Oxford Jewish Thought

Lectures, essays, questions & articles

by Rabbi Eli Brackman

Coronavirus: a Jewish perspective – ‘Taking no chances’

WalkingWalking in the supermarket in Oxford covered with a facemask to protect against covid, a fellow shopper with a strong Irish accent walks past me and says: ‘Taking no chances? It’s all in G-d’s hands!’ I followed him round the shop and told him that Maimonides says: ‘you need to be healthy to serve G-d.’ He began telling me that he’s 15% Jewish, probably from his Irish ancestry who travelled to America a few centuries ago and then returned to Ireland. We exchanged contacts and I said I would be happy to share my thoughts on this profound question. The point of this short article is to try and explain both his question and my answer from a Jewish perspective.


The question posed was: is not al… Read More »

Parsha and Manuscript: Acharei Mot - ‘A parable of a physician’

MS. Canon. Or. 81, fol. 109 Acharei.pngIn the portion of Acharei Mot, it discusses the entry into the Holy of Holies by the High Priest on Yom Kippur, stating that he may only enter once a year on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur and not enter any other time so that he may not pass away. In the warning to Aaron that he should not enter any other time, Moses warns him by saying that he should not enter so that he will not be punished like his sons passed away due to their own sin when they entered the holy of holies for being intoxicated or for usurping the authority of Moses.[1]


The Torah states:[2]


1. And the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron's two sons, when they drew near before the Lord, and they died. 2. And the Lord said to Moses: Speak … Read More »

Parsha and Manuscript – Sh’mini – ‘A faithful attendant’

Opp. Add. 4° 188 Sh'mini.pngThe Torah portion of Sh’mini discusses the 8th day of the inauguration of the tabernacle when Aaron offered up sacrifices and the Divine presence rested on the tabernacle. The verse states:[1] ‘And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fats upon the altar, and all the people saw, sang praises, and fell upon their faces.’ The events that follow, whereby the two sons of Aaron pass away[2] after bringing an alien fire with incense in the Tent of Meeting, is however tragic. The Torah relates:[3] ‘And Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his pan, put fire in it, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them. And f… Read More »

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