New and Forthcoming Titles

July 14, 2019
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Was Yosef on the Spectrum – Review

June 26, 2019

Samantha Craft

Levine provides an insightful and thought provoking look at the feasibility that the beloved biblical character Joseph was on the autism spectrum. Extremely well-researched, Was Yosef on the Spectrum?, illuminates the multiple attributes of an autistic individual through Joseph’s lived experiences. As an autistic self-advocate, I found myself nodding and smiling in recognition of myself in Joseph. Thanks goes to Levine for sharing his lens into the biblical aspects of autism through a story filled with challenges, insights, and wisdom, and for establishing a once-lived voice for the millions on the spectrum. 

Samantha Craft is an autistic advocate, a NeuroGuides coach, and the author of Everyday Aspergers: A Journey on the Autism Spectrum, and co-author of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism


The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values, Between Man and Man

June 25, 2019

Midwest Book Review ● The Judaic Studies Shelf

Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel is the director of education at the Destiny Foundation and the author of The Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues and The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values. With “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values: Between Man and Man” Rabbi Amsel provides a continuation to his widely praised “Encyclopedia of Jewish Values”.

“The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values: Between Man and Man” is a deftly organized compendium of Jewish values and ethics that deal with human interaction. The topics addressed in this work include Jewish attitudes to leadership, business ethics, modesty with dress, self-defense, peer pressure, family, friendships, and more.

Gleaning from the Bible and classic Jewish texts, as well as later authorities such as Maimonides, Nachmanides, Rashi, and the Code of Jewish Law, “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values: Between Man and Man” is accessible to readers of many backgrounds.

“The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values: Between Man and Man” covers a veritable compendium topics that range from: Animals – How Jews Should Relate; Antisemitism and Amalek; Business Ethics; Civil Disobedience; Climate Change – Is It a Jewish Issue? and Drugs, Alcohol & Marijuana – Are They Ever Permitted in Judaism?; Ethics of Torture in Judaism; Family – the Key to Jewish and World; Redemption; Friendship; Getting Old, Being Old and Senility; to Going Beyond What is Required: Good Idea or Obligatory?; Honesty and Cheating; Human Dignity, Human Embarrassment, and Humiliating Oneself; Individuality and Conformity; Jewish Happiness; Jewish Hospitality – Hachnasat Orchim; Jewish Leadership – What is It?; Universal Healthcare (Obamacare) from the Jewish Perspective; and so much more!

Critique: Deftly organized alphabetically from Advertising to War, “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values: Between Man and Man” is enhanced for easier access with a five page Index and a complete listing of Hebrew Sources. An impressively organized and presented work of meticulous and exhaustive scholarship, “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values: Between Man and Man” is unreservedly recommended for personal, synagogue, community, college, and university library Judaic Studies collections and supplemental curriculum reading lists.


The Day I Met Father Isaac at the Supermarket

June 2, 2019

Fred Isaac ● AJL Reviews

Rabbi Riemer may be best known for So that Your Values May Live On, his wonderful volume on ethical wills. The Day I Met My Father Isaac… is a smaller, easy-to-read, and wise book meant for a broader audience. It contains some of his sermons while serving as interim Rabbi at Anshe Shalom Congregation in Florida. The book contains drashot (homilies) on thirty-five of the weekly parashot (Torah readings). In them Riemer explores both Torah issues and their parallels in modern life using stories, gentle humor, and a touch of irony. Beginning with Lech Lecha (“A Sermon addressed to the rich people in this Congregation”), his subjects include Yitro (“The Super Bowl and the Sedra”), Bechukotai (“Some of my favorite curses”), and Korach (“Too much rightness can kill you”). Each derasha begins with a story; most of them are contemporary, while others come from the Talmud and the Hasidic literature. They are witty and easy to connect with. He then turns to the Torah and links his introduction to the moral of the parashah. Some of his connections are quite powerful, others are sweet. But all are meaningful. The volume concludes with his “Farewell Shabbat” comments: “The lessons you have taught me.” In this talk he reminds his audience that, at their best, teachers are also students.

