New Review – Jewish Guide to Practical Medical Decision-Making

November 11, 2018

Judy Simon • Arutz Sheva

The Fine Line Between Life and Death: The Hospital Rabbi

Medical Decisions web 1

Rabbi Jason Weiner is a hospital chaplain. He guides people through intense moments in life, death, and everything in between.

When Rabbi Jason Weiner finished Rabbinical School and acquired Smicha (rabbinic ordination), the one thing he knew is that he never wanted to work in a hospital setting.

Apparently, G-d had other plans for him. Read the rest of this entry »

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New Review – Jewish Guide to Practical Medical Decision-Making

November 5, 2018

Rabbi Ari Kahn • Explorations

Medical Decisions web 1Compassion and Healing

Jewish medical ethics is a robust field, which quickly grows as the medical and scientific inquiry advances. While many volumes have been written on Jewish medical ethics, Jason Weiner’s Jewish Guide to Practical Medical Decision-Making  is unique. Rabbi Weiner has written an excellent and important work from a perspective unlike others who have addressed  this topic. While previous studies have been published by experts in Halacha, or experts in medicine, or experts in ethics. Rabbi Weiner may, in fact, be all of the these, but first and foremost he is a chaplain; he works in a hospital, and deals with patients on a daily basis. While I have studied, taught, and even given psak(halachic rulings) in many of the areas discussed in this book, my involvement is often theoretical. Reading actual cases, and learning from Rabbi Weiner’s experience, sensitivity, and wisdom, is both instructive and invaluable.

One powerful example begins on p.93: Rabbi Weiner describes his interaction with the parents of a child suffering from what turned out to be a terminal illness. These parents  asked if they were permitted to pray for their son’s recovery, and Rabbi Weiner answered in the affirmative. When the illness took their son’s life, the devastated parents criticized the rabbi for allowing them to foster false hope.[1]

Read the rest of this entry »


New Book – Was Yosef on the Spectrum

November 1, 2018

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New Review – Song of Teshuva 4

October 31, 2018

Midwest Book Review • Judaic Studies

song of teshuva 4Abraham Isaac Kook (7 September 1865 – 1 September 1935) was an Orthodox rabbi, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine, the founder of Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav Kook (The Central Universal Yeshiva), a Jewish thinker, Halakhist, Kabbalist, and a renowned Torah scholar, and arguably one of the most celebrated and influential rabbis of the 20th century. Rabbi Kook’s seminal work on repentance, Oros HaTeshuvah, is recognized as a classic of Jewish thought but has, because of its difficult language and its theological depth, remained inaccessible to many. “Song of Teshuvah” presents readers with the original Hebrew text of Oros HaTeshuvah with a new translation into English, as well as expert commentary in English from Rabbi Moshe Weinberger.

Weinberger draws on his extensive knowledge of Jewish philosophical and inspirational literature to provide profound, moving, and fresh insights into the text, richly explicating the ideas in Oros HaTeshuvah in an accessible and clear but not superficial manner. Readers will come away with a firm grasp on the profound truth at the heart of Kook’s classic work: that teshuvah (repentance) is not a somber process of self-deprivation but a joyful journey back to God and to the core of each individual.

“Song of Teshuvah” covers chapters 14 through 17 of Oros HaTeshuvah and is the fourth and final volume in this simply outstanding series. “Song of Teshuvah” is unreservedly recommended for synagogue, college, and university library Judaic Studies collections in general, and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook supplemental studies reading lists in particular.


New Review: Six Days of Cosmology

October 5, 2018

Alan Jay Gerber • The Jewish Press

Six Days of Cosmology.jpgNew Beginnings

It is a new year with new reviews for your reading and learning pleasure.

One of our nation’s oldest Jewish publishers, Ktav Publishing, recently brought to the Jewish reading public a fascinating literary work, “Six Days of Cosmology and Evolution: A Scientific Commentary on the Genesis Text With Rabbinic Sources” by Daniel Langer, with an endorsement from astrophysicist Dr. Amitai Bin-Nun.

With the upcoming Torah readings from the book of Genesis this timely work should serve as a unique literary experience tailored to both our religious and intellectual needs.

