Tag Archives: Philosophy

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Schochet

Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Schochet

Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Schochet

Jacob Immanuel Schochet (1935-2013) was born in Switzerland to Jewish-Lithuanian parents. In 1951, the family moved to Toronto, and shortly after Schochet went to study at the Chabad Yeshiva in New York. There he became close with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who encouraged him to pursue academic subjects. Schochet went on to earn a Master’s in religious studies and a Ph.D in philosophy, studying at the Universities of Toronto, Waterloo, Windsor and McMaster. He became an internationally renowned scholar of philosophy, mysticism and Hasidism, writing 35 books, translating many others, and penning countless articles (click here to read a selection of these). While serving as a community rabbi for over 45 years, he was also professor of philosophy at Humber College and professor of bioethics at the University of Toronto Medical School. Schochet lectured around the world, including at Yale and Oxford. He was a champion of the Jewish cause, successfully combating Christian missionaries, particularly ‘Jews for Jesus’, and openly challenged any missionary to debate him in public. A staunch defender of traditional Jewish beliefs, he was also critical of the Kabbalah Centre, as well as messianic movements within Chabad. His piety, wisdom, and love for Israel were recognized by all who met him. Sadly, Rabbi Schochet passed away on July 27th.

 

Words of the Week

Do not scorn any man, and do not discount any thing, for there is no man who does not have his hour, and no thing that does not have its place.
– Pirkei Avot 4:3

Jew of the Week: Gershom Scholem

Gerhard Scholem (1897-1982) was born to a secular Jewish family in Berlin. At a young age he showed a great interest in religion, but his father was staunchly anti-Orthodox and opposed it. After his mother intervened, Scholem was allowed to study Judaism with an Orthodox rabbi. In university, he studied mathematics, philosophy, and Hebrew, and met other greats like Martin Buber and Hayim Bialik. He later received an additional degree in Semitic languages. During his studies, he discovered Kabbalah and the infinite depths of Jewish mysticism. He ended up writing his doctoral thesis on the oldest known Kabbalistic text, Sefer ha-Bahir. In 1923 Scholem moved to Israel and changed his name to Gershom. He worked as a librarian and spent his time in study. In 1933 he became the first Professor of Mysticism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, teaching a unique view of Kabbalah from a scientific and historical perspective. He stayed at this post for over 30 years, while writing over 40 world-famous texts (in addition to over 700 articles) and winning a handful of prestigious awards, including the Israel Prize. He is credited with being a major force in opening the study of Kabbalah to the masses, both Jews and Gentiles. Despite studying Judaism through a scholarly approach, he maintained that Hebrew is a divine language, alone capable of revealing hidden truths.

Words of the Week

There are two things that are no cause for worry: that which can be fixed, and that which cannot be fixed. That which can be fixed, can be fixed, so what’s there to worry about? And that which cannot be fixed, cannot be fixed anyways so what’s there to worry about?!
– Rabbi Michel of Zelotchov

Jew of the Week: Abenezra

Abenezra’s Commentaries

Avraham ben Meir ibn Ezra (1089 – c. 1167 CE) was a world-renowned scholar born in Tudela, Spain. He became famous at an early age for both his beautiful poetry and philosophical genius. In 1140, ibn Ezra (also known as Abenezra) left Spain and began a fascinating journey that took him across North Africa, to the Holy Land, back through Europe, Italy, France and England. It was during this time that he wrote most of his famous works, including some of the first Hebrew grammar books, and a commentary on the entire Torah and Tanakh. His commentary contained such depth that subsequently many commentaries were written on ibn Ezra’s commentaries! He is famous for his rationalism and logic; in religious matters, too, sometimes even criticizing sacred texts. Not surprisingly, he was also a scholar of mathematics and science, writing several treatises on astronomy, arithmetic and even a manual for using an astrolabe. He is credited with being among the key figures who introduced Europe to the Indian system of mathematical symbols and decimal fractions (still used to this day). Ibn Ezra’s poetry continues to be recited around the world, in both translations and the original Hebrew and Arabic. Among other titles, he has been called “ibn Ezra the Great” and the “Admirable Doctor”. The lunar crater Abenezra is named after him.

 

Words of the Week

Words are the pen of the heart; song is the pen of the soul.
– Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi