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Torah and Western Thought: Jewish and Western Texts in Conversation

A Monthly Reader

Sadat Begin

From Brisk to Jerusalem: The Triumph of Menachem Begin

April 2021

Menachem Begin, while not perfect, as all political leaders fail to be, was one of the most successful prime ministers the State of Israel has ever seen. Yet, with all his success, he understood that freedom and security come at a price. He was not afraid to remind the Jewish people of the hardships of their past and rebuke them when they let fear and uncertainty take hold of what he saw as Israel's destiny. However, along with this rebuke, Begin always offered a course of redemption, reminding his people that "The future is radically open." READ MORE


Seal - Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God

Pesach: From the Shakespearean Stage to the Shores of America

March 2021

The story of Pesach and the Exodus from Egypt is a tale of freedom and peoplehood that has served as an inspiration for millions across the ages. From the stages of Shakespeare to the halls of the Continental Congress to the streets of the Civil Rights movement, Pesach has provided—and continues to provide—a timeless and timely source of spiritual sustenance. READ MORE



Beauty and Statesmanship in the Book of Esther

February 2021 

Esther is last in a long line of biblical beauties—characters who are labeled yafeh (beautiful) by the text—including Rebecca, Rachel, Tamar, Joseph and David. And while Esther's bravery and piety no doubt led to her victory over the wicked Haman, her beauty also played a role, allowing her to capture Ahasuerus' attention and find favor in his eyes. But those traits alone were not enough to save her people. Esther was also a tactician, a political genius who—with guidance from Mordecai—acted with patience and care, waiting for the right moment to take action. READ MORE


Proclaim Liberty book

From Plymouth to Pennsylvania Avenue: America and the Hebrew Bible

January 2021 

America is often described as a Judeo-Christian nation. Yet, for many American Jews, it can be difficult to decipher the particular Jewish influence on the republic. However, if one looks deep enough, it becomes apparent that the Hebrew Bible binds everything from the Mayflower Compact to Lincoln's second inaugural address. Ideas of covenants, not social contracts, rooted themselves into the land's fertile theological soil at its founding, while heroes like Esther still resonate today. The result is a rich American tradition and culture that all people can enjoy freely. READ MORE




Flames of Dignity and Resilience

December 2020

The story of Chanukah features two miracles, one physical and one spiritual, each with its own distinct legacy. On the one hand, as Straus Center Director Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik writes, the victory of the Maccabees over their Greek oppressors is a symbol of the Jewish people's resilience, a resilience that British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill looked to for inspiration when rallying his people against the Nazis. On the other hand, as Straus Center Resident Scholar Rabbi Dov Lerner notes, the miracle of the flames represents the inner dignity of each individual, teaching us, just as we do with the candles, to look beyond utility and see everyone for who they are. READ MORE

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