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What is the Origin of the Word Midbar?

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The giving of the Torah in the midbar gives me the opportunity to address this interesting word.

It is very easy to intuit that the root of this word is D-B-R. (A typical way that Hebrew forms its nouns is by taking a three-letter root and adding M to the front.) But the next step is much harder: what meaning of DBR...

Simple Belief, Genuine Belief

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There was a time in my college days when I seriously considered majoring in philosophy. The rabbinic training program in the yeshiva that I attended did not include systematic study of the philosophy of religion. We focused instead upon the intensive study of Talmud and the Codes of Jewish Law. Our exposure to the thought of men like Maimonides was limited to his legal works, and we were never even introduced to his magisterial “Guide to the Perplexed.”

To rectify this void in my education, I took a few courses in the department of philosophy. They included an overview of the history of philosophy, a course on ethics and an excellent course on the philosophy of religion. Although...

Is It a Mitzvah to Save a Terrorist in Danger?

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Several years ago, a terrorist attempted to kill a Jewish boy in the center of Jerusalem. Thank God, the boy was only slightly wounded. People at the scene chased angrily after the terrorist, seeking revenge. Suddenly, a woman (who happened to work for a charedi newspaper) arrived at the scene and shielded the terrorist with her body, thus saving him from blows and possible death. Did this woman act in accordance with halacha by saving the terrorist?

There are two aspects to this question. The first concerns the status of “rodef,” and the second concerns the mitzva “Do not stand idly by the blood of your fellow.” It is clear that as long as the terrorist is armed and dangerous...

Let’s Talk It Over

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I have long believed that all conflicts between people could be settled if the parties to the dispute would agree to simply sit down together and talk. There are, of course, times when I have come to question this belief. I often wonder whether it is not merely a vain fantasy of mine, or perhaps just wishful thinking. I have been forced to admit that some interpersonal disputes are intractable and that no amount of discussion could resolve them. But, by and large, I still adhere to this long-held belief and try, in both my personal life and various professional roles, to put that belief into practice. I attempt to get even the most stubborn opponents to sit down face-to-face and discuss...

On the Shoulders of Giants

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“They don’t make them the way they used to.” We have all heard this comment with reference to all sorts of things, usually tools and utensils. Despite all the technological advances from which we benefit, we often are convinced that certain things were of superior quality in the old days. We believe that the old hammer Grandpa once used was stronger, and the snow shovel he wielded more effective, than the newfangled “throwaway” junk that they produce nowadays.

We even extend this belief of things being better back in the old days to human beings. Today’s leaders cannot be compared to those of old, and today’s athletes are cheap imitations of the Babe Ruths and Ty Cobbs of...

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