering intellectual and religious sage of medieval Judaism, Moses Maimonides, the Rambam. In two previous conversations about his work, the professor of Judaism Yehuda Halper and podcast host Jonathan Silver focused on Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah, his code of law.

This week, the two turn from the Mishneh Torah to Maimonides’s philosophical magnum opus, Moreh ha Nevukhim, known in English as The Guide of the Perplexed. Whereas the Mishneh Torah leaves one with the impression that philosophy and law can be reconciled within the covenantal structure of an observant Jewish life, the emphasis in The Guide of the Perplexed is on the tensions, difficulties, and apparent contradictions between philosophy and law.

The Guide is one of the great books of Jewish philosophy, and it requires some preliminary introduction before anyone can seriously engage its questions. So this discussion is an orientation to the kind of study, the kind of person, and the kind of life that the Guide is written to instruct.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Halper_3_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:52pm EDT

Since October 7, there have been more than one hundred attacks by Iran-backed militias against American forces in the Middle East. On January 28, a drone strike, probably launched by Iran’s most powerful proxy in Iraq, killed three and injured more than 40 American soldiers. Iran-supported Houthis have launched dozens of attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea. Iran’s most important proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, sustains a low-grade confrontation with Israel. And, of course, 130 Israelis remain captive to Iran-backed Hamas as hostages in Gaza.

In other words, there is a war, sometimes hot, sometimes cool, happening across the entire Middle East between Iran, Israel, the U.S., and various other smaller actors. What does Iran want out of this war? Is it achieving its objectives? What is it concerned about?

To answer these and other questions, Ray Takeyh here joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver. Takeyh is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and Foreign Affairs, and the author, just last week, of a New York Times opinion piece called “Why Iran Doesn’t Want a War.”

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Takeyh_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:38pm EDT

Recently, the Israeli professor of Jewish philosophy Yehuda Halper joined Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss Maimonides, the Rambam, perhaps the most significant medieval rabbinic sage and Jewish philosopher. They discussed Maimonides’s life and the main genres of his work—his commentary on Jewish law, his codification of Jewish law, his elaboration of philosophic mysteries that he believed are laden within the biblical and rabbinic corpus, his writings on science and medicine, and his views on the laws pertaining to Torah study.

Halper now returns for another conversation about Maimonides. This week, they look at “Hilchot De’ot,” a section of the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides’s great work on Jewish law, pertaining to the laws of character traits. In “Hilchot De’ot,” Maimonides introduced a portrait of the human condition, suggesting a moral psychology that can be assessed, trained, and elevated, and a description of the human person as an embodied being with a physical presence. There are profound philosophical and religious questions raised explicitly in this work, and even more profound ones residing just under the surface of the text.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Halper_2_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:12pm EDT

1948 was a landmark year in international politics. It saw the establishment of modern Israel. And it saw the General Assembly of the United Nations adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That document, recognized today as a foundation stone of international human-rights law, gives voice to a range of fundamental rights meant to honor human freedom and dignity.

At the time, many of the proponents of human-rights statements and organizations were not only Jewish but proud Zionists. In the seventy-five years since, those two sorts of commitments seem to have grown in different directions, so that now, most people who work in the human-rights industry do not support but actively oppose the foundational premises and practical necessities of Jewish national freedom.

Hillel Neuer is the executive director of UN Watch, a human-rights organization based in Geneva. Together in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he asks several pressing questions about this history, which he wrote about as a chapter in the new volume Jewish Priorities: Sixty-Five Proposals for the Future of Our People, published by Wicked Son. How did the human-rights movement and Israel start together? How did they grow apart? Can the human-rights movement change course, so that it can still highlight violations of human-rights law without falling prey to the obsession with Israel that today undermines its credibility?

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Neuer_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:07pm EDT

2024 marks 820 years since the death of Maimonides in the Egyptian city of Fustat. The main focus of his writing falls in three categories. There's his commentary on the Mishnah and his code of Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, a monumental contribution to Jewish jurisprudence. His Guide of the Perplexed is a magnum opus of theological and philosophical puzzles and reflection. And his writings about science, health, and medicine are an expression of the expertise he developed in his career as a court physician in Egypt.

Today's episode is the first of a multi-episode mini-series on Maimonides featuring Yehuda Halper of Bar-Ilan University, among the most distinguished scholars today of medieval Jewish philosophy and medieval Islamic philosophy, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver. This week, they begin the series by looking at passages from the Mishneh Torah which describe the purview of Torah study.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Halper_Final_Session_1.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:14pm EDT

In 2023, host Jonathan Silver convened 47 new conversations probing some of the most interesting and consequential subjects in modern Jewish life, from theological and religious themes to political and military ones. He spoke to scholars, visual artists, rabbis, writers, soldiers, strategists, and generals. Now that 2023 has come to an end, he's looking back at a number of representative excerpts from the year past in hopes that, as we plan 40 or 50 more conversations in 2024, you’ll return to the archive and listen to some of the most fascinating conversations from this year.

In this episode, we present selections from some of our favorite 2023 conversations. Excerpts include the podcast host and president of Shalem College, Russ Roberts; the great American writer, Cynthia Ozick; the Hebrew calligrapher, Izzy Pludwinski; Peter Berkowitz and Gadi Taub debating judicial reform; Ran Baratz on the roots of Israel's rifts; Michael Doran comparing October's Hamas attacks with the Yom Kippur War; Meir Soloveichik on Jewish martyrs; and, discussing Mosaic's November essay on the Palestinian predicament, the scholar Shany Mor, the journalist Haviv Gur, and the intellectual Hussein Aboubakr.

Finally, this episode ends on a note of hope, sounded by the historian Rick Richman, whose book of biographical portraits, And None Shall Make Them Afraid, turns out to have been the book we most needed this year.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_2023_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:29pm EDT

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