Review of Transforming the World

May 25, 2016

transforming web001Using history and logic, Rabbi Dee explains in “Transforming the World: The Jewish Impact on Modernity” how Judaism enhances daily life to make it more meaningful. Addressing the fundamental question of why bother being Jewish in a modern world, “Transforming the World” focuses on the tolerance and equality of all mankind that is fundamental in Judaism. With a combination of commandments, traditions, and history, Rabbi Dee shows how Jewish culture transforms a human life and the wider world for the better. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, “Transforming the World” is very highly recommended for personal, synagogue, community, and academic library Contemporary Judaic Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

This review originally appeared on Midwest Book Review


If God is everywhere, why can’t I see Him?

May 23, 2016

Nefesh HaTzimtzum vol 1 and 2

Launching his new, two-volume series, Nefesh HaTzimtzum, Avinoam Fraenkel talks about philosophical and Kabbalistic topics that have been questioned for centuries. Nefesh HaTzimtzum is a comprehensive and accessible presentation of Nefesh HaChaim, the classic book by Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, which follows a methodological framework for serving God and provides guidance on how to philosophically interact with the world. Due to its Kabbalistic subject matter, Nefesh HaChaim has lain in almost total obscurity for nearly two centuries. Avinoam Fraenkel enlightens the complex work by providing a translation, in-depth explanations, an informative historical overview, and a full index.

During his book launch in Beit Shemesh, Fraenkel touched upon Kabbalistic topics such as if Kabbalah is authentic; how Kabbalah views reality; and if Kabbalah, science, and technology are connected. You can view the entire talk here.

Nefesh HaTzimtzum, Volume 1: Rabbi Chaim Volozhin’s Nefesh HaChaim with Translation and Commentary and Nefesh HaTzimtzum, Volume 2: Understanding Nefesh HaChaim through the Key Concept of Tzimtzum and Related Writings are available through Urim Publications.

 

 


Review of Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality Vol.2

May 18, 2016

RabbinicAuthorityVolume2 web1By Rabbi Ari Enkin

Once again, Rabbi Yehuda Warburg gives us an insiders look into  a number of actual cases that transpired in his Beit Din. There are both Even Ha’ezer and Choshen Mishpat related cases. There is much reference and comparison to precedents and principles in secular law.

Here is the table of contents:

Part I: Rabbinic Authority: The Vision

Chapter 1: The Multifaceted Halakhic Identity of a Jewish Investment Broker

Chapter 2: The Propriety of a Civil Will

Chapter 3: Harnessing the Authority of Beit Din to Deal with Cases of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

Chapter 4: An Employer’s Vicarious Liability for an Employee’s Sexual Misconduct

Chapter 5: The Status and Role of a To’ein Rabbani in the Beit Din Process Read the rest of this entry »


Life-changing work: Rabbi Leo Dee’s new book explains how the Torah can bring happiness to all

May 18, 2016

By Miriam Kates Lock transforming web001

When Leo Dee was a rabbi in a small village n the British county of Hertfordshire, he organized a question-and-answer session on one Yom Kippur afternoon. More than 400 Jews of all ages sat before him, and one young man – a science student at a British university – raised his hand to ask a question.

“Rabbi, isn’t the Torah just an ancient text that is out-of-date and irrelevant in our modern age?” he asked.

It was the most basic of all questions a rabbi could be asked.

Transforming the World is Dee’s answer.

Why is the Torah still relevant after thousands of years? What does the Torah offer to contemporary Jews living in today’s word? In Transforming the World Dee begins not with a discussion of history or faith, but instead with a reflection on the subject of happiness – what happiness means to people and the line between happiness and Judaism.

Transforming the World is not a scholarly volume intended for Jews with an extensive background in Jewish law and Jewish study. Instead, it is a straightforward book that addresses Jews who want to know what Judaism has to offer them personally. In today’s atmosphere of self-disclosure and openness, the pursuit of happiness is a subject examined and discussed frequently in the media, literature and popular culture. Dee presents Judaism in this novel way in order to bring his main point across to his readers: Judaism is worth investigating and absolutely has something to offer the modern Jew.

The rest of the review can be found in the Jerusalem Post Magazine.

 


Review of Transforming the World

April 17, 2016

transforming web001By Rabbi Johnny Solomon

If you are a teacher, parent or friend to someone wishing to learn more about their Jewish heritage, then you have probably been asked various questions about Jewish living and Jewish values. While some questions may have been easy to answer, others have been harder. However, it was on a Yom Kippur afternoon in the Radlett Centre when Rabbi Leo Dee was asked what is probably the most important question for any Jew: ‘Rabbi, isn’t the Torah just an ancient text that is out of date and irrelevant in our modern age?’.

