New Review – Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Leviticus

March 21, 2019

Rabbi Francis Nataf ● The Jewish Press

Redeeming Relevance: Vayikra Avoidance Syndrome and the Torah on One Foot

The Jewish people has a rather peculiar relationship with Vayikra. On the one hand, almost all serious Jews are aware that many of Judaism’s most important laws and ideas are to be found in the Torah’s middle book. On the other hand, Vayikra also contains an overwhelming amount of material that the average reader will find less stimulating. And largely because of that, Jewish culture has created a type of vicious cycle around this book. Because it is more difficult, we tend to look at it less. But because we look at it less, we also understand it less, which – in turn – keeps it difficult and less appealing. In a nutshell, that is what I call Vayikra Avoidance Syndrome.

I just referred to Vayikra as the Torah’s middle book. This was not a casual turn of the phrase – that is the middle book is not a trivial matter. While we often celebrate beginnings and ends, at least two major Jewish institutions show the spiritual weightiness of something’s middle:

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New Review – Berkovits Haggadah

March 20, 2019

Israel Drazin

Hungarian-born scholar Eliezer Berkovits (1908-1992) was a highly respected Orthodox rabbi. He was educated in Berlin, Germany, where he received his PhD. He authored 19 books in several languages.

He held fast to traditional beliefs such as that the Israelites met God at Sinai where God gave them both the Written and the Oral Torahs. He felt that halakha, Jewish law, is necessary to control people from acting against their own and society’s best interest. He explained that during the Holocaust God “hid his face,” hester panim, because God wants humans to use their free will even if they do so in a harmful fashion. He stressed the importance of Zionism. Although he recognized that women are not treated well in matters of marriage and divorce, and believed that both sexes are equal, he did not encourage changes in Jewish law.

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New Review – Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Leviticus

March 13, 2019

Sharona Margolin Halickman ● Times of Israel

Redeeming Relevance in the book of Leviticus by Rabbi Francis Nataf (Urim 2019) takes an honest approach to the book of Vayikra. Most scholars and teachers of Tanach would agree that Vayikra is the book of Torah which is most avoided. If a teacher or professor is given the choice of which book to teach, most would not choose Vayikra. As Rabbi Nataf points out, if a spiritual leader can speak about another topic such as an upcoming holiday thereby avoiding the book of Vayikra, they will do so.

Despite Rabbi Nataf himself only writing this book after publishing volumes on the other four books of the Torah, he brings many interesting points which are relevant to us today. One focus is looking at the origins of the korban, sacrifice while comparing it to the giving of a present. He analyzes Chava’s gift of the fruit to Adam as well as Kayin’s, Hevel’s and Noach’s sacrifices to God. He also speaks about offerings that may never be brought on the altar, chametz and child sacrifice.

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Book Event – Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Leviticus

March 11, 2019

Join us for the Launch/Celebration of the Final Volume of R. Francis Nataf’s Redeeming Relevance series on the Torah:

Available for order from
Urim Publications

New Review – Six Days of Cosmology

February 28, 2019

Daniel Langer

The intent of this well-written, original, and important book is to show that there need not be any real conflict between Torah and science. While acknowledging that the Torah does not come to teach us science, it assumes that science can help us understand the Torah long before the Big Bang theory.

The book seeks to reconcile and harmonize science and Torah in order to reveal in part the secrets of creation (ma’aseh bereshit). Langer considers questions of dating the universe alongside fossil evidence and Einsteinian theories of time together with the literal reading of the six days of Creation.

The author also draws on the mystical traditions of Ramban, Midrash Rabbah, Rabbi Yisrael Lifshitz; he includes Umberto Cassuto’s encryptions of numerical coding and patterns, and he makes reference to the Zohar to show how the universe inflated from an initial nekudah ketanah (tiny point); how it became tohu(energy) and bohu (elemental particles of matter) with each transforming back and forth into the other. The fluids that would become the Earth (waters below) separated from the rest of the solar nebula (waters above).

In the process, Langer reveals the sublime, unimaginable, beautiful diversity that arose out of unity thanks to genetic mutation and natural selection. Recommended highly for academic, synagogue, and all libraries.


New Review – Was Yosef on the Spectrum

February 27, 2019

Midwest Book Review ● Judaic Studies Shelf

Was Yosef on the Spectrum? Understanding Joseph examines the Book of Genesis story of Yosef (also known as Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, and who rose to become the vizier and second most powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh). Author Samuel J. Levine (Professor of Law and Director of the Jewish Law Institute at Touro Law Center) clarifies that he is not a psychologist and cannot formally diagnose Yosef, so the idea that Yosef could have been on the autism spectrum is evaluated as a possibility with some supporting evidence, but not as a known quantity.

Was Yosef on the Spectrum? is seminal, expertly researched, thoughtfully presented, and highly recommended especially for public and college library Judaic Studies and Biblical Studies Shelves.


New Review – Was Yosef on the Spectrum

January 14, 2019

Alan Jay Gerber ● The Jewish Star

The Legacy of Yosef

This week’s Torah reading, Vayigash, reflects the narrative of the reconciliation of Yosef and his brothers, and the reunion with his father, Yaakov. There is much to be said of this saga. One very timely book on this biblical legacy is Was Yosef On The Spectrum? Understanding Yosef Through Torah, Midrash, and Classical Jewish Sources [Urim Publications, 2019] by Prof. Samuel Levine.

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