by David B Levy, AJL News and Reviews
Eliezer Berkovits (1908-1992), a major thinker of the twentieth century who studied under Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg at the Hildescheimer Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin and received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Berlin, is best known for his writings on the Holocaust. He refused to agree to any obscene sadistic logic that the Shoah was a punishment for sins of the Jewish people in some form of a construction of theodic explanation and as with Chaim Grade’s My Quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner. In the argument of this Rosh Yeshivah, many Jews remained with their faith during the Holocaust (With God in Hell) and emerged strengthened in faith (Faith After the Holocaust).
Also well-known are Berkovits works on Jewish women such as his T’nai Bi’N’suin u’V’Get, which attempted to solve the agunah crisis and his Jewish Women in Time and Torah. An essay from this latter book is included exhibiting Berkovits’ halakhic approval of women reading the Megillah publically.
Mohl, like an expert filmographer, has spliced in kaleidoscopic fashion relevant and timely snippets of many of Berkovits’ works that are pointedly on the Ma’ariv tefillah and on Megillat Esther. What emerges is a coherent commentary on these two crucial aspects of Jewish liturgical life. Mohl employed this method of selection earlier in organizing excerpts of Berkovits’ writings to create Faith and Freedom, a commentary to the Passover Haggadah. Through the most recent commentary the reader can gain a greater appreciation of Berkovits’ contribution and enjoy reading a novel interpretation of the Megillah. A bibliography of the works from which the excerpts are expertly drawn is found at the end of the volume.
Faith Fulfilled: Megillat Esther and the Ma’ariv Evening Service for Purim, with Commentary from the Writings of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits. Jerusalem: Urim Publications, 2022. 156 pp. $24.95 (9781602804470) HC.