Oxford Jewish Thought

Lectures, essays, questions & articles

by Rabbi Eli Brackman

Maimonides on equality and the problem of expensive tastes

Maimonides-2.jpgIn this essay, I would like to explore the question of equality in the thought of Maimonides and the problem of expensive tastes. The question is: does Maimonides view society as individuals with individual needs or as a collective, and if individuals, when distributing resources, should a person be compensated for one’s expensive tastes that a person may have? I will say from the outset that there may be more than way to understand the view of Maimonides on the ideal model for society, and indeed, some have argued that the Torah supports a socialist model, drawing from the laws of tithe and sabbatical, some have argued a capitalist model – one is allowed to own and sell land according to Jewish, and some have argued neither; it… Read More »

Conference: 'Social Vision: The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Transformative Paradigm for the World'

SOCIAL VISION SEMINAR.pngChabad at Oxford University hosted this past Sunday (22 November, 2020) an afternoon conference entitled 'Social vision of Judaism for a modern world' with nine leading scholars from around the world, exploring the question how the philosophical and mystical teachings of Judaism can serve as a paradigm for creating a less fractured and more just society, inspired by the principle of reciprocity and other key ideas of Hasidic ethos. 


The conference was organised by Rabbi Eli Brackman, director of Chabad of Oxford, who invited speakers to focus on their own professional fields, while relating them to themes in the book 'Social Vision: The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Transformative Paradigm for the… Read More »

Parsha and Manuscript – ‘Vayetze: The reasons for the name Reuben’

Screenshot 2020-11-26 at 20.25.18.pngIn the Torah portion of Vayetze, it discusses the birth of the twelve tribes of Israel that took place after Jacob was forced to marry the older sister, Leah, before marrying the younger sister, Rachel. While they both provided for him the tribes of Israel, this led to Jacob loving Rachel more than Leah. In this essay, we will discuss the birth of the oldest of the tribes, Reuben, and why Leah called him Reuben. In particular, we will explore two reasons given for this name, one in the biblical text and a further one presented in the Talmud and quoted in the standard published edition of Rashi. We will aim to explain why the second reason for the name Reuben, while found in all published edition nowadays, it is omitted in the early printed … Read More »

Parsha and Manuscript: Toldot - ‘Do not go down to Egypt’

MS. Canonici Or. 35 Toldos.pngIn the Torah portion of Toldot,[1] it discusses that after Isaac had given birth to Esau and Jacob and they had grown up, there was a famine in the land of Israel and he desired to find pasture for his flock and food in Egypt. It states:


There was a famine in the land—aside from the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham—and Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, in Gerar. The Lord had appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land which I point out to you. Reside in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; I will assign all these lands to you and to your heirs, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your heirs as numerous as … Read More »

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