Questioning belief — Jewish Renaissance

Shimon ben Azzai was a second century rabbinic scholar, who would walk up and down the bustling market in Tiberius declaring, “I welcome anyone asking about the Torah and I’m ready to respond”. He typified the positive attitude of our sagest of questions. They wanted to discuss what we believe and practice. They relished challenges, not just to help the inquirer but because the process invariably deepened their own understanding. Rabbi Chanina, who lived a century before ben Azzai, used to say: “I have learned much from my teachers and even more from my friends, but from my students I have learned most of all.”

This is why I wrote the book. Investigating challenging questions uncovered fresh readings and insights. The journey has led me from a defence of my faith to a reassessment of Judaism for the modern age. Catch me after kiddush, or find another way to contact me, and I’ll tell you all about it.

By Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum

Questioning Belief: Torah and Tradition in an Age of Doubt (Toby Press Ltd, 2024) is out now.

Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum is dean of the London School of Jewish Studies, where he holds the Rabbi Sacks Chair of Modern Jewish Thought, established by the Zandan family. See him speak at our free Judaism in an Age of Doubt online event on Thursday 23 May.

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