Aryeh Siegel ● Times of Israel Blog
Remember the fourth son at the Passover seder? He doesn’t know how to ask. The holy Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev said, “That’s me.”
In the science fiction work “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” the supercomputer Deep Thought is asked “the question of life, the universe and everything.” After 7½ billion years of computation, the answer that came up was disappointing: “42”. But there was a good deal of wisdom in Deep Thought’s explanation of the failure to get a good answer. He said: “Perhaps you don’t really know what the question is.”
Covid-19 has many physical ramifications, but it also has stirred a great many people to question “why”. Why has the entire world suddenly changed? What does it mean? What do we need to learn?
Continue reading “Do We Know How to Ask?”
Hadassah Magazine’s Guide to Jewish Literature
The Queen & The Spymaster is a fast-paced tale of palace intrigue that tells the story of the unlikely champions of Ancient Persia, and of a thousand-year vendetta that presages modern historical events in Iran and Afghanistan. It is a thrilling novel, telling the biblical Esther story you never knew.
Roger S. Kohn, Silver Spring, MD ● AJL News and Reviews
This a traditional Haggadah, with translation in English, supplemented by a commentary that is drawn from twelve books and three articles of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits (1908–1992), a Modern Orthodox rabbi and educator. Almost two hundred excerpts are included here, and a quarter of these are from only four books, Faith after the Holocaust, 1973 (17 excerpts), Man and God, 1969 (13), God, Man, and History, 2004 (13), and Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, 1945 (11). The excerpts can be quite long, often over one or two pages, and introduced in the translation with a word or words in bold type; the same expression found in the translation is then used to introduce the excerpt. As the editor warns us in his introduction, the excerpts are all from published works “sometimes with abridgments and slight edits.”
Recommended to all readers interested in the writings of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits.
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.
Dr. Ari Kinsberg ● Jewish Press
Eliezer Berkovits (1908-1992) remains one of the most important Jewish theologians of the twentieth century.
Born in what is today Romania, he received semicha at the Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin (where he was the talmid muvhak of the Seridei Eish) and a PhD in philosophy from the University of Berlin. While ministering as a respected rav in locales across the globe and later serving as the beloved chairperson of Jewish philosophy at Skokie’s Hebrew Theological College, Rabbi Berkovits also published an array of essays and books on halacha, philosophy and other topics of contemporary Jewish relevance. It is unfortunate that Rabbi Berkovits’ writings are today largely unknown to the larger Jewish public, even though the wisdom contained therein remains as relevant as ever.
Continue reading “Faith and Freedom”
Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot ● Jewish Standard
On the bookshelves
of the contemporary young and not-so-young college-educated modern Orthodox
Jew, one most often will find the theological works of Rabbi Joseph B.
Soloveitchik and his esteemed son-in-law, my revered teacher, Rabbi Aharon
Lichtenstein, both of blessed memory.
On another shelf one
will probably find works of Rabbi Norman Lamm, the former president of Yeshiva
University, as well as the increasingly popular (in both senses of the word)
writings of Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. On another shelf one also may find some
writings of Rav Kook and in some instances the newly translated works of Rav
Shagar. These thinkers rightly occupy a pride of place in the pantheon of
modern Orthodox thought leaders. The dominance of these voices, however,
sometimes has come at the price of relegating other significant voices from the
1950s to the 1970s that contributed significant ideas to our thinking about the
engagement of halachic Judaism and the modern world.
Continue reading “Insight Into Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Berkovits”
Steve Lipman ● The New York Jewish Week
On the cover of Martin Bodek’s
new book about Passover, three small pictograms set against a stark white
background catch the reader’s attention: a man speaking, a sea shell and a ram.
Welcome to “The Emoji
Continue reading “The Haggadah, Symbolically Speaking”
Dov Peretz Elkins ● Jewish Media Review
Faith and Freedom Passover
Haggadah presents selections of the
writings of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits, one of the major Jewish philosophers of
the twentieth century, as a new and meaningful commentary for the Passover
Haggadah. The Seder night experience will be enriched with the reading of the
traditional telling of the Exodus along with Rabbi Berkovits’ insightful and
refreshing ideas that address crucial topics for the modern era.
Continue reading “Faith and Freedom”
Jonathan Kirsch ● Jewish Journal
An emoji can be seen as a contemporary revival of the hieroglyphics
that were so prominent in ancient Egypt. And so, as we recall the flight from
Mitzrayim during our third-millennium seders, what could be more appropriate
than “The Emoji Haggadah” (KTAV), which tells the tale entirely in playful and
inventive images? It’s the handiwork of Martin Bodek, a Brooklyn-based
freelance writer and co-founder of TheKnish.com, which has been described as “a
Jewish version of The Onion.”
To be sure, “The Emoji Haggadah” is more of a game than a
haggadah, but it will surely engage the lively interest of younger participants
and enliven the seder for everyone even if, on the other hand, the challenge of
decipherment isn’t going to make your seder any shorter. But, just as the
Rosetta Stone was the key to decoding Egyptian hieroglyphics, the author
provides some helpful tips for translation as well as the complete text of a
traditional haggadah in both Hebrew and English.
Bracha Schwartz ● Jewish Link
The wisdom of an author can reach into your heart
and mind, shaping your views and changing your life. It is not uncommon for
people to read all the works of a writer they admire. But Dr. Reuven Mohl went
further after becoming dedicated to the teachings of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits.
Dr. Mohl, who lives in Teaneck with his wife and three children, has just
edited and published “Faith and Freedom Passover Haggadah” (Urim Publications),
where he linked passages of Rabbi Berkovits’ writings as commentary to the
Continue reading “Faith and Freedom – A Passion Project”