Jewish Veganism With Dr. Richard Schwartz and Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz

November 29, 2016

WhoStoleMyReligion9789655242348With Victoria Moran of Unity.fm

Among Newsweek‘s “Top 50 Rabbis in America,” Shmuly Yanklowitz joins Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., of JewishVeg for an inspiring hour on why veganism is a Jewish value and a human value.

Listen to the full interview here.

 


Review of From Mourning to Morning

November 28, 2016

 

From Mourning to MorningIn the pages of “From Mourning to Morning: A Comprehensive Guide to Mourning, Grieving, and Bereavement”, Rabbi Simeon Schreiber (Senior Staff Chaplain at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida), translates his many years of experience and considerable expertise into a greater understanding of the emotions surrounding death, grieving, mourning, and bereavement in Judaism. From “Mourning to Morning” deftly presents these principles in a comprehensive format. Focusing on the Shiva, the seven day period of mourning in Judaism, Rabbi Schreiber explains the foundation of visiting a house of mourners, and suggests proper etiquette in conducting a visit. With sensitivity and expertise, Rabbi Schreiber provides unique and practical advise on how to cope with death, mourning, and the related issues that we all will inevitably face. Impressively well written, organized and presented, “From Mourning to Morning” is unreservedly recommended.

This review originally appeared on Midwest Book Review.


Review of Who Stole My Religion? 

November 7, 2016

WhoStoleMyReligion9789655242348How Jewish Teaching Can Save The Planet

Review in the Jewish Georgian, “the largest Jewish newspaper in the South,” by Lewis Regenstein, president of The Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature, and author of the book “Replenish the Earth: The Teachings of the World’s Religions on Protecting Animals and Nature.”

Dr. Richard Schwartz, an expert on Jewish teachings on the environment, vegetarianism, and animals, has given us a preview of his new book, due out by early July 2016, on the environmental crisis we are facing.

“Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet,” Richard says, ” is meant to be a wake-up call – the most urgent that I can make- – to alert Jews and others that we must do all we can in applying Jewish values to help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path.”

Its primary aim is to show that the world is heading toward a “perfect storm … of existential crises: sudden, catastrophic climate change; severe environmental degradation; devastating scarcities of food, water and energy; widening terrorism; and other critical threats to life as we know and value it,”

“Everything possible must be done,” Richard warns, “to avert such potential catastrophes, since they threaten humanity and all life on the planet.”

A main theme of this book, as Richard puts it, is that “in the face of today’s urgent problems, Jews must return to our universal Jewish values and to our missions: to be ‘a light unto the nations,’ a kingdom of priests and a holy people, descendants of prophets, champions of social justice, eternal protestants against a corrupt, unjust world, dissenters against destructive and unjust systems.”

“I hope that this book’s discussion of Jewish teachings on these critically important issues will help move our precious planet away from its present perilous path onto one that is more just, humane, peaceful, and sustainable.”


Review of Who Stole My Religion?

October 31, 2016

WhoStoleMyReligion9789655242348by Barbara Gardner

Although this book has been written to ‘revitalize Judaism and apply Jewish values to help heal our imperiled planet,” the references used from the Old Testament, apply as much to Christians as they do to Jews. Therefore, I felt it useful to review this book for The Ark.

Schwartz takes a good look at the world today including it politics, economic systems and foreign policies, as well as the environment and our treatment of animals. Actually, only two out of sixteen chapters deal with animal rights, but Schwartz demonstrates that this is part of a larger, interconnected problem which has to be examined as a whole. He says that the book is meant to be a wakeup call as the world is heading towards a ‘perfect storm’ that includes climate change, environmental degradation, world hunger, water shortages, climate wars, Islamic terrorism and other threats. He argues that the only solution is to apply real Jewish values to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, according to Schwartz, most Jews just aren’t doing enough and are failing to see the dangers ahead.

Schwartz identifies a shifting to the political right amongst orthodox Jews, particularly in America, which he demonstrates is inconsistent with the teachings of the Torah and other Jewish texts. This is why he feels that his religion, Judaism, has been stolen. The book seeks to identify who has stolen Judaism and how, and aims to bring us back to the true, original religion which is one based on love and compassion, not rules and rituals, particularly ones which have been misinterpreted.

Simply focusing on the animal rights issues, Schwartz’s arguments for the compassionate treatment of animals, supported by many references from the Torah, leaves one wondering how any Jew (and indeed any Christian) can claim to be genuine to their faith and not be vegan, let alone support any other form of animal cruelty. In particular, he highlights the Torah’s mandate not to cause pain to living creatures – tsa’ar ba’alei chayim and demonstrates how so many Jews are breaking this mandate in the modern world.

Schwartz’s main criticism of such people is their apathy, their failure to challenge current practices, and their preference for ritual over meaning. It is hard to see that this book could be anything less than a wakeup call and, as such, I strongly recommend it.

THis review originall appeared in The Ark.


Review of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values

September 26, 2016

by  Rabbi Gil Student

Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel writes in his introduction that the term “encyclopedia” in the title is “a bit presumptuous.” Even though this is the first of a projected four-volume series, the task of encompassing the entirety of Jewish thought in any encyclopedia seems impossible. The Torah is described as being “longer than the earth and broader than the sea.” Indeed, each of the volume’s thirty-nine essays lacks a systematic and unified style, perhaps because the topics are so expansive. Yet the essays contain so much material, rich in depth and breadth, full of insight and contemporary relevance, that we can forgive the title. This book might not be an encyclopedia but it is a gold mine of Jewish values. Masterfully combining Biblical, legal and philosophical texts, Rabbi Amsel, director of education at the Destiny Foundation, an educational media foundation, gives each topic extensive treatment. Each essay seems like a well-organized, multi-hour lecture on the topic (rabbis and teachers take note!). Read the rest of this entry »


Review of Maimonides: Between Philosophy and Halakhah

September 12, 2016
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by Ben Rothke

Maimonides is one of the most influential scholars in all of Jewish history. His seminal work The Guide for the Perplexed is perhaps the greatest work of Jewish philosophy ever written. Not only is it one of the greatest, it is also one of the most enigmatic of works.

The impetus of The Guide was in part to reconcile Aristotelian philosophy with Jewish philosophy. The Guide was written for the philosophical elite of Maimonides’ time, which adds to its difficulty. Combined with that it was written in Arabic and that most readers must rely on a translation, adds to its elusiveness.

In Maimonides – Between Philosophy and Halakhah: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Lectures on the Guide of the Perplexed (Urim Publications ISBN 965524203X), the lectures notes from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (henceforth, “the Rav”) provide the reader with a better understanding of the Guide. Read the rest of this entry »


Review of Nefesh HaTzimtzum

June 26, 2016

By Zev Garber

NefeshHatzimtzumTwo1The Four Gateways of Nefesh HaChaim are introduced and discussed in Nefesh HaTzimzum, volume one. They speak respectfully of the power of human actions, speech/prayer, and thought in transforming self and world with metaphysical repercussions. Nefesh HaTzimtzum, volume two, is exclusively focused on sections of Gateway Three which discusses God’s Being (essence, existence, metaphysics) as developed in the Kabbalistic doctrine of Tzimtzum, that is, the contractions of the Infinite Being to create, penetrate, and sustain a finite universe. Doctrinal issues embrace experiential and transcendental response. Rationally, can an absolute Infinite Being be contracted to Finite Being; if God’s presence is everywhere in creation then in what way is creation an independent entity and Man’s function therein; if God as God does not contract does this embrace associated attributes, such as God’s Will and Glory, and so on. Read the rest of this entry »