The first months I had my Bar-Ilan CD-Rom, almost fifteen years ago by now, I got lost many times, overwhelmed by the multitude of sources the disc contained. It was not until I learned to play favorites, particularly with Midrashim and Responsa, that I could make any forward progress. Even then, I was repeatedly introduced to scholars of our past, rabbis of great learning, whom I had never known well or sometimes had never even heard of before this resource came my way.
I had a similar experience with a sefer I bought a little while back, almost by accident. I came across the website for Yeshivat Bircat Moshe, the yeshivat hesder at Maaleh Adumim. Knowing several of their faculty by reputation, including the Rosh Yeshiva R. Nahum Rabinovitch, I purchased some volumes from their online store, including R. Rabinovitch’s book of responsa, שו”ת שיח נחום. Continue reading “Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch’s New Responsa: Worth More Than a Casual Look”→
The famous annual Hebrew Book Week is going to start this Wednesday, 2nd June 2010.
Many larger Israeli cities such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Kfar Saba, etc. offer Book Week events. Jerusalem’s book fair is taking place at the Liberty Bell Garden (Gan ha-Paଁamon) and Tel Aviv’s location is Kikar Rabin. Moreover, many local cafés, such as the Jerusalem café/restaurant Tmol Shilshom, offer discussions with famous Israeli authors.
The annual Hebrew Book Week has always been an important event where the masses were buying books for reasonable prices. In general, Hebrew books are rather expensive and a trip to the Book Fair was worth the time and money.
In recent years, however, the largest Israeli book chains, Steimatzky as well as Zomet Ha-Sefarim, have been selling books for such low prices that even famous authors won’t make a living anymore. Four books for NIS 100, where usually one book is already NIS 100 (approximately 25 dollars). Israeli authors have been complaining about this kind of dumping policy for a long time, but the public loves it.
Nevertheless, before going to the actual book fair, you should definitely have a look at Zomet ha-Sefarim (Jerusalem: Central Bus Station, Tel Aviv: Dizengoff Center) first.
Crown of Aleppo: The Mystery of the Oldest Hebrew Bible Codex
By Hayim Tawil and Bernard Schneider Jewish Publication Society of America, 220 pages, $40
There is something profoundly alluring about the manuscripts of great literary works. Whether the handwritten fair copy of “Ode to a Nightingale” or a stray page of Shakespeare, Kafka’s diary or the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, we are drawn to manuscripts as talismanic objects, revealers of secrets, at once precious and terribly fragile. They bear both a human and a miraculous imprint. In a secular age, such items can bring one closer to an understanding of the term “holy.”
How much more so when the work in question is a holy book. The idea of discovering the original manuscript of the Bible — even supposing such a thing ever existed — is an impossible fantasy, but the aura surrounding the Aleppo Codex has something of the same power. Completed around 930 C.E., the codex was, until the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest-known handwritten copy of the Hebrew Scriptures in existence. In their succinct exposition of the book’s history, “Crown of Aleppo,” Hayim Tawil and Bernard Schneider also make the case for its being the most authoritative.
The Crown, as it became known, was the supreme achievement of the Masoretic scribes of Tiberias, Shlomo ben Buya’a, who produced the text, and Aharon ben Asher, who notated it. As Hebrew fell out of common use and became a literary language, the text without vowels and cantillation marks became more and more vulnerable to misreads; the work of the Masoretes was therefore vital to the sustained integrity of the Bible. Continue reading “Wonder of Wonders: An Ancient Book’s Tale”→
Moshe Greenberg, one of the most influential Jewish biblical scholars of the 20th century, died Saturday at his home in Jerusalem. He was 81.
Professor Greenberg, who in 1994 won the Israel Prize, that nation’s highest civilian honor, taught Bible and Jewish studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1970 to 1996. But his teaching career began at the University of Pennsylvania in 1954 and constituted something of a breakthrough in American academia.
Since its creation in 1976, the Orthodox publishing empire known as ArtScroll has brought out hundreds of titles: English translations of classic texts like the Bible, the siddur (prayer book), the Talmud, and others as well as self-help books, histories, biographies, fiction, and even cookbooks. All are marked by traditional scholarship, decent English, handsome and often innovative typography and graphics—and an unabashedly ultra-Orthodox (haredi) viewpoint. Advertised and marketed with acumen and zeal, ArtScroll has swept the English-speaking Orthodox world and made surprising inroads among non-Orthodox readers as well.
A newly published study, Orthodox by Design, provides the first scholarly investigation of the ArtScroll phenomenon and what it has to tell us about contemporary Judaism. According to the author, Jeremy Stolow, ArtScroll’s success lies in its distinctive mix of authority, perceived authenticity, and accessibility. This is achieved not only through the volumes’ content but through their user-friendly “design,” in both the verbal and the visual sense. By making accessible to a wider public what are usually closed books, notably the siddur and, even more so, the Talmud, ArtsScroll has lowered the formidable barriers, social and linguistic, to identification with ultra-Orthodox Judaism; analogously, its biographies, histories, and self-help books have succeeded in reworking popular contemporary genres to fit ultra-Orthodox principles. Continue reading “ArtScroll, Inc.”→
After years of patient nurturing, research and weeding, the show has begun.
