Ari Lamm Profile picture
10 Jan, 5 tweets, 2 min read
Another excellent @ZoharAtkins thread.

Helpful in this context is Haym Soloveitchik’s distinction between “centrifugal” and “centripetal” works. 1
A centrifugal work births commentarial literature that moves away from it, applying the text to address new cases.

A centripetal work gives rise to commentators who move relentlessly back towards it—singularly focused on decoding its words. 2
In the Jewish context:

Shulchan Aruch = centrifugal

Maimonides’ Code = centripetal

And it’s definitely no coincidence that Dr. Soloveitchik’s list overlaps with Zohar’s! 4
Finally, see here for Dr. Soloveitchik’s provocative argument (with which I agree) that not only should Maimonides’ Code be placed alongside history’s other great literary works of art, but that Maimonides’ degree of difficulty actually far exceeded Plato’s 🔥🔥🔥 /end

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More from @AriLamm

11 Jan
Let's do another one: Why read the Bible in Hebrew?

Today's example is from one of history's most enduring stories: the Binding of Isaac. Let's take a look at the verb ra'ah (ראה).

A thread (for non-Hebrew readers too!) 🧵 1
We're going to tackle a *really* difficult verse today: Genesis 22:14.

It's so challenging, in fact, that even the Hebrew commentators have struggled with it for centuries.

Why should we care? Well, this verse holds the key to one of human civilization's moral turning points! 2
Let's set the stage.

God commands Abraham to sacrifice his and Sarah's only son, Isaac. Abraham obediently prepares to do so. At the last moment God prevents Abraham from going through with it, and commands him to sacrifice a ram instead. A grateful Abraham praises God. 3
Read 36 tweets
4 Jan
Time for another one: Why read the Bible in Hebrew?

Today's example is from the story of Samuel's childhood. Let's take a look at the word "na'ar" (נער).

A thread (for non-Hebrew readers too!) 🧵 1
Let's take a look at seemingly one of the weirdest verses in the Bible: 1 Samuel 1:24.

Hannah brings her only child, Samuel, to serve God in the Temple at Shiloh. When she arrives, the Bible tells us: "And the child was young" (ESV).

Okay, now buckle up... 2
First problem: why does the Bible mention this? What else would a child be?!

But more important, here's where today's word "na'ar" comes in. Because what the verse says *in Hebrew* is "And the na'ar na'ar."

Yep. You read that right. It just repeats the same word twice! 3
Read 26 tweets
27 Dec 21
Why read the Bible in Hebrew?

Today's example is from the story of Noah. Let's take a look at the word "chamas" (חמס).

A thread (for non-Hebrew readers too!) 🧵 1
Why did God bring the flood and destroy His first go at creation? Genesis 6:11 fills us in: "Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence" (ESV).

What does that mean? Lots of fighting, war, etc.? 2
Well, that's where today's word "chamas" (חמס) comes in, which is the word being translated as "violence".

The English translators often rendered "chamas" that way, but not always. I suspect they weren't too sure what the word meant.

So what *does* it mean? 3
Read 23 tweets
26 Dec 21
The 4 biggest external pressures on the American rabbinate:

1. History of Congregationalism (suspicion of individual religious leadership)

2. Credentialism (treating semicha like a Masters)

3. Electoral politics (above all, don't offend)

4. Agglomeration (bigger = better)

This implies, all things equal, the longer we've been in America, the more likely we'll be to seek rabbis without big personalities, with an impressive professional CV, who are as inoffensive as possible. And agglomeration means fewer open positions thus discouraging dissenters 1
So far, obvious. But here's another thing it implies: over time, Americanized Jews will end up complaining about the decline in rabbi quality *irrespective* of whether the talent pool is *actually* smaller/worse. 2
Read 4 tweets
11 Jan 21
Rabbi Yehuda Kelemer, the rabbi of the synagogue in which I grew up, just passed away.

I want to tell you a story about him that I will never forget as long as I live.
There had been a suicide bombing at a nightclub in Israel. Believe it was early 2000s. Several people were killed and many more injured. Now here’s the thing: the attack took place on a Friday night, so all the people who were killed were Jews who did not observe the Sabbath.
I think it was the following Sabbath that we were in synagogue, when Rabbi Kelemer came in and interrupted our prayers. He related that someone in our congregation had asked him if it’s right to pray for the victims. After all, they were publicly desecrating the Sabbath!
Read 6 tweets
13 Sep 20
Okay there's a larger point I've been meaning to make for a while about @themishpacha and @Ami_Magazine. Those who know me well know that I'm a fan of these publications. I'd like to explain why.

A thread:
If you're asking "Are Mishpacha/Ami good?", my reply would be "well, for what purpose? If your goal is to better enable internecine warfare among various frum Jewish communities, then no, these publications aren't for you. They're very inefficient vehicles for battle-line-drawing
Similarly, if your goal is to promote pluralism across the wider Jewish denominational spectrum, then Mishpacha/Ami are still the wrong address. They're not interested in the pluralistic inclusivity project.
Read 15 tweets

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