Origins of the Oral Law, Part 4

Part 4 of my series on the Oral Torah is up at 18Forty!

When German Reform rabbis challenged the Talmudic Sages’ interpretations of the Torah, Orthodox rabbis found creative ways to argue that the Sages’ interpretations were logical after all.

Stay tuned for part 5, the final installment, coming soon!


What Are the Origins of the Oral Torah?

For years, I’ve been fascinated by the question of what we mean when we say that in addition to the Written Torah, an Oral Torah was given to Moses at Sinai and passed down through the generations.

Here is the first of 5 essays I’m writing on the topic.

I’m so pleased to partner with 18Forty and David Bashevkin in publishing this series as part of 18Forty’s exploration of the Origins of Judaism.

In addition to my articles, check out the podcast as well! It’s one of my favorite podcasts–always discussing issues of great relevance to the Orthodox Jewish community and beyond.

Rededication of Dr. Birnbaum’s gravestone – recording links

On Sunday, October 30, I traveled to New York to participate in the rededication of Dr. Philip Birnbaum’s gravestone. About a year ago, I noticed that Birnbaum’s gravestone of 8 words had 3 errors. So I worked with Rabbi JJ Schacter and the Jewish Center of Manhattan to fix it. Sunday was the day I got to see the fruits of my efforts. Here are links to recordings of the day’s events:

Graveside ceremony –

Zoom lecture about Dr. Birnbaum (by me) –

Battle of the Translators

I’m very pleased to share my latest for the Lehrhaus, a history of a heated debate over how to translate poetry in the Machzor, the Jewish holiday prayer book.

On one side, you’ll meet the poet Nina Salaman, the first woman to give the sermon on Shabbat in a British synagogue. You’ll also meet Israel Zangwill, the famous Anglo-Jewish novelist who despite not being very observant of Jewish law, wrote some of the most memorable translations of the Yom Kippur prayers.

On the other side, you’ll meet Philip Birnbaum, a devoted believer in the importance of the Hebrew language, whose translations are still ubiquitous in American shuls.

Read on: