Synopsis: Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Berkovits (8 September 1908 – 20 August 1992) last book, “Jewish Women in Time and Torah”, is a critical examination of the status of women in Halakhah. It offers a coherent theological approach by which the eternal Divine nature of Torah must be upheld, and yet also recognize that the ever-changing status of women, reflected in our sacred texts, is linked to historical and social movements of humanity in the world at large.
This collection of articles Contemporary Uses and Forms of Hasidut is part of the Orthodox Forum series that Yeshiva University convenes to discuss important cultural, legal, and sociological trends occurring within the Jewish Orthodox world. This volume focuses on a pronounced shift within modern Orthodox life toward Hasidut and increased spirituality — what many now call “Neo-Hasidut.”
About 15 years ago, a prominent rabbi spoke in Passaic and said he had written a paper about Jewish marriage and divorce issues that he felt was rock solid but quite revolutionary. He thought it was so revolutionary that he would wait 20 years to publish it.
Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits was one of the greatest rabbinic minds of the 20th century. He first published his remarkable work, “Jewish Women in Time and Torah,” in 1990, two years before his death. I’d humbly suggest the book was 50 years ahead of its time.
Anyone interested in Jewish law (halakhah) and the status of women in Jewish law, particularly in contemporary times, will find this book refreshing and inspiring. Especially since it was written by an Orthodox rabbi and scholar.
On the final page of the book, we find this revealing, remarkable, inspiring statement:
“Unfortunately, the problem that we are discussing is not limited to the subject of the status of women in Judaism. It is a problem that involves the entire area of present-day religious faith. The so-called drift to the right is a drift towards a naïve, unquestioning spirituality. In essence it is a drift away from authentic Halakhah.”
BOCA RATON, Florida — Urim Publications and Ktav Publishing in Jerusalem and New York have just republished Jewish Women in Time and Torah. It focuses on three periods of time in how Judaism treated women: (1) The early period of more than a thousand years until around the beginning of the Common Era when women were treated as creatures somewhere between animals and men, beings far inferior to men, created to serve men. (2) The second period until now when many, but not all rabbis, tried to mitigate the situation and treat women as human beings. (3) Now, where too many rabbis still have the early outlook about women, and much more needs to be done.
Eugene Korn has written one of the most inspiring, stimulating, ground-breaking books on Jewish ethics and practice that I have seen in a very long time. Anyone looking for an in-depth study of how inner conscience, personal morality and individual judgment can be applied to traditional halakhah and tradition, will find mounds of evidence in this well-written, well-documented study.
Can Jewish tradition face our modern understanding of justice, equality and human progress? Can mitsvot survive modernity’s deep critique of authority and culture of personal autonomy? To Be a Holy People: Jewish Tradition and Ethical Values addresses ancient and modern moral questions. Building on biblical and rabbinic traditions, it analyzes how Jewish ethics relates to Jewish law, justice, equality and compassion, as well as the challenge of violence in the name of religion. It provides food for thought on subjects ranging from gender, freedom and military ethics to Jewish particularism and contemporary universalism.
Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn holds a doctorate in moral philosophy from Columbia University and Orthodox rabbinic ordination from Pirchei Shoshanim in Israel. He was founding editor of The Edah Journal. His books include Jewish Theology and World Religions; Plowshares in Swords? Reflections on Religion and Violence; Covenant and Hope; Two Faiths, One Covenant?; and The Jewish Connection to Israel. His English writings have been translated into Hebrew, German, Italian and Spanish. He and his wife, Lila Magnus Korn, live in Jerusalem.