The Day I Met Father Isaac at the Supermarket

June 2, 2019

Fred Isaac ● AJL Reviews

Rabbi Riemer may be best known for So that Your Values May Live On, his wonderful volume on ethical wills. The Day I Met My Father Isaac… is a smaller, easy-to-read, and wise book meant for a broader audience. It contains some of his sermons while serving as interim Rabbi at Anshe Shalom Congregation in Florida. The book contains drashot (homilies) on thirty-five of the weekly parashot (Torah readings). In them Riemer explores both Torah issues and their parallels in modern life using stories, gentle humor, and a touch of irony. Beginning with Lech Lecha (“A Sermon addressed to the rich people in this Congregation”), his subjects include Yitro (“The Super Bowl and the Sedra”), Bechukotai (“Some of my favorite curses”), and Korach (“Too much rightness can kill you”). Each derasha begins with a story; most of them are contemporary, while others come from the Talmud and the Hasidic literature. They are witty and easy to connect with. He then turns to the Torah and links his introduction to the moral of the parashah. Some of his connections are quite powerful, others are sweet. But all are meaningful. The volume concludes with his “Farewell Shabbat” comments: “The lessons you have taught me.” In this talk he reminds his audience that, at their best, teachers are also students.

There has been a plethora of books over the past few years to assist B’nai Mitzvah students with their drashot. This delightful collection of sermons can be used by 12-year-olds. It would be better employed by adults looking for inspiration, as well as to create their own commentaries. It is a fine (and fun) addition to any synagogue library.

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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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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.


Touro Law Conference – Was Yosef on the Spectrum

May 3, 2019

Professor Randy Lee ● Widener Law School

Reflections on Jewish and American Disability Law and on the God Who Makes All Things Good

“Professor Sam Levine, Director of the Jewish Law Institute here at Touro, recently published a book, Was Yosef on the Spectrum.  Was Yosef, son of Jacob, son of Rachel, prophet, mystic, favorite of his father, selected savior of the civilized world, master businessman, and Broadway star, on the spectrum?

            When Professor Levine first mentioned that possibility to me and began to explain his reasoning, I felt what I thought were two different responses.  My first response was, “Isn’t that clever!  Isn’t that neat.  Isn’t it creative and lawyerly how Professor Levine has managed to find a way to connect all those events and all those conversations together to support his thesis.” 

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Engaging with the Author – Sam Levine

May 1, 2019

J.B. Holderness ● Yeshiva University Library 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:

Read the rest of this entry »