March 30, 2012
by James A. Cox
Journey to Heaven
Leila Leah Bronner
c/o Lambda Publishers
527 Empire Blvd.
Brooklyn, NY 11225
Both Islam and Christianity speak in depth about the after-life, but Judaism is strangely silent. Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife is a meeting of many Jewish theologians as they talk about the destination of the soul and fate of the being after death, which traditional Jewish texts do not speak upon. Combing through the writings of many Jewish writers throughout the ages, Journey to Heaven is a fascinating view for any religious thinker or religious scholar of any faith, enthusiastically recommended.
This review appears in the January 2012 issue of Internet Bookwatch, an online book review magazine .
March 26, 2012
by Simon Rocker
We are often told that Judaism is more concerned with this world than what may happen in the next. This is true up to a point. But it is impossible to ignore that the world to come is a central component of rabbinic thinking. The daily Amidah declares a belief in bodily resurrection, while one of the first morning prayers mentions the rewards that good deeds merit in the hereafter.
Leila Leah Bronner’s short book provides an excellent introduction to how ideas of the afterlife took root in Judaism, written for a general readership by a veteran scholar – she was professor of Bible and Jewish history at Witwatersrand University, South Africa.
She moves from the first fleeting references to the revival of the dead in the Bible, to notions of Gan Eden (paradise) and Gehinnom (hell) debated in the Talmud to kabbalistic reincarnation and the transmigration of souls. Not the least of the book’s virtues is extensive quotation from sources probably unfamiliar to most of us, such as extra-canonical ancient texts like Jubilees, Baruch or Enoch.
She goes on to explain how Maimonides reconciled his belief that the world to come was a purely spiritual one with the principle of physical resurrection: those revived at the end of days will die a second time and then rise to an eternal angel-like existence without bodies.
Judaism offers an “array of possibilities” on the afterlife, she concludes, comparing it to the journey of Abraham, who was ordered by God to leave his home for a destination that he could not know in advance.
This post appears in The Jewish Chronicle online.
March 25, 2012
by Chaim Seymour
Weinberger, Moshe. Song of Teshuvah: A Commentary on Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook’s Oros HaTeshuvah. Adapted by Yaacov Dovid Shulman; text of Oros HaTeshuvah translated by Yaakov Dovid Shulman. Jerusalem: Penina Press, 2011. 351 pp. (9781936068241).
This is the first of two volumes, which include the text of Rav Kook’s Orot ha-Teshuva, together with an English translation and a commentary in English. Rav Kook was chief rabbi in Palestine during the British Mandate and his work was first published in Hebrew in 1925. The commentary is based on a series of lectures delivered by Rabbi Weinberger to members of his congregation.
The standard Hebrew edition of the work, which includes a critical apparatus, is complete in 155 pages. Rabbi Weinberger’s first volume (covering half of the text) is more than twice as long and it is immediately obvious that this is an ambitious commentary to a work which is far from easy.
The word teshuva is translated as repentance. However, Rabbi Kook had a wider view of repentance. If we believe that the world is improving and progressing towards a specific goal, then the world is going through a process of repentance. “The universe is all a single integrated reality.”
Of especial interest is the section on “Holy Insolence.” The Talmud describes the days preceding the coming of the Messiah, which envisions a corrupt society where the young have no respect for their elders, etc. However, Rabbi Weinberger explains that Rav Kook sees this insolence as positive, since the aggression is the manifestation of a deep need to understand.
I was impressed by the English translation, for example: “Teshuvah is the elixir that brings us back to Hashem.” I have studied Rav Kook’s work in the past and found it difficult. Rabbi Weinberger helps the reader understand the text; however, a reader will still be required to make a real effort to understand this work.
from AJL Reviews (February/March 2012)
March 21, 2012
Scroll down on page to see embedded video.
March 19, 2012
by Alan Jay Gerber
Rabbi Etshalom’s new commentary, Between the Lines of the Bible volume two [OU Press / Urim Publications, 2012] is unique in many ways, however, simply put, for an English work it is quite different in both content and organization.
My good friend, Rabbi Gil Student who brought Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom’s latest commentary on Shemot, the Book of Exodus, to my attention, noted that, “with his captivating prose, penetrating depth and dazzling breadth, Rabbi Etshalom analyzes topics in the Bible in classical Brisk fashion.”
With the reading of the Ten Commandments this coming Shabbat, it would be interesting to see the application of this method to this holy event and to the details of the commandments themselves. It is this chapter, entitled “The Ten Commandments: Reassessing what we ‘know’” that will serve as the main focus for this week’s review.
A brief outline should be sufficient to give you an idea as to what this work and teaching has to offer.
Rabbi Etshalom treats the text with Read the rest of this entry »