The Lethal Challenge of Learning Torah from Others

The pernicious difficulty of keeping self-love in check and not having it warp the way in which we see others is brought to our attention in the story of R. Elazar

Redeeming Relevance: Achashverosh and the Evil of Neutrality

When it came to the “Jewish question,” Achashverosh seemed to be completely neutral. So how could he be as bad as the man who destroyed the Temple?

Redeeming Relevance: Praying Responsibly

The goal is not to have God do what we want, but rather to do what He wants and thereby sanctify Him in the world. Often, that is accomplished by praying, but sometimes it is better accomplished by not praying – we are to look to halacha to tell us which situation is which

Redeeming Relevance: A People Chosen for Opposition

While there is plenty of room for cooperation and interaction with other larger cultures, it is important for the Jewish people to remember that a key role God wants it to play is to often stand on the other side and follow our own path.

Redeeming Relevance: Forgiving Made Easy

Almost always, the reason we are not willing to forgive offenses against us has almost nothing to do with the offense, and everything to do with it being done to us. Once we can internalize this, we can move to a God’s-eye perspective and forgive others more easily.

Redeeming Relevance: Moshe’s Sober Consolation

And so Moshe’s ultimate message here, according to Netziv, may be that even if the curses are fulfilled, that is no reason to abandon God.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Shoftim: Self-Knowledge is not Self-Understanding

One might think that there's nothing we understand better in the world than ourselves--after all, we spend every waking minute with ourselves. But is this self-understanding really the case?

Redeeming Relevance: When the Torah’s Answer to Good, Bad or Indifferent is Yes, Yes...

In other words, it is not our strength at all that gives us the victory, but the workings of God.

Redeeming Relevance: How to – and how not to – Challenge the Status Quo

There is an important teaching here for those who seek to have legitimate grievances addressed.

Redeeming Relevance: Chukat: The 38 Year Black Hole 

Precisely because the work that the second-generation did take place was less dramatic and required human participation that it created its own more organic resilience, making it a better model

Redeeming Relevance: Shelach: 10+2 Tribes

Why twelve? If what is really important is the number ten, God could have theoretically created anywhere from eleven to nineteen tribes, and we would still have had decision-making with a majority of ten...

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Nasso: Sotah and the Metaphor of Monogamy

I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to suggest that the whole reason God created man, male and female, was for us to better understand our relationship with Him.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Behar: The Plea of a Forsaken Mitzvah

Since the commandments are all meant to engender some positive effect; when a commandment is not practiced, that effect will not be attained either.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Kedoshim: Self-Awareness, Modernity and Holiness

Living at the height of European Romanticism and on the cusp of Nietzsche’s writings – which both contributed to a new much more pronounced interest in the individual – Netziv surely intuited the need to address the legitimate aspects of trends making inroads upon his students.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Tzav: The Temple’s Sophistication and the Chumrot of Pesach

Although there is a strong basis for our propensity to be more stringent on Pesach than we are during the rest of the year, we should not turn that into a blanket attitude in which stringency is always followed, regardless of the other values at stake

Redeeming Relevance: Women, Beauty and Religion 

The easiest way out of my problem would be to say that the Mishkan was designed based on people’s need to be impressed
Esther and Mordecai by Aerte de Gelder

Redeeming Relevance: Acting in a World of Doubt

Yet, if Mordechai teaches us that doubt is no reason for inaction, it is Esther that teaches us that it is actually a reason for even more effort

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Mishpatim: The Torah’s Superior Strategy for Brotherly Love

But the Torah was given to real people, for whom love of the outsider would not always be so obvious.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Va’Eira: A Quantitative Approach to Free Will

This story is actually a brilliant depiction of the interplay between divine providence and free will. Without taking away our ability to “surprise Him,” God – when needed – doesn’t hesitate to steer us in the direction He wants.

The Tragedy of When We are both Right

So while a proper reading of the Book of Bereshit introduces us to moral complexity, its end pushes us even further. It prepares us for the fact that there is even a level of moral complexity, which we should realize exists even if we may never understand it

Redeeming Relevance: Esav: The Off the Derekh Patriarch

Rav Hirsch famously criticizes Yitzchak and Rivkah for not educating Esav according to his innate personality, and instead trying to force him to be like Ya’akov. His insight is meant to teach that while it was Esav that made the choice to go ‘off the derekh,’ there is always much that parents can try to do before that happens.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Toldot: Switching the Land On and Off 

Being bound on Mount Moriah gave Yitzchak a connection with God that would be disturbed by living outside the Land of Israel. 

Redeeming Relevance: Did God set Avraham up for Failure?

In fact – at its core – there is no better argument than Avraham’s. For his petition is asking for nothing else than what is good for God. For when God executes strict justice, He often “sacrifices” His own reputation for the sake of the truth.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Noach: Do We Really Understand why Murder is Wrong? 

If so, why was Noah commanded not to murder (and, likely, other old commandments) as well? Apparently, there was something not yet completely intuitive, and that was the sanctity of life.  

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