“This April, the blossoms burst forth from their sprigs. First came the delicate spring snowflakes, peering up between the blades of my lawn like some kind of harbinger. I hadn’t even planted them. Then the blackberry flowers, the butterfly bush, the tulips,” Kaplan wrote on his blog last week. “Songbirds have alighted as if to celebrate.”
“Of course, it’s all a metaphor,” Kaplan grins, as if it should be obvious to anyone who knows his story.
Kaplan, who gave up life in the fast lane in Hollywood and moved to Mt. Lebanon three and a half years ago, is finally reaping the rewards of years of hard work, and realizing his dream of becoming a novelist.
Meet and hear from author Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post correspondent,
at a book launch at the new AACI,
2 Poalei Tzedek St. (corner of Pierre Koenig), Jerusalem
Date: Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Time: 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Books will be available for purchase at a discount
On the book:
“… a testimony to the love of Israel and to the unity and cooperation
between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora.” – Ehud Barak, Defense Minister and former prime minister
“At a time when criticism of Israel, from within and from without, seems
commonplace, it is refreshing and inspiring to read … a story about so
much that is good and unique about Israel…. ” – Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
They pick up and leave family, friends, home, cars, first-tier universities, and often top jobs for a land in which, in most cases, they don’t have relatives, and are unfamiliar with the language, culture, food, and mentality. Once there, they choose one of the harshest, most difficult frameworks possible in which to immerse themselves: the army. They are Israel’s lone soldiers. Lone Soldiers: Israel’s Defenders from Around the World tells a tale, engagingly written by Jerusalem Post diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon, with accompanying pictures by noted photographer Ricki Rosen. This book tells the personal stories of fourteen of these volunteer lone soldiers – including one, Michael Levin, who fell in the Second Lebanon War – and of an ”old school” kibbutznik, Lt.-Col. (res.) Tzvika Levy, known as the ”father of the lone soldiers,” whose life’s mission is to take them under his wing and make their landing in Israel and the IDF as painless as possible. Their stories are living proof of Israel’s enduring strength and Zionism’s vibrant appeal.
About the Author:
Herb Keinon is a veteran reporter for The Jerusalem Post. Keinon has lived in Israel since 1981, spending most of those years writing on a wide array of topics for the newspaper. For the last nine years he has been the Post’s diplomatic correspondent. Originally from Denver, Keinon lives with his wife and four children in Ma’ale Adumim.
About the Photographer:
Ricki Rosen has worked as a photojournalist for over twenty-five years, and her photographs have been published in such major publications as Time Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, People, Paris Match, and Le Figaro. She recently published a photographic book, Transformations – From Ethiopia to Israel, featuring portraits of Ethiopian Jews during the 1991 Operation Solomon rescue mission and then the same people transformed after fifteen years in Israel. Rosen lives in Jerusalem with her husband and two children.
Iraq is negotiating with U.S. authorities for the return of millions of documents, including a stash of rare Hebrew-language books and parchments found in a flooded basement by American troops after the 2003 invasion, Iraqi officials said Thursday.
A high-level Iraqi delegation visited the U.S. last week to discuss bringing the documents back to Baghdad. The documents include an extensive collection referred to as the Iraqi Jewish Archive, as well as records and files belonging to Saddam Hussein’s disbanded Baath Party and security services.
Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen provides both the answers to questions on Shabbat observance and a look at the process by which the answers are derived. He also analyzes contemporary, controversial Shabbat issues such as the possibility for a Shabbat bus, women’s cosmetics, and the building of an Eruv. According to Rabbi Cohen, “Halachah, the distinctly unique Jewish legal system, crystallizes the guidelines of Judaism. It makes us into Jews and marks us as Jewish. As such, an understanding of the halachic process provides insight into the inner soul of Jewish life itself.” There are many books that address questions of Shabbat observance. Shabbat: The Right Way differs in that it provides definitive direction as well as openly sharing the analysis. For the person seeking to understand Jewish law, this book offers the opportunity to learn why Jews do certain things. For those already familiar with halachah, this book will serve as a springboard for deeper study, and all readers will come away with a sense of what is at the heart of Judaism. Continue reading “Jewish Media Review on Shabbat: The Right Way”→
Over the past three months I’ve published six essays in Jewish Ideas Daily on specific examples of people and programs that seem to me to offer welcome news—”Vital Signs”—for the future of American Jewish life. My list was hardly exhaustive; it could have been easily expanded to twice or perhaps even three times its size. Looking back now at my examples—a summer camp, a supplementary high school, a Hebrew-language initiative for young children, an adult-education program, a fellowship program for young community leaders, and a prayer group—I’m struck by the ubiquity of a leitmotif that, directly or indirectly, runs throughout all six.
That leitmotif, broadly put, is education. Nothing new about that, one might say; but one would be wrong. To be sure, Torah study has long been a core value of rabbinic Judaism. But for much of the past century, the people of the book in this country seem to have transferred their devotion almost exclusively to the secular domain, becoming authoritative students of every conceivable professional and academic discipline while for the most part remaining ignorant of the great texts of their own tradition, let alone of the Hebrew language. Only in our own time has the ground begun to shift. Continue reading “Vital Signs: Betting on Jewish Literacy”→