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The Politics of Miracle

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The Exodus Miracle as Revolution according to Rabbi Ya’akov Moshe Charlap

Shaul Magid, Tikkun

 

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https://www.tikkun.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Charlap-336x469.jpg / April10,2019 | The Jewish tradition suggests that the miracle of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt is the foundational miracle upon which all miracles rest. The question is: what exactly was the miracle? In a provocative essay, Rabbi Ya’akov Moshe Charlap (1882-1951) suggests that the unique nature of the exodus miracle is not any visual change in the natural order, such as the parting of the Reed Sea, but rather the erasure of exile as a category and the possibility that the slave can become the master through a new kind of servitude. This, he posits, is the notion of revolution, not viewed as a temporary intervention into the order of nature but a structural change in creation that points to the possibility of a usurpation of societal order for the sake of freedom and justice.

R. Ya’akov Moshe Charlap was born and died in Jerusalem having lived there his entire life. A respected member of the Old Settlement Jewish community – he was rabbi of the Shaarei Hesed neighborhood in Jerusalem – he became a Zionist and one of the closest colleagues (talmid/haver) of R. Abraham Isaac Kook. Charlap served as Dean (Rosh Yeshiva) of the Yeshivat Mercaz ha-Rav Kook from its founding in 1924 until his death in 1951 after which the position went to Kook’s son, R. Zvi Yehuda Kook. Charlap wrote a number of important works including the multi-volume Mei Marom dedicated to Torah commentary, essays on the festivals, and musar. The essay discussed here and translated below is from his volume of Mei Marom on Pesah and Shavuot.

Shaul Magid, the editor of Jewish Thought and Culture at Tikkun Magazine, is the Distinguished Fellow in Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, Kogod Senior Research Fellow at The Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, and rabbi of the Fire Island Synagogue. He is presently working on a cultural biography of Meir Kahane.

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