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Books and Essays on Torah and Society

Rabbi S.R. Hirsch

Thoughts and resources related to understanding Torah, Jews, society, and life through the works of Rabbi Hirsch. These include online books on finding a place for Hirsch’s Torah within daily life and a sometimes contentious Jewish world.

Essays on Yeshaya (Isaiah)

The world at large sings the praises of the beauty and profundity of Isaiah’s great teachings. Jewish tradition assigns the prophet’s words very great authority. Primary Torah sources draw on his wisdom to illuminate the most sensitive and critical matters.

But understanding the book is certainly not easy. Even identifying its themes requires making significant and difficult procedural choices. With which interpretation of Isaiah should we work? Many – if not most – passages are complex and ambiguous enough to allow for multiple translations. More than that, the precise subjects of many of Isaiah’s analogies and the targets of much of his criticism are disputed even among Judaism’s traditional commentators (to which I restricted myself in this project).

What we need is a comprehensive methodology. These essays are the product of one such system.

Midrash: Bring Torah to Life

The great prophets gave flesh to the bones of The Law. They showed us that, beyond simply doing what is right, we should aspire to greatness. They showed us how our daily interactions with elements of the world around us – whether human, animal or the very soil beneath our feet – must be infused with a thirst for justice and a love for all creation. But the principles and attitudes to which they hint – ever at risk of becoming lost beneath the sheer weight of their breadth and subtlety – are clarified and organized by the various collections of midrash.

While remaining passionately loyal to traditional Jewish thinking, this book offers new thoughts about specific – and often well known – midrashic passages, along with more general guidance: what’s a student to do when faced with a midrash whose simple reading is patently deceptive? What about one filled with unnecessary characters, complicating what by all rights should be straightforward? And what about theological contradictions? Since the authors of the midrash obviously knew better, these calculated “errors” are clearly designed to teach.

Now it’s time to learn…

Accountable – a Torah Guide to Fiscal Responsibility

Curious about money and wonder how Chazal – whose advice touched all areas of human life – expected us to handle our wealth? Worried about your financial future? Already struggling with heavy expenses and troubling debt? Searching for a plan to slow down and stop the slide towards disaster…and eventually reverse it?

The Torah has a great many wise things to say about financial health. “Accountable” contains at least some of that wisdom, along with practical guidance and discussions of some key related Torah principles.

Emunah

Ideas and resources for working on your relationship with God

The Royal Prophet

Thoughtful essays on themes from the book of Shmuel.

Mikdash – A Tour of Jerusalem’s Second Temple

Essays and CAD-generated images on the historical and religious significance of Jerusalem’s Temple (the “Bais Hamikdash”).

What was the Temple meant to accomplish? What made it so central to Jewish culture that, thousands of years since it’s loss, the Mikdash still looms large?

The insights into the Temple’s structure and history you will find in “Mikdash” should help answer those questions, or at least get you started on your own course of study.

The Gemara Game

A free, on-line game designed to improve your gemara-language skills.

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