Was Nehama Leibowitz A Feminist?

January 31, 2010
Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible Scholar

Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible Scholar

by Rabbi Gil Student

The recent biography by Yael Unterman, Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible Scholar is fascinating, exhaustive and thought-provoking. The book is divided into three parts: Nehama’s life, her beliefs and her methodology. In each section, Unterman provides extensive background and then takes you through the subject with copious references to published materials and the seemingly endless interviews that she conducted. If anything, you can say that the book was too researched because there are so many people quoted with stories and facts. I particularly liked that aspect – the many stories and interviews – because it really brought Nehama to life. On her own, she was very modest and did not give away too much about herself. However, through extensive research, Unterman was able to put together the bits and pieces Nehama had told to students over the years, often accompanied with a story about how the information was revealed.

The book raises many interesting questions about Nehama (that’s what she liked to be called), and I don’t think one blog post will suffice. This is the first in a series of planned posts on issues raised in the book.
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Torah of the Mothers Reviewed in The Jewish Eye

January 29, 2010
Torah of the Mothers

Torah of the Mothers

Review of Torah of the Mothers

by Israel Drazin

Since we would like to believe that Judaism and the Torah are for men and women, and since women have their own perspective on subjects, this volume is an important contribution to Judaism.

The volume contains twenty-three chapters by twenty-three female Orthodox contributors, all college graduates and most with post graduate degrees. The book is divided into four parts. The first five chapters discuss significant Jewish teachers, such as Rabbi Soloveitchik and Nechama Leibowitz. The next seven chapters analyze biblical texts, including what the story of the daughters of Tzlafchad says about women’s issues. Four chapters on readings of rabbinic texts follow, such as an evaluation of three parables about a king and his daughter. The final section of seven chapters addresses “exile and redemption,” such as “Exodus and the Feminine in the Teachings of Rabbi Yaakov of Izbica.”
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Learning to Read Midrash Reviewed in The Jewish Eye

January 28, 2010
Learning to Read Midrash

Learning to Read Midrash

Review of Learning to Read Midrash

by Israel Drazin

Unfortunately Jews sit in synagogues today and hear sermons filled with Midrash and haven’t the slightest idea what parts of the rabbi’s talk is really in the Bible, what parts are Midrash, and whether the rabbi’s view is based on the Torah, the Midrash or the rabbi’s own opinion. This is tragic since the sermon is supposed to instruct not confuse.

Simi Peters explains what Midrash is, why it was developed, what it intends to accomplish and what are its methods and styles. She writes that Midrash may be an interpretation of a biblical word, a sentence or episode. It may be a sermon invented to teach a lesson, a parable related or unrelated to a biblical text. It could also be a combination of intentions.

Peters devotes the first seven chapters of her book to an explanation of the midrashic parables and gives six examples in six chapters. She shows how the Midrash may use one biblical verse to interpret another obscure one, how the Midrash frequently uses a scriptural passage as a springboard for its message, and how the Midrash engages its readers in a delightful dialogue.
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The Shidduch Crisis Reviewed at The New Jersey Jewish Standard

January 27, 2010
The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures

The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures

Review of The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures

by Rebecca Kaplan Boroson

Psychologist Michael J. Salamon begins his wise and rueful book about how Orthodox Jewish singles meet (or don’t meet) with the transcript of a telephone call that cries out to be reprinted:

Caller: Dr. Salamon, I am calling because I have to find out some important information regarding a shidduch.

Dr. S.: Of course, you know that I am not at liberty to discuss any private information. Not only is it illegal; it is unethical.

Caller: This situation is different.

Dr. S.: I am afraid that there is no situation that is different unless the people involved give explicit permission.

Caller: Well, they don’t know that I am calling, but they have spoken highly of you and I was asked to get this information so that we can decide to proceed with the shidduch or not.

Dr. S.: I still cannot give you such information.

Caller: Well, let me ask the question anyway and you will see how important it is for the decision-making process. So the question is: At what age was this young man toilet-trained?

Salamon, who is himself Orthodox and has worked with Jewish communities in the greater New York area, notes that he “simply hung up at that point.” Nevertheless, the supremely inappropriate question “got me to thinking… about what has gone wrong in the shidduch scene.”

That question sparked another question: “Have we lost our common sense?”
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Halakhic Man, Authentic Jew Reviewed at Jewish Book News

January 26, 2010
Halakhic Man, Authentic Jew

Halakhic Man, Authentic Jew

by Rabbi Gil Student

When I first opened R. Ira Bedzow’s recent book, Halakhic Man, Authentic Jew: Modern Expressions of Orthodox Thought from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits, I was surprised. I had expected to find summaries of each thinkers’ approach and then a constructive comparison and contrast of their views. That’s not what I saw at all. Instead, I found something much bolder and more original.

Halakhic Man, Authentic Jew consists of four daring chapters, book-ended by a very brief introduction and conclusion. In the introduction, R. Bedzow states that Modern Orthodox thought is orthodoxy merely translated into contemporary language and thought structures. In the conclusion, he suggests that R. Soloveitchik and R. Berkovits did more than merely translate; they innovated and deviated from traditional Jewish thought.
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Settling for More Reviewed at Israel National News

January 25, 2010
Settling for More: From Jersey to Judea

Settling for More: From Jersey to Judea

by Miriam Yocheved Russo

As surprising as it may seem, I moved to Beersheba because of a book – the old (published in 1976) “Shelanu: An Israel Journal” by the late Maggie Rennert.

Her book – where she turns all the travails of making an international move into laugh-till-you-cry funny stories – made it seem perfectly possible in the ‘if she can do it, so can I’ mode. For anyone considering the leap across the pond, Shelanu is indispensible. Maggie told the absolute truth: there’s plenty of frustration ahead – but the way she told it, it came out sounding like fun.

Now I’m here, and even though I’m not all that new anymore, I’m enjoying another “aliyah” book just as much. It’s Zahava Englard’s Settling for More: From Jersey to Judea, just published, hot off the press, from Urim Publications.

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The SOY Seforim Sale

January 24, 2010

The SOY Seforim Sale, the largest Jewish book sale in North America, is operated by the students of Yeshiva University. The sale provides discounted prices on the widest selection of rabbinic and academic literature, cookbooks, children’s books, music and lecture CDs, and educational software. January 24, 2010–February 15, 2010.

Details at the SOY Seforim sale site.