Tanakh: An Owner’s Manual: Authorship, Canonization, Masoretic Text, Exegesis,
Modern Scholarship, and Pedagogy By Moshe Sokolow
Jerusalem, 2015 • 219 pages
Orthodox Jews grow up familiar with the Bible stories from hearing them during the weekly Torah readings and studying them in yeshivah. Knowing the text and characters so closely from our youth, we often fail to think about basic questions, such as where these stories come from, who wrote them and how accurately these stories are portrayed after thousands of years. We know the standard commentaries by name but often fail to ask who they were and what influenced them to explain the Torah in that way.
Every Yeshiva College student is required to take an “Intro to Bible” course that offers an overview of Hebrew Scripture and its history. I remember my experience taking that course, which was full of lively discussion and debate as we reexamined the familiar text and its commentaries. These issues touch on sensitive theological matters, which is why it is so important that the course be taught by Orthodox scholars. However, a mature understanding of the Bible requires thinking about many of these issues, especially those that arise within Talmud and traditional commentaries. Continue reading “Review of Tanakh: An Owner’s Manual“→
Moadei HaRav presents a collection of shiurim and lectures (based upon student notes) by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik on the Jewish festivals, including the High Holidays, Chanukah, Purim, and Passover. Rav Soloveitchik was not only one of the outstanding Talmudists of the 20th century, but was also one of its most creative and seminal Jewish thinkers. Through these shiurim and lectures, along with his own original essays on Jewish laws and rituals, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo H. Pick provides the Rav’s insights and thoughts on the Jewish holidays. An introductory essay analyzes the Rav’s methodology of Talmud analysis.
Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick teaches Talmud and Maimonidean thought at Bar-Ilan University’s Ludwig and Erica Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies in Israel.
I am a Jew because the faith of Israel [ Judaism] demands no abdication of my mind. I am a Jew because the faith of Israel asks every possible sacrifice of my soul. I am a Jew because in all places where there are tears and suffering the Jew weeps. I am a Jew because in every age when the cry of despair is heard the Jew hopes. I am a Jew because the message of Israel is the most ancient and the most modern. I am a Jew because Israel’s promise is a universal promise. I am a Jew because for Israel the world is not finished; men will complete it. I am a Jew because for Israel man is not yet fully created; men are creating him. I am a Jew because Israel places man and his unity above nations and above Israel itself. I am a Jew because above man, image of the divine unity, Israel places the unity that is divine. — Edmond Fleg, “Why I Am a Jew”
I fervently believe in the above sentiments and many other
positive aspects about Judaism, and I am proud to be a Jew. Judaism
has wonderful, powerful, and universal messages, and applying them
is essential to move our precious, yet increasingly threatened, planet onto
a sustainable path.
I wrote this book to urge Jews to apply basic Jewish teachings at a time
when they are needed more than ever before to the many tumultuous
crises facing humanity and all of God’s creatures. By encouraging Jews
to apply Judaism’s eternal values to current issues, I hope this book will
help revitalize Judaism and will make Judaism more attractive to many
About My Modern Orthodox Synagogue
I have been a member of Young Israel of Staten Island, a modern Orthodox
synagogue, since 1968, and I have served as Vice President for Youth,
Cultural Director, and co-editor of the synagogue’s newsletter. Over
the years I have seen the dedication of members of my congregation to
Judaism and Jewish issues. The amount they donate to charity is truly
outstanding. The acts of kindness and concern for the well-being of fellow
congregants are also remarkable, and there is always great communal
sharing at occasions of joy and sorrow. There are gemachs that provide
free wedding and other gowns, furniture, centerpieces for celebrations,
and clothing for people who need them, and there is a food pantry. There
is a unique group called Nachas (joy) Unlimited that collects money to
help cover medical expenses for ill children.
Especially commendable are the actions of the voluntary group Hatzolah,
whose members will drop whatever they are doing at a moment’s
notice – whether they are at work, taking part in a Passover seder, or just
relaxing with their families or friends – to respond to medical emergencies.
