How a 19th-Century Russian Rabbi Used the Philosophy of Immanuel Kant to Understand Two of the Talmud’s Great Ethical Debates

According to one ancient rabbinic compendium, Rabbi Akiva considered the verse “You shall love your fellow as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:8) as “the great general principle of Torah.” But the same text also cites the opposing view of Akiva’s contemporary Ben Azzai, who, less intuitively, held “This is the book of the generations of man” (Genesis 5:1) to be an even greater principle. In his commentary to this passage, the Russian exegete Rabbi Meir Leybush ben Yeḥiel Mikhl (1809-1879)—better known as the Malbim—explains this debate with an implicit, but unmistakable, reference to the moral teachings of Immanuel Kant. Akiva simply articulated the golden rule, according to Malbim, while Ben Azzai, following Kant, saw it as unnecessarily subjective, instead seeking a universal maxim—thus his reference to the “generations of man,” i.e., all of humankind.

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More about: Biblical commentary, Immanuel Kant, Jewish ethics, Judasim, Malbim, Rabbi Akiva

 

The Demise of UNRWA Is Long Overdue

June 27 2022

The head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)—which provides educational and social services to the descendants of Palestinian refugees—recently predicted disaster if the organization is unable to raise $100 million in the next few months. Ruthie Blum explains why this official’s claim that UNRWA “is indispensable in the lives of Palestinian refugees” is simply false:

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, UNRWA