When the Texas Board of Education voted last month in favor of a proposal that would emphasize the religious origins of democracy in high school curricula, many liberals were outraged. It seemed to fly in the face of the long-held assumption that Western political ideas — toleration, the separation of church and state, indeed the genius of democratic rule itself — was born from the steady secularization of the West. It was the age of the Enlightenment, after all, that produced America’s great experiment in democracy.
The classical commentaries on Acherei Mot–Kedoshim — the Torah portions in Leviticus read in synagogues this Shabbat — by the classical commentators are black and white, graphically and philosophically.
Long blocks of text parse and examine and explain key biblical words that illustrate such concepts as the Azazel goat ritual in the Wilderness, forbidden relationships, and obligations to the poor.
Jerome A. Chanes |
Special To The Jewish Week
Who was Yehuda Halevi? Generations of Jewish schoolchildren here and in the Palestine Yishuv grew up with his classic poetic line, “Libi ba-mizrach, v’anochi b’sof ma’arav” — “My heart is in the East (the Land of Israel), but I, my body, is in the furthest reaches of the West.” Living and working in the 11th and 12th centuries in Spain, he was one of the giants of Hebrew poetry. That he was a significant figure in the history of Jewish thought is unquestioned.
If you were Jewish and lived in the 1940s, to say that Arthur Koestler was on your side was no small thing. Then at the height of his renown, Koestler, born in Budapest in 1905, had become one of Western literature’s most revered figures. His anti-Stalinist novel “Darkness at Noon,” published in 1940 and still his most famous, made him one of the first liberals to come out against Communism. The book would partly inspire George Orwell, an author whose reputation today far eclipses Koestler’s.