Many synagogue members make weekly visits to patients in hospitals and
nursing homes. Many of the synagogue’s young attendants work with
great compassion and dedication at special summer camps, taking care
of children with cancer and other health problems.
The Daughters of Tzelofchad and the Elders of Menashe – Identity, Interests, and Differentiation
The first two chapters of Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Genesis discussed the Bible’s interest in teaching us about real-life trade-offs. We already know from our own lives that we truly cannot “have our cake and eat it too.” And because we would prefer to ignore this truth, the Torah makes a point of frequently repeating the notion that we must make choices about what is the most valuable – or alternatively, the least undesirable – course of action. This means that biblical characters rarely live “happily ever after.” They make difficult choices and have to live with the resultant consequences.(1) Yet, had it been otherwise, the Bible would have been a book of fairy tales that would not have had the tremendous transformative and inspirational power that it has had for so much of human history. In the book of Bemidbar, the theme of trade-offs is examined again with the petition of the five daughters of Tzelofchad from the tribe of Menashe and the subsequent counter-petition of that tribe’s elders. These fatherless, brotherless sisters come out of nowhere,(2) questioning an assumed status quo that their late father’s portion in the Land of Israel will go to the male next of kin. They are successful in their petition, and God reveals that the assumption was actually faulty and that it is, truly, daughters who are next in line in such a situation. Several chapters later, the tribal leaders from Menashe challenge the new status quo with their own concern: that if these women marry men from another tribe, their birth tribe will end up losing part of its inheritance. They too are successful, and the women appear to be commanded to marry only within their tribe. But whether this is an actual commandment or not,(3) the story goes on to tell us that the daughters of Tzelofchad do indeed follow God’s preference and marry within their own tribe.
1 See Redeeming Relevance in Genesis, Chap. 2.
2 Their story appears in Bemidbar 27:1–11. The first we hear of the existence of the sisters and the fact that they did not have brothers is in Bemidbar 26:33, in a general genealogical list.
Rabbi Maurice Lamm, a major presence in the American Orthodox rabbinate in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, as well as a teacher to hundreds of thousands through his immensely popular Jewish books, died last week. He was 86.
Rabbi Lamm authored The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, on the laws and practices of burial, shiva and mourning, which has sold over 750,000 copies since its first printing in 1969.
Additionally, he wrote The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage, The Power of Hope, Becoming a Jew, and Consolation. Each of these was also a best-seller in the Jewish world.
From 1972 to 1985 Rabbi Lamm served as head rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, Calif., one of the largest Orthodox synagogues in America. He also connected with and influenced the Orthodox community at large through his affiliation with the Rabbinical Council of America, the journal Tradition and several other boards and organizations. He was also recognized as a first-class orator, lecturing abroad and overseas, from Israel to Australia to several countries in Europe.
This year marks the centenary of the release of D.W. Griffith’s monumental Birth of a Nation, a film that—despite the controversy that continues to surround it because of its rampant racism—set the motion picture on its way to being the dominant and most influential medium of visual arts in the twentieth century. As the first successful feature-length film, Birth of a Nation revolutionized movie storytelling through its epic sweep, its cast of hundreds and its nearly three-hour length. The hullabaloo that it engendered testified to its enormous cultural influence at the time and the effect that it had on catapulting a fledgling movie industry into the center of American cultural expression. Continue reading “Review of Kosher Movies”→
The process of interpreting Jewish legal texts and applying Jewish legal precedents is highly complex especially when dealing with Jewish civil law, and in almost all cases, the textual sources being interpreted are written in rabbinic hebrew and are hard to comprehend for the non-expert. Given this, the English speaking public have rarely had the opportunity to delve into the nuanced analysis of halakhic reasoning that are required of, and expressed by, a Beit Din when issuing halakhic rulings. It is precisely this lacuna that Rabbi A. Yehuda (Ronnie) Warburg has sought to fill with his Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality – Beit Din Decisions in English.