Another Way, Another Time
By Meir Persoff | Academic Studies Press | 398 pages | $32
There are three years to go before the British chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, has to retire on reaching 65. Many who know him well believe that with his recent elevation to the House of Lords he will be happy to do so and to concentrate on matters other than the bitter religious divisions within the Anglo-Jewish community. Others think he enjoys the challenges which his position inevitably poses and the respect he deservedly enjoys from the non-Jewish world and that he will therefore be reluctant to step down.
If and when he does retire, the big question is who will succeed him. There appears to be no natural successor in Britain and the search may be widened to overseas, notably America or perhaps even Israel. The even bigger question is whether the post of chief rabbi is really needed and, if so, whether its parameters will be changed. Continue reading “Divide and Rule?”→
I don’t care how popular the iPad becomes, or even the ubiquitous E Ink devices: nothing will ever replace the joy of holding a book. The tactile and olfactory feast that is an ancient tome cannot possibly be exchanged for the cold glare of a lifeless screen. While carrying a library in my backpack might be handy on vacation, I hope that I will always be able to come home to a house filled with books.
At the time of writing this, I am in possession of well over a thousand texts, some of which are very old. The oldest volume that I have is a Hebrew Bible from 1701, but I also own large facsimile editions of the two oldest Hebrew Bibles ever written: the Aleppo Codex (10th century) and the Leningrad Codex (11th century). It is a guilty pleasure of mine to point to my large and densely packed Primary Literature shelf and to tell visiting non-Jews, “these are just the important ones”. To people unaccustomed to the Judaic reverence for printed literature, the sheer number of books that Jews hold dear must seem mind boggling and bizarre. Continue reading “Not Sent From My iPad”→
The book fair, hosted by the American Sephardi Federation, will bring together authors and book lovers that write about and enjoy books relating to the culture, history, philosophy, religion, languages and experiences of the Sephardic Jews, past and present. Hundreds of titles of Sephardic-oriented books, including many rare titles, will be available for sale by the Sephardic House bookstore, as well as by unique vendors that specialize in Sephardic Judaica. Continue reading “Coming Soon: First Annual New York Sephardic Jewish Book Fair”→
We all want the blessings of peace and harmony. What this remarkably enjoyable and transformative book shows us is that those blessings, and many more, often begin with small words of greeting or a tiny act of kindness.
One Small Deed (can change the world) is an unusual book, combining great true stories with a vital and inspirational message for today. Compiled by bestselling author Nachman Seltzer, here are stories of both the amazing and the everyday miracles that a few small words or actions can bring about. We read how a man’s daily greeting to a factory guard saves four lives and how a badly-pronounced “‘allo” brings a young man back to his Jewish roots. A Jewish grocer extends credit to a poor Irish family and four decades later the Jewish world reaps the benefits; a businessman is saved from financial ruin by a casual twenty-dollar donation to an annoying old man. All these acts were “one small deed.” Continue reading “Two New Books from ArtScroll”→
When I was a kid, I always thought that Hebrew Book Week was a legitimate holiday , something that fit comfortably amid Independence Day, Lag B’Omer, and Hanukkah. On this occasion, we didn’t sit around campfires, spin dreidels, or hit each other on the head with plastic hammers, and, unlike other holidays, it doesn’t commemorate a historical victory or heroic defeat, which made me like it even more.
At the beginning of every June, my sister, brother, and I would walk with our parents to the central square in Ramat Gan where dozens of tables covered in books were set up. Each of us would choose five books. Sometimes the writer of one of those books would be at the table and would write a dedication in it. My sister really liked that. I personally found it a little annoying. Even if someone writes a book, it doesn’t give him the right to scribble in my own private copy—especially if his handwriting is ugly, like a pharmacist’s, and he insists on using hard words you have to look up in the dictionary only to discover that all they really meant was “enjoy.” Continue reading “Yours, Insincerely”→
THE BIBLE IN BRIEF
The Nach Yomi Companion, Volumes 1–2
Xlibris; OU Press
When I was young I received as a gift a book called The Children’s Bible that was a thousand-or-so page condensed version of Tanach. I found it fascinating and read the thick book – not once but twice. Its attraction was due to its simple language. It certainly lacked the thee’s and thou’s of old translations but also much of the complexities of the narrative and poetry that make navigating Tanach difficult. It was a simplified and shortened Bible that was easy to digest and even entertaining. The closest you can find to that today is The Living Torah (Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan) and The Living Nach (Rabbi Yaakov Elman), both of which contain an idiomatic translation of Tanach into contemporary English. But even these works provide a word-by-word translation so they contain – forgive me for expressing something we have all guiltily thought at some time – the less engaging parts as well. Continue reading “New Books from OU Press”→
A growing number of frum fiction writers are not only entering the mainstream, they are challenging the widely held assumption that realistic depictions of religious Jews don’t sell books.
Can Orthodox novelists make it in the mainstream literary market? Apparently they can. In today’s publishing market, where explicit scenes and violence reign, a new crop of talented Orthodox novelists have not only succeeded in creating award-winning fiction, they’ve done so without compromising their religious values.
And, unlike Jewish novelists who have portrayed the world of Orthodoxy in an unflattering and superficial light, these authors reveal the richness, complexity and beauty of religious life. I recently spoke with a number of these literary trailblazers about the challenges they face bringing their craft and their faith to the mainstream market. Continue reading “Of Faith and Fiction Frum Novelists Go Mainstream”→
ISRAEL – Learning Gemara as a boy, Benny Goldstein wished he could see the characters come alive, arguing with each other while trying to prove their point. Now a father of three young boys, the thirty three year old Goldstein, who lives in Israel in the city of Modiin, has finally made his dream come true with the introduction of Animated Talmud, also known as Gemara Chai.
Goldstein, who started studying safrus at the age of twelve, became a sofer at a very young age and got his semicha at age eighteen. He learned computer graphics for the sole purpose of writing a computer program that would give children a rich, full color, introduction to the world of Gemara in a clear, easy and enjoyable manner. Continue reading “Animated Talmud: Bringing Gemara To Life”→
Among the 7,000 new titles featured in Israel’s annual book festival last week was the fourth, final, and – sadly – posthumous volume of studies by Israel Ta-Shma (1936–2004), one of the great rabbinic scholars of modern times.
The vast corpus of rabbinic texts written in the many centuries after the compilation of the Babylonian Talmud (circa 500 C.E.) presents formidable challenges to modern scholarship. The skills required to read and master these materials take years to develop. In a half-dozen volumes and some 160 monographs, Ta-Shma fused a thorough rabbinic education acquired in Orthodox yeshivot with the academic methods of philology and the perspectives of history. A long-time professor at the Hebrew University, he also spent years as director of the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts of the National Library. His deep knowledge of the buried treasures of Hebrew manuscripts was crucial to his efforts to recover significant works, otherwise lost to posterity, on the intellectual origins of medieval Jewry. Continue reading “What Israel Ta-Shma Saw”→