I’m Bob Kaiser, educator, blogger, and advocate for non-fundamentalist egalitarian halakhic Judaism.
Over the years my friends and I have been building an online havurah – that’s Hebrew for “fellowship” – engaged in Torah Lishmah – תורה לשמה – study for it’s own sake. We learn Torah (תּוֹרָה), Bible (תַּנַ”ךְ), Mishnah (מִשְׁנָה), Midrash (מדרש) and Jewish philosophy (פילוסופיה יהודית) – in a halakhic egalitarian Jewish milieu, without politics or fundamentalism.
We draw from the wisdom of classical rabbinic commentators, as well as modern modes of learning from non-Orthodox scholars. Think Conservative Judaism, Havurah Movement, Open Orthodoxy, The Jewish Catalog, Masorti Judaism, etc.
When it comes to history we consider Marc Shapiro’s “Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History.” No one is criticized for citing scholarship that doesn’t match ArtScroll. When it comes to theology we consider Marc Shapiro’s “The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles Reappraised.”
Here’s a helpful glossary of Jewish words, and important rabbis.
When discussing Jewish topics with other Jews, understand that analytical criticism – argumentation – is a common mode of discourse. We see this in the Mishnah and Talmud, in every kollel, yeshiva or Hebrew school. Of course arguments are aimed at reasoning and conclusions, they are not ad homenim (aimed at a person)
In a deductive argument, premises guarantee the truth of the conclusion – but that is hard to do in religion, in general. So we usually see a combination of deductive argumentation, with some amount of inductive argument (one in which logic provides reasons for supporting the conclusion’s probable truth.)
In rabbinical Judaism, our premises are not secular atheism, or Christian texts, or Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist texts. Rather, our premises start with the Torah (five books of Moses) and Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), and read them through the evolving tradition of our oral law – including the Mishnah, Tosefta, Midrash, the two Talmuds and the responsa literature.
Responsa (Hebrew: She’elot u-Teshuvot, שאלות ותשובות , questions and answers”) comprise the body of written decisions given by poskim (“deciders of Jewish law”)
A good overview of this topic may be found in History of responsa in Judaism (Wikipedia) and in Responsa in the Conservative/Masorti Jewish movement.
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Some great Biblical artwork
Historie des Ouden en Nieuwen Testaments : verrykt met meer dan vierhonderd printverbeeldingen in koper gesneeden. Author: Martin, David, 1639-1721
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