This question – which should be presented to every Rabbi, Rebbetzin & Jewish educator when applying for a new job – gets to the roots of Jewish living. However, few people are actually prepared to ask this question, and few educators are necessarily prepared to answer it. As Rabbi Dee explains, ‘in the microsecond after he uttered those words, I sensed a level of relieved endorsement from within the packed auditorium. This was clearly a question that others had wanted to ask, but none had had the guts to pose.’ So how did this dynamic and thoughtful Rabbi answer this question? To find out, you’ll need to buy Transforming the World: The Jewish Impact on Modernity.

This refreshing book contains 66 short essays in which Rabbi Dee addresses this question from three different perspectives: How does the Torah transform my life for the better? How does the Torah transform the wider world for the better? What is the future of the Jewish people in a modern world? In each essay Rabbi Dee highlights how Judaism has transformed the world as we know it, and he explores ideas connected with education, charity, Shabbat, justice and much more. Though the book is primarily pitched towards teenagers and young adults, it is a book that, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes in his approbation, can ‘inspire young and not-so-young Jews alike’.

Transforming the World provides a clear description of how Judaism has changed the world for the better, and it offers compelling arguments for Jews to be proud of their Jewish heritage.

This review originally appeared in Rabbi Johnny Solomon’s weekly newsletter.

 


Review of Between the Lines of the Bible: Genesis

April 12, 2016

By Ben Rothke, The Times of Israel

There’s a famous Yiddish expression men shtarbt nisht fuhn ah kasha, roughly translated as “no one ever died from a tough question”. Judaism views doubt and questions as positive, as they can be mechanisms that lead a person to greater spiritual growth.BetweentheLinesoftheBibleGenesisWeb1

While that saying is true in certain contexts; when it comes to dealing with contradictions and challenging questions in the Bible, many people unfortunately haven’t taken the time to determine what the true answers are. Often these unresolved questions or unsatisfactory and unfulfilling answers will lead them to abandoning any future interaction with the sacred text.

In a fascinating new book, Between the Lines of the Bible: Genesis: Recapturing the Full Meaning of the Biblical Text (Urim Publications ISBN-13 978-9655242003), author Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom has written an engaging work that provides significant new insights and a fascinating approach to the Biblical text. The book is a pleasure to read and the reader is certain to come out with significant insights to the text. Read the rest of this entry »


Review of Kosher Movies

April 10, 2016

Reviewed by Daniel Renna

kosher movies web2What emerges is an extraordinary story of someone truly committed to the essential elements of the Modern Orthodox ethos, tapping into the inherent tension between Torah culture and that of the surrounding world to tease out unique insights into God’s creation. Tying these carefully selected anecdotes to the motion pictures he reviews, Rabbi Cohen accomplishes the improbable: eliciting divrei Torah from what otherwise might be considered frivolous entertainment. Moreover, through his love of both Torah and film, Rabbi Cohen brings to the fore the comforting attributes that both religion and popular culture share in their inherent relatability.

Kosher Movies succeeds in promoting some ideals that in many quarters have been considered passי, namely the effective synergy of the devotion to Torah and the careful application of general, in this case, popular culture. Coming of age at Yeshiva University in the 1960s, arguably the zenith of these ideas, Rabbi Cohen rejects the contemporary notion that the Modern Orthodox approach is intrinsically flawed and does not work. On the contrary, he states that “We learn about God not only through His words but also His works.

My task as a teacher of . . . film is to give students the tools to discriminate between the wheat and chaff of secular culture.” Rabbi Cohen’s unapologetic love of both Torah and movies is evident throughout. Though the book contains the necessary caveat that one should consult movie parental advisories to determine the propriety of films in family and school settings, Kosher Movies remains a strong advocate for watching films through a specific lens of Torah.

Western society, both Jewish and secular, has taken many turns since the first feature film and the heyday of Modern Orthodox thought. In an age of abject permissiveness in secular culture and the meaningless hollowness of the trend of “Social Orthodoxy,” Kosher Movies reminds us that there are spiritual and inspirational nuggets of gold to be discovered and harnessed from the world around us as depicted in popular culture that truly complement a Torah lifestyle.

This review originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Jewish Action.

 


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