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It’s Complex: Vayera-5777

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Many people believe that the central myth of Western civilization is the Oedipus story from ancient Greece. Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes. Laius heard a prophecy that his son would end up killing his father and marrying his mother, thereby bringing disaster to his city and family. He wished to...

Abarbanel’s Understanding of Yeshayahu’s Yemot HaMashiach: Changes in the World and the King Who Will Inaugurate Them

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Abarbanel deals with Yeshayahu’s vision of the Messianic era at remarkable length. [I find it especially remarkable because he was pre-printing, mostly, so that to write at such length implies a confidence in readers’ willingness to transcribe this that is itself eye-popping.] As I said last time, I don’t intend to summarize the presentation, since he is interested both in the conclusions and the process, taking readers through the text, to show how it means what he claims it means.

I’ll leave that for your private learning. Here, I just want to see how he understands what Yeshayahu told us about how yemot haMashiach will look. He opens with the admission that he does not have...

It’s All Relative

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Noach 5777

There’s a very famous story about Reb Zusha of Anipoli (1718-1800). He was one of the most beloved Chasidic leaders of the third generation of the movement, and the brother of Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk. Anyway, the story is told of Zusha, who lay on his deathbed surrounded by all his closest followers, and the great rebbe was crying bitterly. His students asked him, “Rebbe, why are you so sad? After all the mitzvot and good deeds you have done, you will surely get a great reward in heaven!” “I’m afraid!” said Zusha. “Because when I get to heaven, I know God’s not going to ask me, ‘Why weren’t you more like Moses?’ or ‘Why weren’t you more like King...

How Close Are We to Rambam’s Yemot HaMashiach?

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Welcome to a new series for Torah Musings, discussing views of the Messianic era in Jewish thought.

Introduction to Chelek, a Powerful and Remarkable King Messiah

One of the later chapters of Sanhedrin (the last in the Gemara, second to last in the Mishnah) opens with a list of those who forfeit their share in the World to Come. In an introduction that is famous for many reasons (and which amply rewards careful study and repeat readings), Rambam explains some concepts that seem blurrily similar, such as the Messianic era, Resurrection of the Dead and the World to Come.

The days of the Messiah, he says, are when a Jewish king will again rule the Jewish people, and they will return to...

Examining Parshat Noach

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We encounter Noach in this week’s parsha, who symbolizes an entity of rest (the root word being menucha), whose chief mission was to carry on the world in its already existing state. He is about bridging the gap of generations, not introducing chidush.

However, when analyzing the Book of Genesis, we must focus on creativity, for that is the backbone of perpetual existence. And therefore it’s important to take a look at last week’s parsha and see what’s the opposite of rest.

In last week’s parsha, the first two words of the Torah are “Bereishit bara.” The first thing (Bereishit) “is” creativity (briut). This idea comports with an awesome God Who created something from...

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