Beyond Routine

May 28, 2019

Chava Pinchuck ● AJL Reviews

The Shulchan Aruch—the Code of Jewish Law (the “Code”)—was authored by Joseph Karo in 1563, and it remains the most widely accepted compilation of Jewish law ever written. Rabbi J. B. Solovetchik, z”l, articulated an “action to experience paradigm,” whereby doing the mitzvahs with intention provides a link to God. Looking at the “Code” through this lens, Rabbi Grunstein shows the reader how to elevate his observance of the commandments by knowing whether obligations are biblical, rabbinic, or custom, knowing the background and historical context, and providing practical suggestions.

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Was Yosef Autistic?

May 13, 2019

Doreen Wachmann ● Jewish Telegraph

Professor Samuel Levine’s CV runs to 22 pages, citing all his academic achievements in the field of Jewish and American law.

Yet his latest book, Was Yosef on the Spectrum? Understanding Joseph through Torah, Midrash and Classical Jewish Sources (Urim Publications) deals with a more controversial topic. He suggests that the great biblical character Joseph may have been autistic.

Many charedim nowadays see red if anyone dares to criticise heroic biblical characters. Twenty years ago, there was a riot in Manchester with the visit of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who had written an article suggesting that Moses was not a politician — surely a compliment rather than an insult?

So why did Prof Levine choose to stray from his usual academic paths and write on such a controversial subject?

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Scholarly Man of Faith – review

May 8, 2019

Yaakov (Jack) Bieler ● Jewish Book Council

This col­lec­tion of aca­d­e­m­ic papers on the teach­ings of Rab­bi Joseph P. Soloveitchik devel­oped from a joint con­fer­ence that took place in 2012 at Yeshi­va Uni­ver­si­ty in New York and Bar Ilan Uni­ver­si­ty in Tel Aviv. (A com­pan­ion vol­ume of Hebrew-lan­guage papers from the con­fer­ence is forth­com­ing.) Reflect­ing the Torah U’madda (Tora­hand sec­u­lar knowl­edge) poly­math that R. Soloveitchik him­self embod­ied, the papers rep­re­sent many dis­ci­plines, all viewed from both a Jew­ish and sec­u­lar per­spec­tive, includ­ing phi­los­o­phy, hermeneu­tics, his­to­ry, and literature.

In a wide-rang­ing essay, Dr. David Shatz notes that while it is com­mon­ly believed that R. Soloveitchik pub­lished rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle dur­ing his life­time, this view is erro­neous; in fact, the Toras HoRav Foun­da­tion has been sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly issu­ing vol­umes of R. Soloveitchik’s talks, devel­oped from audio tapes and man­u­scripts, that have enabled schol­ars and layper­sons alike to delve deeply into and com­ment on his ideas. Many of the papers in this vol­ume draw upon these writ­ings. Shatz also spec­u­lates as to why R. Solove­ichik has attract­ed much greater inter­est since his pass­ing in 1993, par­tic­u­lar­ly among non-Ortho­dox and even non-Jew­ish schol­ars. Shatz’s ency­clo­pe­dic sum­ma­ry of the many arti­cles that have been pub­lished con­cern­ing R. Soloveitchik’s writ­ings pro­vide a won­der­ful resource for those who wish to study these mat­ters fur­ther. Oth­er notable essays include Ephraim Kanarfogel’s dis­cus­sion of R. Soloveitchik’s uncan­ny knowl­edge of lost Ger­man Tosafist Halachic mate­r­i­al, and Shi­ra Weiss’s paper apprais­ing the influ­ence on R. Solove­ichik of the medieval thinker Judah HaLevi.

Aca­d­e­m­ic papers are not writ­ten for the casu­al read­er, and some of the ter­mi­nol­o­gy and cita­tions in this vol­ume can prove daunt­ing. How­ev­er, read­ers seek­ing to seri­ous­ly engage with these thought­ful pre­sen­ta­tions of R. Soloveitchik’s vast and eru­dite con­tri­bu­tions to mod­ern Jew­ish thought are sure to benefit.


