Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.
The problem was not that the stars of the Hanukkah story were too heroic, but that they confused their military heroism for the capacity of communal leadership.
An ancient rabbinic dispute pitted eminent scholars against one another. The Taḥanun prayer is rooted in that story of public shame and private distress.
A passage in the Talmud’s first tractate shows why it’s such a uniquely influential work, and so unlike anything in the history of Western literature, theology, or legal scholarship.
Moses inaugurated Jewish national independence. The prophet Jeremiah comes to oversee its collapse.
Jonah is the anti-Moses: a prophet who wants to persuade the Lord that some people are that bad and should be made to pay for their sins.
No judge is so great as to be exempt from showing deference to the judicial hierarchy at large.
The great Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik’s “Scroll of Orpah” retells the story of the book of Ruth from another perspective.
Just after his moment of glory, the prophet Elijah finds himself alone and deserted.
Why do Jews praise the great lights?
What a pair of parallel stories tells us about gratitude and awe.
The land given to the Israelites provided ample space for crops and livestock, but there was a catch: the water doesn’t come for free.
Isaiah’s unforgettable language serves much the same role in spoken Hebrew that Shakespeare’s does in English.
That’s the question raised by a poem sung at many Ashkenazi services.
In a biblical book many of whose poems express anxiety and apprehension, Psalm 104 is a confident and joyous singalong.
One engages in dialogue with his fellow Jews, and one engages in a dialogue with God. What’s the meaning of the difference?
Before the meal on Sabbath eve, the prayer book offers a song of praise to the ideal woman.
The promise and peril of calling angels to bless your Sabbath table.
The brave attempt at monotheism was bound to go wrong sometimes, and when it did, the Israelites would need help putting the pieces back together again.
Looking back at the founding moments of the state of Israel with the father of the current prime minister.
With his fatal weakness for the lure of fame and fortune, the prophet-for-hire Balaam seems completely our contemporary.
The two great liturgical songs of Yigdal and Adon Olam offer rival attempts to summarize the essence of Judaism.
David remains a revolutionary hero, a guerrilla leader and desert tribal bandit—too much of a renegade at heart to be entrusted with His house.
When Israelites who stood for God were ordered to kill their fellows who had stood for the Golden Calf.
The two disparate texts intoned at Ariel Sharon’s funeral tell us much about contemporary Jewish attitudes toward life, death, and the land of Israel.
Nishmat starts with the wide-open sky and the wings of eagles; it ends deep inside the recesses of the body, in our vital organs.
Can you imagine the person who bathed you and put you to bed at night tying you up one day and holding a knife to your throat?
The ancient priesthood, the Pharisees, the kabbalists, the Ḥasidim—each of these and more have made a stand in the prayer book for what they think Judaism should be.
The point of the Torah’s rules on foreign brides and divorce.
A biblical story marks the moment when Judaism turned from charismatic authority to institutional authority, and from the rule of judgment to the rule of law.
They looked inside themselves and saw only their own fear, not the confidence needed to make the land of Israel their own.
Read enough of the Hebrew Bible and you could come to the conclusion that the two are intertwined, or even interdependent.
He is dehumanized, his life circumscribed by the need to achieve perfect purity and be a vessel for the forgiveness of the people’s sins.
The answer comes down to the nature of deliverance, and to what you think the Jewish state represents.
The book of Malachi, read on the Sabbath before Passover, marks the moment in Jewish history when priestly authority gave way to rabbinic judgment.
The book of Esther and the festival of Purim mark the beginnings of the exilic world, in which the battle to remain Jewish never really goes away.
Vayakhel records in painstaking detail the making of the tabernacle. It also makes clear one crucial truth: the central task of Jewish leadership is not atonement but teaching.
Solomon builds it for the Lord, but the Lord is not so impressed.
He insists he’s not cut out for the job, and his reason has something to do with the way he speaks.
Moses acts, while Joseph sees himself as being acted upon.
How her fear and her mistreatment of Hagar the Egyptian helped forge the descendants of Abraham into a people, in a forge of 400 years.
Abraham and Moses are considered wholly righteous men, but Noah isn’t quite. That’s because, unlike them, he does what he’s told without question.
“Here am I, poor in deeds,” it begins. Where did it come from and, more importantly, what does it say to us?
For 40 years, Moses held tight to the Jews lest they relapse into idol worship. As his time drew to an end, he forced himself to loosen the reins.
Wherever Jews live, God lives within them.
What happens when the people rebel against the leadership of Moses and Aaron?
God ordered the prophet Hosea to marry a whore and father her children. The rabbis can’t decide if the story actually happened or was purely symbolic.
And why this week’s Torah portion fits into the spirit of both days.
You can hear the man’s voice as he keeps changing his mind. What’s the point of such a Shakespearean portrayal?
God wanted all of Amalek dead. Saul thought he knew better. What happened next?
Why Jewish girls are named after the fierce prophetess Deborah.
It’s hard to read the story of Joseph and his brothers without asking that question.
Was Jacob born to greatness, did he achieve it, or did he have it thrust upon him by his mother?
It isn’t Moses, despite the four books devoted to his adventures—it’s Abraham. Why?
Why should we confess, particularly on Yom Kippur? Why in public? And why so many times?