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Oxford Jewish Thought

Lectures, essays, questions & articles

by Rabbi Eli Brackman

Should Jews forgive and forget? The problem of evil in Jewish philosophy

Jews have suffered persecution, pogroms, massacres and expulsions throughout their 3000 year history. Beginning with the Babylonians, the Romans and Christian Europe during the Crusades to the Almohads in Spain, the Dark Ages and most recently the Holocaust, the long string of suffering has been recounted by many historians. The question that arises is should Jews or any human being who has suffered at the hands of man just forgive and forget the evil that was dealt to them or should evil always be remembered and begrudged to be sure it does not reoccur?


On Yom Kippur we beg for forgiveness. The central theme of the day is to confess before G-d and ask for His forgiveness. However, it is equally important for man to ask of his fellow… Read More »

Brief Biography of Chief Rabbi Dovid Oppenheimer

Oxford has been known for centuries as one of the most important places for the pursuit of Jewish scholarship in the world of academia. This is due mainly to the acquisition of the Oppenheimer Hebraica collection of 7,000 manuscripts and 1,000 early printed books in the 19th century by the Bodleian library, which was meant to have consisted of a copy, many extremely rare, of almost every extant book and manuscript of the Torah, Biblical and Rabbinical, that existed up until the 18th century in Germany. Since then, scholars of Jewish studies have flocked to Oxford to study, copy, analyse or compare the manuscripts and works of this invaluable collection.


However, despite this monumental collection, relatively little is known about… Read More »

Oxford's Rabbi Dovid Oppenheimer and the debate about synagogue melodies on the High Holidays in the 18th century

Oppenheimer.jpegRosh Hashanah - empowerment in Jewish Thought

 

Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the anniversary when according to Jewish tradition man was created. As parts of the world are being swept away by forces that reflect the power of the human being, Rosh Hashanah is a holiday that also reminds us of the empowerment of man to resolve to change oneself and the world for the better, thereby completing the purpose of creation of the world itself, and asking G-d in return for a good, healthy and prosperous year ahead.

 

This incredible power of man to affect change in society and in oneself is an essential aspect of Jewish belief found in Jewish philosophy and law. While according to Jewish tradition the Torah was given… Read More »

'Interpreting Scripture as a Spiritual Exercise'

P1040631.JPGThrough studying several texts, we are introduced to three (of the many) historical stages in which Jews have read meaning into scripture. Scripture itself is written in a laconic, understated style; and it contains many textual ambiguities and anomalies. These features should provoke the reader to think, and to actively participate in textual interpretation.

 

We begin with a reading from Genesis 3:8, looking for the verse's formal and theological ambiguities. We then see how these ambiguities fuel a particular type of interpretation, 'midrash aggada' (= 'searching narrative'), in which the text is read in a searching way, often framed in a narrative, in order to explicate … Read More »

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