The method employed by the author utilizes a verse by verse analysis of the Genesis narrative of the story of the world’s creation through the use of both scientific and rabbinic “lenses”.

In his introduction the author details for us his goals in what has in previous generations proven to be a daunting literary experience.

“The aim of this book is to demonstrate that the Torah’s account of Creation is not in conflict with the sciences of cosmology, geology, or evolution. This requires an understanding of the nature of time, the overlapping character of the six days, and the use of homonyms in the Bible.”

Further on the author details the following very candid sentiments:

“This approach will be criticized from the left and from the right. Fundamentalists who hold a literal reading of Scripture may object to the suggestion that words in the Torah can mean different things to different generations, or that passages can be reinterpreted in ways that conform to empirical data and scientific theory. Scholars on the left hold that the Torah is not a science text: treating it as such distorts its message.”

The author concludes his introductory thesis with the following teaching from that great scholar Rabbi Elie Munk, zt”l, from his classical commentary, “The Call of the Torah” where he teaches us the following:

“The Torah does not stipulate as an absolute act of faith that G-d exists. Indeed, the existence of G-d is presupposed throughout, but it is not the object of a proof, nor even of a doubt. But the word order in the initial verse of the Torah [The word “God” appears after “created”] discreetly suggests that we seek out G-d in Creation, and so progressively acquire with our intelligence that which faith puts forward to us at the beginning of our human experience. For faith is crowned by knowledge.”

The timely publication of this work beginning with the reading of Sefer Bereishis makes for a very fortunate religious literary decision.

Do read and enjoy this new literary contribution.


New Review: Scholarly Man of Faith

October 4, 2018

Ben Rothke • Jewish Press

Scholarly Man of Faith

For someone whose educational career spanned over 50 years, the number of books from Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik is rather scant. While there are a number of articles from him, the number of books he wrote is few.

Rabbi Jonathan Ziring quotes Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein and explained the reason why there are relatively few books from Rav Soloveitchik and from his father Rav Aharon Lichtenstein (Rav Soloveitchik’s son-in-law). He explained that in Europe, there were many great European rabbis who lived in very small towns and the entirety of their creative enterprise was based in writing. They did this as their rabbinic duties didn’t take up much of their time, or demand much of their intellectual energies. But as these figures become roshei yeshiva, their creative enterprise was with their students, and their writings become much less.

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Maimonides: Between Philosophy and Halakhah

August 29, 2018

Midwest Book Review • The Judaic Studies Shelf

Maimonides.jpgCompiled and edited by Lawrence J. Kaplan (Professor of Rabbinics and Jewish Philosophy in the Department of Jewish Studies of McGill University in Montreal), “Maimonides: Between Philosophy and Halakhah” is the first and only comprehensive study of the philosophy of Maimonides by the noted 20th-century rabbinic scholar and thinker, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Based on a complete set of notes, taken by Rabbi Gerald (Yaakov) Homnick, on R. Soloveitchik’s lectures on Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed at the Bernard Revel Graduate School, and edited by Professor Kaplan, this work constitutes a major contribution to our knowledge of both Maimonides and Rabbi Soloveitchik.

In these lectures Rabbi Soloveitchik emerges as a major commentator on the Guide. In a wide-ranging analysis he eloquently and incisively explores such diverse topics in Maimonides’ philosophy as his views on prophecy, the knowledge of and approach to God: normative, intellectual, and experiential; divine knowledge; human ethics and moral excellence; the divine creative act; imitation of God; and the love and fear of God. He also undertakes an extensive and penetrating comparison and contrast of Maimonides’ and Aristotle’s philosophical views. Over the course of these lectures develops a very profound and challenging overall approach to and interpretation of the Guide’s central and critical issue: the relationship between philosophy and divine law. This work sheds a bright light on the thought of both Maimonides and Soloveitchik — two great philosophers and rabbinic scholars. Simply stated, “Maimonides: Between Philosophy and Halakhah” is a significant and enduringly valued contribution to personal, rabbinic, community, and academic library Judaic Studies collections in general, and Maimonides supplemental studies lists in particular.