January 27, 2015
By Tuly Weis
There are few people that have influenced Israeli and modern Jewish history as strongly as famed IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren who passed away 20 years ago. The biography “Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Torah Sage and General,” by Shalom Freedman presents a fascinating portrait of his life and a moving description of the values that he stood for.
“Torah Sage and General” details Rabbi Goren’s life describing how he took part in some of Israel’s most crucial moments. The cover of the book even displays perhaps the most famous photo of Rabbi Goren blowing the shofar when he was present at the liberation of the Western Wall, during the Six Day War in 1967.
Rabbi Goren was one of the first people to race to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron when the Israeli army captured it in 1967. Pushing himself to be the first to reach these holy sites was typical of Rabbi Goren.
“Rabbi Goren was one of those people who seemed to know no fear for his personal safety. In fact, his life is studded with heroic acts in which he volunteered to do-at great personal risk – what others were reluctant to do. During and after the Israeli War of Independence, and in fact through a period of close to twenty-five years, he risked his life to recover the bones of soldiers for proper burial,” the author writes.
Towards the end of his life, Rabbi Goren came out against the Oslo Accords and advocated for retaining control of the entire Land of Israel. He was not afraid to stand up for what is right, even if it put him at odds with powerful people, even people that he cared for, such as Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.
Read the rest of this entry »
January 25, 2015
By Tuly Weisz
As a synagogue rabbi attending to the dying and their anxious family members, I often received questions about what happens after death.
Most of us have certainly wondered whether there is life after death or the nature of heaven and hell. In her fascinating and well-researched book, Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife, noted scholar Dr. Leila Leah Bronner brings to light the Jewish sources on what happens after we die.
Interested in what Judaism has to say about the afterlife, Bronner begins her in-depth exploration with the Bible. “I have long taken issue with the general consensus among scholars that the Bible does not deal in any significant way with the concept of an afterlife,” writes Bronner in the introduction.
Journey to Heaven starts with the cryptic passage from Genesis, “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, for God took him” (5:24). Where did the Lord take Enoch? Early on, the Bible seems to reject the finality of death and suggests some kind of continuity beyond the grave. Later Biblical prophets including Daniel, Ezekiel and Isaiah also describe the dead returning to life, and resurrection as a reward for the righteous.
Each chapter of Journey to Heaven is devoted to a different time period, demonstrating the progression of Jewish thought on the subject of the afterlife throughout the ages. While the Bible only makes subtle references to life after death, the Talmud explicitly discusses the topic at length. Although she comes from the world of academia, Dr. Bronner explains in an accessible and clear manner the difference between Jewish ideas of the “Garden of Eden,” the “World to Come,” and “Gehinnom.”
Read the rest of this entry »
January 22, 2015
By Tuly Wiesz
Though I have obviously never been pregnant myself, I have had the blessed opportunity of going through the miraculous process alongside my incredible wife four times in the last decade. For some expectant parents, it is the physical changes that are the focus of pregnancy – the nausea, the aches and pains, late night ice cream cravings and ah, those fun hormonal changes.
But for many righteous women, pregnancy is a precious opportunity for an enhanced spiritual connection with God, a topic beautifully elaborated upon by Chana Weisberg in the book Expecting Miracles: Finding Meaning and Spirituality in Pregnancy Through Judaism.
During her first two pregnancies, Weisberg found a lack of spiritual literature relating to pregnancy so she set out to fill the void with Expecting Miracles. Bursting with personal stories of Godly women who used their pregnancies as an opportunity to reflect, the book connects women to God and grow spiritually.
Weisberg shares the intimate details of her own spiritual journey from Indonesia to Jerusalem, from a secular life to a deeply religious one. However, the book focuses on interviews with 24 mothers living in Jerusalem. These women include mothers, midwives and educators – each with their own personal experience and take-home message.
As one expecting mother put it, “I felt very fulfilled during pregnancy. Even if I wasn’t doing anything else in the world, just walking around with this baby inside of me gave me a lot of confidence. I felt full of self-worth.”
Expecting Miracles is arranged by topic and deals with many big issues that couples face during pregnancy including the work-life balance, birth control, family planning, large families and prenatal screening. Read the rest of this entry »
January 15, 2015
Congratulations to The Soul of Jewish Social Justice and On the Relationship of Mitzvot Between Man and His Neighbor and Man and His Maker, both finalists in the 2014 National Jewish Book Awards.
The Soul of Jewish Social Justice by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is a finalist for Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice.
On the Relationship of Mitzvot Between Man and His Neighbor and Man and His Maker by Daniel Sperber is a finalist for Modern Jewish Thought and Experience: the Dorot Foundation Award in Memory of Joy Ungerleider Mayerson.
You can read more about the Awards and other finalists here.
January 6, 2015
By D. Mizrachi
The Talmud—the massive, comprehensive work studied and expounded on by traditional Jews for nearly 2,000 years—is the core of rabbinic Judaism. It records discussions by thousands of rabbis over hundreds of years on Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs, lore, and history. Unlike other Talmudic dictionaries, Find It in the Talmud is written especially for the English speaker not fluent in the original Hebrew and Aramaic. Calling itself “an encyclopedia of Jewish ethics and conduct,” it is also a concordance, using the traditional citation system of tractate and page number. More than 6,000 concepts and terms are listed alphabetically in English with the location, and (usually) the original translation. Many entries include a definition, explanation, or allegory. Examples include “Be accurate: R. Gamliel said: ‘Do not estimate, do not guess, but be accurate.’ (Avot 1:16)”; and “Yavne: There were four people in Yavne who could speak seventy languages. (Sanhedrin 17b).” The introduction and later sections provide overviews of the order and development of the Talmud and its major personalities, expressions, and abbreviations. Judovits, a retired businessman and long-time Talmud student, includes endorsements for his work from local rabbis and scholars.
Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers.
This review appears in the January 2015 issue of CHOICE Magazine