View in Your Browser

Dear friends,

A religious rebuke to the philosophers

Some philosophers have a very abstracted view of what religion is and the role it plays in human life. According to their view, religion is, at its core, a set of propositional ideas that believers come to accept as true. The key to religious devotion is the acceptance of a tenet of faith.

Of course, that’s really not how religious life is experienced. The mind is involved in religion, but in more subtle ways. Christian traditions have many objects, rituals, and gorgeous buildings that create a spiritual atmosphere that helps the heart along. Judaism is perhaps the most embodied religion of all, requiring hundreds of specified obligations and actions governing dress and food, marital relations and business dealings, even the structure and society of prayer. In the Jewish tradition these are not separate from but an expression of a covenantal relationship with the creator of the universe.

There’s an intricate education of the soul that takes place by means of these many required deeds. Tell a man that he is forbidden from taking lightly the holiness of life, and he may or may not listen. But force him to raise the slaughter of animals for food into a sacral act, uplifted by the obligations of kashrut, and he is learning through his hands not to deprecate the blood of any living thing. The Jewish way takes very seriously the body and its needs, and the opportunities the body affords for structuring the mind and soul.

That’s the spirit in which I read Philologos’s charming column this week about the grogger, the noisemaker traditionally used during the public reading of the Esther scroll on Purim. He reminds us again of the significance of small things, of how the celebration of Purim structures the way children participate in the narrative text of the Purim story, of the way the story’s villain is highlighted in ways—like waving the grogger—that strike our senses no less than our mind.

That’s the same spirit in which I engaged in a conversation on our podcast this week about family formation in America. As has been widely reported, American birthrates are dropping and are now well below replacement rate. Tim Carney, the author of a new book on the subject, asks what elements of our culture can be reformed to make family formation a little easier. In search of answers, he was led to Israel and an Orthodox suburb of Washington, DC, where he tried to learn from the Jewish experience.

From the archives

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed on a bipartisan basis a bill that would force the sale of TikTok, the Chinese social-media app with more than 150 million American users. If the bill is passed and TikTok’s U.S. subsidiary is not sold to an American company, then the app would be banned from American phones.

Israel, meanwhile, is dealing with its own problems of Chinese influence. That influence has been reduced since the start of the Gaza war, and in our archive pick this week, the Israeli general Assaf Orion argues that it was never as strong as it appeared, despite China’s significant investments in Israeli infrastructure.

With every good wish,

Jonathan Silver
Editor, Mosaic
Warren R. Stern Senior Fellow of Jewish Civilization


The Purim Grogger's Name Comes from Spain

by Philologos

The holiday noisemaker bears a suspicious resemblance to the Spanish carraca.
Read more . . .

Podcast: Timothy Carney on How It Became So Hard to Raise a Family in America

by Tikvah Podcast at Mosaic

The author of a new book explains how American culture turned against raising kids, and looks to Jewish communities as models of healthy, family-oriented society.
Read more . . .
Top Five Editors' Picks

1. The Genetic History of the Jews

The more we learn, the fewer the surprises. Razib Khan.

2. Jews and Power, Revisited

Understanding the Jewish political paradox in 2024. Ruth R. Wisse.

3. Chuck Schumer’s Indefensible Attack on the Israeli Government

The senator doesn’t understand what Israelis want. Elliott Abrams.

4. How the New Gaza Port Could Hasten an Israeli Victory

Leaving Qatar and Hamas in the cold. Yigal Carmon.

5. Howard Jacobson on the Moral Narcissism at the Academy Awards

It takes no courage to castigate the Jews. Howard Jacobson.


Copyright Mosaic, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
165 E 56Th St New York, NY 10022-2709

Manage Preferences