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Oxford Jewish Thought

Lectures, essays, questions & articles

by Rabbi Eli Brackman

An extra word in the Bible: finding the mystical in the simple

An extra word in the Bible: finding the mystical in the simple

 

A prominent professor in Oxford recently asked me the following question. In Deuteronomy (6:5) it says, ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might’.

 

In the Hebrew there is an unnecessary word ‘Eth’ between the Hebrew words for ‘love’ and ‘the Lord your G-d’. What is the reason for this extra word?

 

The professor’s question was raised in light of the fact that in Leviticus (19:18) it says ‘you should love your neighbour as yourself’, and omits the word ‘Eth’ between the Hebrew word for ‘love’ and… Read More »

Introduction to Igeret Hashmad - Letter of Apostasy of Maimonides

Introduction to Igeret Hashmad - Letter of Apostasy of Maimonides

 

By Rabbi Eli Brackman

 

The city of Oxford has a very rich Jewish history. In medieval times, there was a prominent Jewish community with a cemetery and synagogue. This community lasted until the Jews were expelled from England in 1290. Even before the expulsion, relations between the Church and the Jews were not at all smooth. In 1222, Robert of Reading, who was a member of the Christian clergy, converted to Judaism. He joined the medieval Oxford Jewish community and subsequently married a Jewish woman. His defection caused an upheaval in the Church and he was given an ultimatum to return to the Christian faith or face death. When he rejected  the… Read More »

Introduction to Igeret Taiman of Maimonides

Introduction to Igeret (epistle) Taiman of Maimonides

 

By Rabbi Eli Brackman

 

Igeret Tamian was written in 1172 in Pustat, old Cairo, Egypt, to address the concerns of the Taimanite Jewish community. After fleeing Spain, Maimonides first travelled to Fez, Morocco, and then made a very dangerous trip to Israel, where his father, Rabbi Maimon, passed away. When he arrived in Israel he declared the day of his arrival a day of thanksgiving to the A-lmighty for being saved from a terrible storm.

 

In Israel, the rabbi of Akko Rabbi Yefas, accompanied Maimonides round the Holy Land, where a hostile Christian government was in power and the roads were extremely dangerous. The Jewish community in Israel was small and… Read More »

Alcohol & Judaism

Alcohol & Judaism

 

By Rabbi Eli Brackman

 

One of the major problems facing British society is the excessive consumption of alcohol. Even in a respectable place like Oxford, the problem of alcohol cannot be underestimated.

 

The problem of drinking is not the unsightliness of the phenomenon as much as the serious health risks involved with young people drinking beyond their limits. At the end of last term, I saw a student being carried out of a vehicle onto the street almost completely lifeless. When I asked if she was okay, it became clear that the girl had lost consciousness due to over drinking. I immediately made sure that an ambulance was called and she was safely transported to receive urgent medical… Read More »

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