Mem­o­ries of a Giant: Reflec­tions on Rab­bi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l

May 7, 2019

Yaakov (Jack) Bieler ● Jewish Book Council

Rab­bi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l, was the uni­ver­sal­ly acknowl­edged leader of Mod­ern Ortho­doxy dur­ing the lat­ter half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, when he served as Rosh Yeshi­va of Yeshi­va Uni­ver­si­ty, head of the Halacha (Law) Com­mit­tee of the Rab­bini­cal Coun­cil of Amer­i­ca, and spir­i­tu­al men­tor for the Mizrachi reli­gious Zion­ist orga­ni­za­tion. His pass­ing on April 8th, 1993 left a pro­found void for those who looked specif­i­cal­ly to him for bril­liant and orig­i­nal Torah insights and method­ol­o­gy, guid­ance in halachic (legal) and hashkaf­ic (thought) mat­ters that have arisen due to the mod­ern expe­ri­ence, and as an exem­plar of excel­lence in Juda­ic and sec­u­lar stud­ies and their interaction.

This vol­ume is a unre­vised reis­sue of the out-of-print col­lec­tion of forty-two eulo­gies offered by fam­i­ly mem­bers, for­mer stu­dents, and admir­ers, which was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 2003. While the eulo­gies con­tain inspir­ing per­son­al rec­ol­lec­tions, words of Torah, and mov­ing anec­dotes, one won­ders what those who first eulo­gized the Rav over twen­ty years ago may have want­ed to add to their memori­als for this incred­i­bly great man after the pass­ing of two decades.


Engaging with the Author: Samuel J. Levine

May 7, 2019

J.B. Holderness ● Yeshiva University Staff News

In December, Samuel J. Levine, Professor of law and director of the Jewish Law Institute at Touro College, published a book entitled Was Yosef on the Spectrum?: Understanding Joseph through Torah, Midrash, and Classical Jewish Sources. The book examines the behavior and relationships of Yosef through the lens of our modern understanding of autism. Our own cataloger Yosef Cohen submitted a review of the book to the author and received an appreciative response. The following are excerpts of the review and reply:

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Faith and Freedom – review

May 6, 2019

Yaakov (Jack) Bieler ● Jewish Book Council

Theologian and Jewish philosopher Rab­bi Eliez­er Berkovits (1908−92) was the author of many books of Jew­ish thought, his­to­ry, and phi­los­o­phy. For this new hag­gadah, edi­tor Reuven Mohl has select­ed pas­sages from these works to com­prise the com­men­tary that accom­pa­nies the tra­di­tion­al text.

The Passover seder has many com­po­nents, includ­ing rit­u­als, like Kid­dush (the sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion of the holy day being cel­e­brat­ed) and Hal­lel (psalms com­mem­o­rat­ing the Exo­dus expe­ri­ence); read­ing pas­sages from rab­binic lit­er­a­ture; and engag­ing in long stand­ing tra­di­tions — chil­dren ask­ing ques­tions, open­ing the door to wel­come the prophet Eli­jah, and recit­ing litur­gi­cal poems. Mohl has drawn from Rab­bi Berkovits’s incred­i­bly broad oeu­vre to pro­vide thought-pro­vok­ing insights per­tain­ing not only to the hag­gadah but also obser­va­tions that go beyond the text, includ­ing his strong advo­ca­cy for liv­ing accord­ing to halakah — Jew­ish law.

Inter­spersed with many of Rab­bi Berkovits’s more philo­soph­i­cal and the­o­log­i­cal state­ments are sto­ries and com­ments about the Holo­caust, which he expe­ri­enced first-hand. See­ing the top­ics play­ing off one anoth­er through­out the hag­gadah offers a unique insight into Rab­bi Berkovits’s expe­ri­ences and thinking.


Jews in Medicine

May 6, 2019

Two Loves

Review by Amos Lassen

Dr. Ronald Eisenberg brings two of his great loves, Judaism and Medicie together in “Jews in Medicine” in which he focuses on the contributions made by Jews over time to the medical profession. He shares the history of

More than 450 individual Jewish physicians who he divides by region and area of specialization, “all within a historical context—from Talmudic times to the modern era, from Islamic and Christian lands to the spread of Jewish communities in Europe after the Spanish Inquisition.” There is a large section devoted to the modern era that focuses on European and American physicians and includes Jewish Nobel Prize winners. Included is a description of physicians who were leaders in the Zionist movement and those who contributed to the development of medicine in the State of Israel.

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