June 25, 2018
Rabbi Gil Student • Jewish Action
Medicine changes at such a dizzying pace that ethicists have to run to catch up. Rabbis often respond in journals and responsa that remain out of reach for the broader community. Rabbi Jason Weiner, a hospital chaplain and synagogue rabbi, combines real-world experience with extensive research to provide an overview of Jewish approaches to a wide range of medical issues. Rabbi Weiner writes for patients, rabbis and medical professionals. He therefore uses sympathetic and non-technical language that respects the patients’ experiences and provides easily understood options, supplemented by endnotes with extensive citations.
As a methodology, Rabbi Weiner attempts to survey the issues, explaining the different opinions rather than offering specific conclusions. However, when necessary he follows the rulings of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach or, in the absence of his opinion, that of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, as well as the guidance of Rabbi Asher Weiss. In addition to presenting rulings on Jewish law, Rabbi Weiner also explores the underlying values and ethical considerations that often speak more to a patient than the laws. Is prayer futile for a terminally ill patient? Rabbi Weiner explains the views of Rabbi Auerbach (yes, it is futile), Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (it is never futile) and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (even futile prayer can be uplifting).
Writing as a chaplain, Rabbi Weiner is keenly aware of the frequent dilemma of assisting a patient who chooses a medical option that Jewish law does not allow. He offers meaningful suggestions on how to relate to a patient who requests physician-assisted suicide, or a family that wants to cremate a relative. He suggests—rather than try to convince patients and family that their preference is wrong—listen to them and empower them by offering options that provide them with the control and independence they desire. In a broader context, this is wise advice for dealing with anyone seeking religious guidance.
June 24, 2018
Phil Jacobs • Jewish Link of New Jersey
“Discover the breadth of wisdom provided by this generation’s giant of Torah: Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg. Rabbi Greenberg is one of the most renowned leaders in contemporary Jewish communal life. His dedication to a more interconnected and vibrant Judaism has been felt across the academic and broader world. In this new work, the legacy of Rabbi Greenberg is discussed at length by those who have been affected by his inclusive model of contemporary Judaism, his approachable erudition, commitment to fostering meaningful interfaith dialogue, and constant striving to make the world a more just place.”
June 21, 2018
S. T. Katz • Boston University, Choice Reviews
This provocative book considers issues relating primarily to Jewish law (Halakah). Lopes Cardozo is a member of the right-wing religious community in Israel, so one would expect this book to offer a very conservative reading of the Halakah and its response to current religious issues within Judaism. Instead, one gets a strident claim that the Halakah is meant to challenge the status quo and prompt deeper spiritual reflection and initiatives. This is what makes the book interesting. The author argues that Halakah should be a spiritual exercise, not merely an obligation. In consequence, he is deeply interested in questions relating to human encounters with the divine, and he takes on such complex and pressing issues as conversion and kosher food. Also striking is his engagement with Jewish and non-Jewish thought more broadly: he writes about Spinoza, Buber, and the Buddha, among many others. In particular, he offers surprisingly frank criticism of the US’s most revered modern Orthodox sage, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. Lopes Cardozo writes that Soloveitchik “was not a mechadesh – a man whose novel ideas really moved the Jewish tradition forward, especially regarding Halcha. He did not solve major Halachic problems.” In the context of Jewish intellectual discussion, this is strong stuff.
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty, professionals.
Reprinted with permission from Choice Reviews. All rights reserved. Copyright by the American Library Association.
June 17, 2018
Yitzhak Y. Melamed • Jewish Review of Books
…Fraenkel’s attempt to harmonize the apparently conflicting views on the tzimtzum is highly valuable. In the first place, Fraenkel’s claim is well argued and meticulously grounded in the sources, and thus deserves serious consideration. Second, Fraenkel’s reading goes against the main trend of interpretation in both the academic world of Kabbalah studies and that of Chabad historiography, which follows the last Lubavitcher Rebbe in stressing the opposition between Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi and Rabbi Chaim on tzimtzum….
It is a work of both real piety and ingenious scholarship.
Fraenkel is a computer scientist by training and profession as well as an independent scholar, and it would be hard to overestimate the amount of intellectual effort, courage, precision, and diligence invested in these two volumes. Books such as this are rare, but if I may quote the words of another God-seeking Jew: “All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.”
June 6, 2018
Debbie Weissman • Times of Israel
In the mid-20th century, the great American Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel credibly wrote “Judaism today is the least known religion.” But recent decades have seen Christians making impressive efforts to fill in the knowledge gap. For many years, I have had the privilege of teaching groups of Christians who come to Jerusalem from throughout the world. Many of them are priests, pastors and nuns on sabbatical; some are lay people. They come from anywhere from a week to a year and my involvement varies, depending on the length and depth of the program. The programs are held at Christian institutions in and around Jerusalem.
I teach them about Judaism and about Israel. I give introductions to the Christians who visit our synagogue on Friday nights for prayers, and we sometimes also provide them with home hospitality for Shabbat dinners. It is fascinating to note what questions they ask. In one case, a young woman was surprised that our sanctuary was not decorated with pictures of Moses. Once, I told a group of seminarians that they were imposing Christian questions on Judaism; what interested them almost exclusively were Read the rest of this entry »
June 4, 2018
Dr. Zackary Sholem Berger M.D. • Lehrhaus
Rabbi Jason Weiner, a rabbi and bioethicist who serves as a synagogue rabbi, a posek, and as a consultant on a hospital ethics committee, has done a service to the halakhically observant Jewish community by writing a clear, modern, and compassionate book about dilemmas which patients, physicians, caregivers, and hospitals are likely to face….
In general, this book is well worth purchasing and perusing for anyone interested in modern health care and Halakhah. But as relevant as the halakhic details (which I am not competent to question), are the implied messages sent by the selection of content and the manner of its presentation. The book is in English, including footnotes (compare with other halakhic texts for an Orthodox audience in which the content, or at least the footnotes, are in Hebrew). This makes the text admirably accessible — in fact, more accessible than the introduction contemplates. It’s very likely that the book will be read, appreciated, and used not just by rabbis and poskim, but by healthcare professionals, families, and patients as well.