Review of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values

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by  Rabbi Gil Student

Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel writes in his introduction that the term “encyclopedia” in the title is “a bit presumptuous.” Even though this is the first of a projected four-volume series, the task of encompassing the entirety of Jewish thought in any encyclopedia seems impossible. The Torah is described as being “longer than the earth and broader than the sea.” Indeed, each of the volume’s thirty-nine essays lacks a systematic and unified style, perhaps because the topics are so expansive. Yet the essays contain so much material, rich in depth and breadth, full of insight and contemporary relevance, that we can forgive the title. This book might not be an encyclopedia but it is a gold mine of Jewish values. Masterfully combining Biblical, legal and philosophical texts, Rabbi Amsel, director of education at the Destiny Foundation, an educational media foundation, gives each topic extensive treatment. Each essay seems like a well-organized, multi-hour lecture on the topic (rabbis and teachers take note!). Continue reading “Review of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values

New from Urim Publications – Shaarei Nechama: Rosh Hashana Machzor

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Shaarei Nechama: Rosh Hashana Machzor
With Commentary of Professor Nechama Leibowitz

Nechama Leibowitz was the most prominent, creative, and ground breaking teacher of Bible and Biblical interpretation of her time. She taught and continues to inspire thousands. In Machzor Shaarei Nechama, we have collected from her wellsprings of Torah, drawn from her writings. You will find them organized under the rubrics: “Gates of Prayer” “Gates of Torah” and “Gates of Repentance.” Enter and experience the new vistas and wondrous insights of Nechama Leibowitz, which will inform and illuminate the high holidays.


Kosher Movies featured on L’Chayim with Mark S. Golub

kosher movies web2Film critic and author Rabbi Herbert Cohen, who co-hosts a “Siskel and Ebert” type of film review show from Israel called “Kosher Movies,” discusses his favorite films and their connections to values of the Jewish Tradition.

Watch interview here.

Review of Maimonides: Between Philosophy and Halakhah

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by Ben Rothke

Maimonides is one of the most influential scholars in all of Jewish history. His seminal work The Guide for the Perplexed is perhaps the greatest work of Jewish philosophy ever written. Not only is it one of the greatest, it is also one of the most enigmatic of works.

The impetus of The Guide was in part to reconcile Aristotelian philosophy with Jewish philosophy. The Guide was written for the philosophical elite of Maimonides’ time, which adds to its difficulty. Combined with that it was written in Arabic and that most readers must rely on a translation, adds to its elusiveness.

In Maimonides – Between Philosophy and Halakhah: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Lectures on the Guide of the Perplexed (Urim Publications ISBN 965524203X), the lectures notes from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (henceforth, “the Rav”) provide the reader with a better understanding of the Guide. Continue reading “Review of Maimonides: Between Philosophy and Halakhah

Redeeming Relevance featured in The Jewish Star’s Kosher Bookworm

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Redemption and Relevance for Today’s Jew

by Alan Jay Gerber

“Redeeming Relevance: In the Book of Deuteronomy — Explorations in Text and Meaning” (Urim Publishers, 2016) details some of the little-known themes in Devorim. The following teachings by Rabbi Nataf will hopefully motivate you to obtain and read the full text for a better understanding of what motivated Moshe in his last days of leadership of our people.Among the most gifted commentators on the Chumash in Israel today is Rabbi Francis Nataf, a longtime associate of the noted Jewish theologian and thinker, Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopez Cardozo of Jerusalem. Recently Rabbi Nataf finished his long-awaited commentary on Devarim, the Book of Deuteronomy, which will be the focus of this week’s essay.

“Most readers are aware that the book of Devarim is significantly different from the other books of the Torah,” writes Rabbi Nataf in an introduction entitled “Moshe’s Torah.”

“For instance, words and expressions that don’t appear anywhere else in the Torah suddenly appear here. This is especially pronounced when we encounter a new word or phrase that describes the very same object or concept referred to by different terms on other books.”

Further on, the author is more specific:

“Moreover, entire stories and commandments from the four previous books are now given completely different treatments. Moshe’s new rendition of the incident of the spies that we already know from the book of Bemidbar is the most famous. Many other stories, such as the appointment of administrative judges, and to a lesser extent the actual giving of the Torah, are recounted from a new vantage point as well.

“Yet the most significant change is that Moshe generally now speaks in the first person, often telling us that “God told me…” as opposed to the more common narrative wherein we are told “God spoke to Moshe…” The most obvious reason for this is that the majority of the book of Devarim records a series of Moshe’s speeches given to the Israelites at the end of his life, a time which, significantly, coincides with the end of their journey.”

Continue reading the article here.

Rabbi She’ar Yashuv Cohen, ‘scholar and warrior,’ dies at 88

Rabbi She’ar Yashuv  (Kobi Gideon/FLASH90)

By David Sedley


Eliyahu Yosef She’ar Yashuv Cohen, a former chief rabbi of Haifa known for his Torah scholarship, interfaith work and strict vegetarian lifestyle, died in his home Monday night at the age of 88.

Cohen, born in 1927, was the son of David Cohen, who was known as the Nazirite Rabbi due to his vow to follow the ascetic lifestyle of a Biblical nazirite. He fought in several of Israel’s wars, and as an IDF officer reached the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Cohen, like his sister Tzofiya, was raised a nazirite and vegetarian. As a teenager Cohen convened a special rabbinic court to annul his vow to follow the nazirite lifestyle, though he remained a strict vegetarian throughout his life and refrained from drinking wine.

Cohen was an 18th-generation scion to a dynasty of rabbis and Torah scholars. He began his Torah studies with his father, who was a Talmudist, philosopher and kabbalist and one of the closest students of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, a chief rabbi of pre-state Israel. As a child he was close to the elder Kook, and later, as a student in Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, to his son Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook. He was also a student of the State of Israel’s first chief rabbi, Yitzhak Halevi Herzog.

Cohen was a member of the Jewish underground in the years leading up to the 1948 War of Independence. During the war he was wounded while fighting in Jerusalem’s Old City, and with the fall of the Jewish Quarter he, along with other fighters, was taken by the Arab Legion to Amman as a prisoner of war. He became a leader in the POW camp and later credited that experience with preparing him for the role of city chief rabbi.

Continue reading “Rabbi She’ar Yashuv Cohen, ‘scholar and warrior,’ dies at 88”