There has been a plethora of books over the past few years to assist B’nai Mitzvah students with their drashot. This delightful collection of sermons can be used by 12-year-olds. It would be better employed by adults looking for inspiration, as well as to create their own commentaries. It is a fine (and fun) addition to any synagogue library.


Beyond Routine

May 28, 2019

Chava Pinchuck ● AJL Reviews

The Shulchan Aruch—the Code of Jewish Law (the “Code”)—was authored by Joseph Karo in 1563, and it remains the most widely accepted compilation of Jewish law ever written. Rabbi J. B. Solovetchik, z”l, articulated an “action to experience paradigm,” whereby doing the mitzvahs with intention provides a link to God. Looking at the “Code” through this lens, Rabbi Grunstein shows the reader how to elevate his observance of the commandments by knowing whether obligations are biblical, rabbinic, or custom, knowing the background and historical context, and providing practical suggestions.

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Was Yosef Autistic?

May 13, 2019

Doreen Wachmann ● Jewish Telegraph

Professor Samuel Levine’s CV runs to 22 pages, citing all his academic achievements in the field of Jewish and American law.

Yet his latest book, Was Yosef on the Spectrum? Understanding Joseph through Torah, Midrash and Classical Jewish Sources (Urim Publications) deals with a more controversial topic. He suggests that the great biblical character Joseph may have been autistic.

Many charedim nowadays see red if anyone dares to criticise heroic biblical characters. Twenty years ago, there was a riot in Manchester with the visit of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who had written an article suggesting that Moses was not a politician — surely a compliment rather than an insult?

So why did Prof Levine choose to stray from his usual academic paths and write on such a controversial subject?

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Scholarly Man of Faith – review

May 8, 2019

Yaakov (Jack) Bieler ● Jewish Book Council

This col­lec­tion of aca­d­e­m­ic papers on the teach­ings of Rab­bi Joseph P. Soloveitchik devel­oped from a joint con­fer­ence that took place in 2012 at Yeshi­va Uni­ver­si­ty in New York and Bar Ilan Uni­ver­si­ty in Tel Aviv. (A com­pan­ion vol­ume of Hebrew-lan­guage papers from the con­fer­ence is forth­com­ing.) Reflect­ing the Torah U’madda (Tora­hand sec­u­lar knowl­edge) poly­math that R. Soloveitchik him­self embod­ied, the papers rep­re­sent many dis­ci­plines, all viewed from both a Jew­ish and sec­u­lar per­spec­tive, includ­ing phi­los­o­phy, hermeneu­tics, his­to­ry, and literature.

In a wide-rang­ing essay, Dr. David Shatz notes that while it is com­mon­ly believed that R. Soloveitchik pub­lished rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle dur­ing his life­time, this view is erro­neous; in fact, the Toras HoRav Foun­da­tion has been sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly issu­ing vol­umes of R. Soloveitchik’s talks, devel­oped from audio tapes and man­u­scripts, that have enabled schol­ars and layper­sons alike to delve deeply into and com­ment on his ideas. Many of the papers in this vol­ume draw upon these writ­ings. Shatz also spec­u­lates as to why R. Solove­ichik has attract­ed much greater inter­est since his pass­ing in 1993, par­tic­u­lar­ly among non-Ortho­dox and even non-Jew­ish schol­ars. Shatz’s ency­clo­pe­dic sum­ma­ry of the many arti­cles that have been pub­lished con­cern­ing R. Soloveitchik’s writ­ings pro­vide a won­der­ful resource for those who wish to study these mat­ters fur­ther. Oth­er notable essays include Ephraim Kanarfogel’s dis­cus­sion of R. Soloveitchik’s uncan­ny knowl­edge of lost Ger­man Tosafist Halachic mate­r­i­al, and Shi­ra Weiss’s paper apprais­ing the influ­ence on R. Solove­ichik of the medieval thinker Judah HaLevi.

Aca­d­e­m­ic papers are not writ­ten for the casu­al read­er, and some of the ter­mi­nol­o­gy and cita­tions in this vol­ume can prove daunt­ing. How­ev­er, read­ers seek­ing to seri­ous­ly engage with these thought­ful pre­sen­ta­tions of R. Soloveitchik’s vast and eru­dite con­tri­bu­tions to mod­ern Jew­ish thought are sure to benefit.