New Review – Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Leviticus

March 13, 2019

Sharona Margolin Halickman ● Times of Israel

Redeeming Relevance in the book of Leviticus by Rabbi Francis Nataf (Urim 2019) takes an honest approach to the book of Vayikra. Most scholars and teachers of Tanach would agree that Vayikra is the book of Torah which is most avoided. If a teacher or professor is given the choice of which book to teach, most would not choose Vayikra. As Rabbi Nataf points out, if a spiritual leader can speak about another topic such as an upcoming holiday thereby avoiding the book of Vayikra, they will do so.

Despite Rabbi Nataf himself only writing this book after publishing volumes on the other four books of the Torah, he brings many interesting points which are relevant to us today. One focus is looking at the origins of the korban, sacrifice while comparing it to the giving of a present. He analyzes Chava’s gift of the fruit to Adam as well as Kayin’s, Hevel’s and Noach’s sacrifices to God. He also speaks about offerings that may never be brought on the altar, chametz and child sacrifice.

Read the rest of this entry »

Richard H. Schwartz on Belgium’s Shechita Ban

January 21, 2019

Richard H. Schwartz The Jerusalem Post


The recent Belgian government ban of shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) overlooks some important considerations.

The recent Belgian government ban of shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) overlooks some important considerations.

First, it ignores the many problems related to stunning, their preferred method of slaughter. These are thoroughly covered in the book Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the US Meat Industry, by Gail Eisnitz. Through many interviews with slaughterhouse workers and USDA inspectors, she carefully documents in gut-wrenching, chilling detail the widespread, unspeakable torture and death at US slaughterhouses where animals are stunned prior to slaughter.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Review – Was Yosef on the Spectrum

January 14, 2019

Alan Jay Gerber ● The Jewish Star

The Legacy of Yosef

This week’s Torah reading, Vayigash, reflects the narrative of the reconciliation of Yosef and his brothers, and the reunion with his father, Yaakov. There is much to be said of this saga. One very timely book on this biblical legacy is Was Yosef On The Spectrum? Understanding Yosef Through Torah, Midrash, and Classical Jewish Sources [Urim Publications, 2019] by Prof. Samuel Levine.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Review – Am I My Body’s Keeper?

January 7, 2019

Arthur G. Quinn AJL Reviews

The author has had a career as a scholar, author, and lecturer in Israel and the United States, and has written several books on Judaism, and Jewish art and culture. The book begins with an introduction, followed by eleven chapters. Each chapter is introduced with a quotation by Maimonides, referred to in the book as Rambam. The underlying theme of each chapter is the practice of healthy diet and exercise as consistent with halakhah (Jewish law). Both the quotations of Rambam and the contemporary interpretation of those quotations provide guidance for a holistic lifestyle that includes preventive medicine, cleanliness, practicing good personal habits, avoiding inactivity, and diet and exercise that extend life.

The tenth chapter is dedicated to outlining best practices for those over fifty, emphasizing diet and exercise as essential in order to maintain a rewarding quality of life into the senior years. In addition to Rambam’s advice, the author has included considerable medical research to support his thesis cited in the end notes. At the same time, the topic is presented in layman’s language, often summarizing the major points in brief terms.

This volume would be a welcome addition to any non-fiction adult collection.

New Review – Scholarly Man of Faith

January 6, 2019

Daniel D. Stuhlman AJL Reviews

Rabbi Soloveitchik was a great teacher and philosopher whose views on Judaism and Zionism have influenced several generations of modern Orthodox Jews, as well as the general Jewish community. Even non-Jews have demonstrated interest in his ethical philosophy, such as the book written by the Jesuit priest, Christian Rutishauser for his doctoral thesis: The Human Condition and the Thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (Jersey City, Ktav, 2013).

The essays edited by Kanarfogel and Schwartz examine Soloveitchik’s views of ethics, Biblical hermeneutics, love and cognition, and the history of the Tosafists. The essays are scholarly with copious footnotes, and they are aimed at experts in the field. For this reader, the most interesting contribution was the last in the book: a bibliographic review of the scholarship on Soloveitchik’s thought. Overall, the essays demonstrate that Soloveitchik’s writings on Jewish law and the human experience, while sometimes dated, will continue to apply today and in the future.

This book is recommended for all libraries; however, the scholarly nature of the book may limit its broad appeal.

New Review – Equality Lost

January 1, 2019

David B Levy, Touro College, NYC AJL Reviews

The title Equality Lost is taken from Rav Henkin’s brilliant first chapter which is a reading of how zilzul (disrespect and belittlement, underestimation) by one person of another, in spite of their having been created equal, has tragic results. The book is divided into three sections: Torah commentary, Halacha, and Jewish Thought. Additionally, it includes a biography of Rav Henkin’s grandfather, Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin — the first biographical account to appear in English. Henkin is extremely erudite, and his book is punctuated by learned footnotes for following up with sources. This is an important work, and welcome second edition for the English-reading public unfamiliar with Henkin’s Hebrew writings.

In the Halacha section, Henkin demonstrates how to interpret Halacha in regard to women in this age of feminism. Sensitivity is given to Kol Isha (the voice of a woman) and women reciting kaddish and other prayers. He also deals with the conversion to Judaism of children in non-observant homes, and the killing of captured terrorists.

In the section on Jewish thought, great insights are offered into the role rechilut (tale bearing) played in the destruction of the second temple and the lessons to be learned regarding the state of Israel, and the true meaning of teshuvah related to current events. With regard to the glatt kosher ‘craze,’ Henkin demonstrates that what comes out of one’s mouth is more important than what goes into it.

Highly recommended for all libraries.

New Review – Jewish Guide to Practical Medical Decision-Making

December 19, 2018

Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky ● The Jewish Press

Avoiding Harm, Keeping Halacha

A successful contributor to the literature on medical halachamust exemplify a strikingly wide range of characteristics: high-level Torah scholarship, intimate knowledge of current medical practice, extensive interactions with top-tier halachic authority, a deep understanding of the ethical underpinnings of current controversies in medical ethics, and a compassionate appreciation for the excruciating challenges confronting patients and their families.

Read the rest of this entry »