Review: Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Leviticus

October 3, 2019

Arthur G. Quinn AJL News and Reviews

The author is a rabbi and a writer on many aspects of Torah. This volume is the last in a series on all five books of the Torah and deals with Leviticus (or, as Rabbi Nataf refers to it throughout: Vayikra). Each of the five chapters is dedicated to an aspect of Vayikra. Chapter one is devoted to the interpretation of sacrifice that is relevant for contemporary practice. Chapter two discusses the integrity of Vayikra as a free-standing book in its own right. Chapter three focuses on ritual purity, dietary customs, and reproduction. Chapter four contends with sin and family matters, and chapter five presents Vayikra as a book of laws with few stories contained within its pages. This book is a brief commentary on Leviticus, but it carries a unique perspective. Footnotes are scattered throughout but no index or bibliography are provided.

This volume would be a worthwhile addition to any adult collection.

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Review: The Just Still Lives by His Faith

October 2, 2019

David B Levy AJL News and Reviews

This insightful, well-written, original and important work is one of the best collections of over forty Torah essays in Biblical exegesis and Rabbinics in many years. As such, it is recommended for all libraries and to scholar and layman alike.

Munk is best known for translating Torah commentaries by commentators from the 15th to 18th centuries, but also included in this volume are a selection of his public lectures and independent research. Some of these essays have been published before (for example in L’Eylah, the organ of Jews College in England, or in “Ascent” of Tzefat). Most of the essays included here, however, appear for the first time, providing a great boon to readers and enabling them to benefit further from the breadth and depth of Munk’s Torah knowledge and scholarship. Moreover, the fact that this volume is in English will allow his research to reach a much wider audience.


Was Yosef on the Spectrum?

August 25, 2019

Professor Michael Fitzgerald, M.D., FRC Psych, M. Inst. Psychoanal. 

Professor Samuel J. Levine’s book, Was Yosef on the Spectrum?, is a magnificent scholarly work and most interesting.  Levine sets out the diagnostic issue very clearly and very carefully, and his analysis of the character of Joseph is very persuasive.  Overall, I came to the conclusion that the book’s thesis stands up to scrutiny, and that the title is probably correct.

Professor Fitzgerald was the Henry Marsh Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Trinity College, Dublin, and the first Professor of Child Psychiatry in Ireland.  He has a doctorate in the area of autism and has been a researcher in this area since 1973.  He has clinically diagnosed over 2600 individuals with Autism and Asperger’s syndrome.  

New and Forthcoming Titles

July 14, 2019

Book Review: Was Yosef On The Spectrum?

June 27, 2019

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer ● The New Normal ● The New York Jewish Week

The story of Joseph is among the Torah’s best-known and most intriguing tales.  In a new book, Was Yosef On The Spectrum? Understanding Joseph Through Torah, Midrash and Classical Jewish SourcesSamuel J. Levine, a professor of Law and Director of the Jewish Law Institute at Touro Law Center, presents a thorough, compelling theory about why Yosef struggles with social understanding—not only in childhood but also throughout his adult life.

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Was Yosef on the Spectrum – Review

June 26, 2019

Samantha Craft

Levine provides an insightful and thought provoking look at the feasibility that the beloved biblical character Joseph was on the autism spectrum. Extremely well-researched, Was Yosef on the Spectrum?, illuminates the multiple attributes of an autistic individual through Joseph’s lived experiences. As an autistic self-advocate, I found myself nodding and smiling in recognition of myself in Joseph. Thanks goes to Levine for sharing his lens into the biblical aspects of autism through a story filled with challenges, insights, and wisdom, and for establishing a once-lived voice for the millions on the spectrum. 

Samantha Craft is an autistic advocate, a NeuroGuides coach, and the author of Everyday Aspergers: A Journey on the Autism Spectrum, and co-author of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism


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.