July 31, 2018
The Plight of the Modern-Day Agunah
JLNJ Staff • Jewish Link of New Jersey
“Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality” is the fourth in a series of volumes that deal with the family, the child’s welfare, halachic divorce in general and the workings of the institution of the beit din (rabbinic arbitration) dealing with the modern-day agunah in particular.
In the event that a Jewish husband fails to give a get to his Jewish wife, in eight rulings Rabbi Warburg addresses in the following scenarios whether a wife can be freed without the giving of a get by her husband: Is there halachic validity of the marriage of a woman to a mumar, an apostate? If a husband is infected with HIV and the sexually transmitted disease is transmitted to his wife and knowingly she continues to remain intimate with him are there grounds to be mevatel the kiddushin, to void the marriage? Read the rest of this entry »
June 26, 2018
Phil Jacobs • Jewish Links of NJ
Food is at the heart of Jewish life and culture. “From Forbidden Fruit to Milk and Honey” spotlights food in the Torah itself, as it explores themes like love, compassion, social justice, memory, belonging, deception, life and death. Originally an online project to support the food rescue charity, Leket Israel,the book comprises short essays on food in the parsha by 52 internationally acclaimed scholars and Jewish educators, and a verse-by-verse commentary by Diana Lipton.
June 25, 2018
Rabbi Gil Student • Jewish Action
Medicine changes at such a dizzying pace that ethicists have to run to catch up. Rabbis often respond in journals and responsa that remain out of reach for the broader community. Rabbi Jason Weiner, a hospital chaplain and synagogue rabbi, combines real-world experience with extensive research to provide an overview of Jewish approaches to a wide range of medical issues. Rabbi Weiner writes for patients, rabbis and medical professionals. He therefore uses sympathetic and non-technical language that respects the patients’ experiences and provides easily understood options, supplemented by endnotes with extensive citations.
As a methodology, Rabbi Weiner attempts to survey the issues, explaining the different opinions rather than offering specific conclusions. However, when necessary he follows the rulings of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach or, in the absence of his opinion, that of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, as well as the guidance of Rabbi Asher Weiss. In addition to presenting rulings on Jewish law, Rabbi Weiner also explores the underlying values and ethical considerations that often speak more to a patient than the laws. Is prayer futile for a terminally ill patient? Rabbi Weiner explains the views of Rabbi Auerbach (yes, it is futile), Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (it is never futile) and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (even futile prayer can be uplifting).
Writing as a chaplain, Rabbi Weiner is keenly aware of the frequent dilemma of assisting a patient who chooses a medical option that Jewish law does not allow. He offers meaningful suggestions on how to relate to a patient who requests physician-assisted suicide, or a family that wants to cremate a relative. He suggests—rather than try to convince patients and family that their preference is wrong—listen to them and empower them by offering options that provide them with the control and independence they desire. In a broader context, this is wise advice for dealing with anyone seeking religious guidance.
June 21, 2018
S. T. Katz • Boston University, Choice Reviews
This provocative book considers issues relating primarily to Jewish law (Halakah). Lopes Cardozo is a member of the right-wing religious community in Israel, so one would expect this book to offer a very conservative reading of the Halakah and its response to current religious issues within Judaism. Instead, one gets a strident claim that the Halakah is meant to challenge the status quo and prompt deeper spiritual reflection and initiatives. This is what makes the book interesting. The author argues that Halakah should be a spiritual exercise, not merely an obligation. In consequence, he is deeply interested in questions relating to human encounters with the divine, and he takes on such complex and pressing issues as conversion and kosher food. Also striking is his engagement with Jewish and non-Jewish thought more broadly: he writes about Spinoza, Buber, and the Buddha, among many others. In particular, he offers surprisingly frank criticism of the US’s most revered modern Orthodox sage, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. Lopes Cardozo writes that Soloveitchik “was not a mechadesh – a man whose novel ideas really moved the Jewish tradition forward, especially regarding Halcha. He did not solve major Halachic problems.” In the context of Jewish intellectual discussion, this is strong stuff.
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty, professionals.
Reprinted with permission from Choice Reviews. All rights reserved. Copyright by the American Library Association.
June 17, 2018
Yitzhak Y. Melamed • Jewish Review of Books
…Fraenkel’s attempt to harmonize the apparently conflicting views on the tzimtzum is highly valuable. In the first place, Fraenkel’s claim is well argued and meticulously grounded in the sources, and thus deserves serious consideration. Second, Fraenkel’s reading goes against the main trend of interpretation in both the academic world of Kabbalah studies and that of Chabad historiography, which follows the last Lubavitcher Rebbe in stressing the opposition between Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi and Rabbi Chaim on tzimtzum….
It is a work of both real piety and ingenious scholarship.
Fraenkel is a computer scientist by training and profession as well as an independent scholar, and it would be hard to overestimate the amount of intellectual effort, courage, precision, and diligence invested in these two volumes. Books such as this are rare, but if I may quote the words of another God-seeking Jew: “All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.”