This broad-ranging book explores the role of halakha as a bridge between eternal principles and practical application in an ever-changing world. (The “postmodernism” of the title is often used as a synonym for the “contemporary world,” and sometimes for the cluster of assumptions which come hand in hand with that philosophical tradition.) Neuwirth is particularly concerned with issues of personal freedom and autonomy, and the ability of halakhic texts and rabbinic figures to speak with authority today.
Kate Gladstone ● 100+ People with Autism to Know
The book fascinated me because I am autistic and Jewish, and because it’s interesting to think about how an autistic person might have appeared to others in the long centuries and millennia before the condition was medically recognized and named.
Although “presumed diagnosis of the dead” is inherently an uncertain endeavor, it is fascinating to see how the author (a Jewish scholar who is also familiar with autism and its sensory/neurological manifestations) finds many commonalities between the Biblical figure of Joseph (as depicted in Scripture and in Hebrew tradition) and modern-day people on the autism spectrum (in terms of shared traits, inclinations, sensitivities, aversions, and so on). Samuel Levine’s book makes me wish that we could go back in time, present the Biblical Joseph with a copy of the book (translated into Hebrew or Egyptian) and ask him if Levine got it right! (I suspect that the answer would be “Yes — is he, too, a dreamer of accurate dreams?” But of course we will never know for sure).
The book may be very encouraging to autistics who are Jews, and to their parents/teachers/fellow congregants/congregational leaders.
Michael A. Shmidman, Editor Emeritus ● Tradition
Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak (Isadore) Twersky zt”l, was justly renowned for his brilliantly insightful, meticulously researched and felicitously formulated scholarly oeuvre, concentrating generally upon medieval Jewish intellectual history and with special attention to the Maimonidean corpus. But the Nathan Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy at Harvard University also was the Talner Rebbe of Boston, as comfortable delivering divrei Torah at Shalosh Seudos in the Talner Beis Midrash as he was conducting doctoral seminars on medieval Jewish rabbinic literature in Room G of Widener Library in Harvard Yard.Read the rest of this entry »
Midwest Book Review ● The Judaic Studies Shelf
Synopsis: A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study of Jewish texts such as the Talmud. The basic form of the rabbi developed in the Pharisaic and Talmudic era, when learned teachers assembled to codify Judaism’s written and oral laws.Read the rest of this entry »
Toby Klein Greenwald ● Jewish Action
There are no coincidences in life, and it was surely prescient that Jewish Action editor Nechama Carmel asked me on the cusp of the corona outbreak to review two books on Jewish mindfulness. I began writing this in March, a few days before Rosh Chodesh Nissan (my wedding anniversary), and finished it in late April. I don’t know what will have changed by the time Jewish Action goes to press.
The two books—Living in the Presence: A Jewish Mindfulness Guide for Everyday Life, by Dr. Benjamin Epstein, and Mindfulness: A Jewish Approach, by Dr. Jonathan Feiner—are helping me through the crisis. I hope they will help you too, no matter what is happening to you in life.Read the rest of this entry »
Dr. Israel Drazin ● BooksnThoughts blog
Women have been degraded since ancient history. Scholars debate whether the Torah is pro-women or indifferent to them with some exceptions. The ancient Greeks seemed to use women only for procreation and for taking care of their homes. Even the remarkably wise philosophers Aristotle among the Greeks and Maimonides among the Jews made negative statements about women. Scholars explain that they did so based on what they saw; women were not educated. There were, of course, exceptions such as the Greek Socrates seeking wisdom from a woman.Read the rest of this entry »
Rivkah Lambert Adler The Jerusalem Post
“I fully believe that the Halacha [Jewish law] has to respond actively and positively to the burning challenges of the times, and, in our days, high on these priorities is the status of women.”
Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber is a champion of the emergence of highly-educated women taking on leadership roles in the Orthodox Jewish community today. In the acknowledgment section of his newest book, Rabba, Maharat, Rabbanit, Rebbetzin, Sperber explains why he supports this change in Jewish life.Read the rest of this entry »
Aryeh Siegel ● The Times of Israel blog
“…and love your fellow as yourself…” [Lev. 19:18]
Rabbi Akiva says: “This is a great general principle of the Torah.”
[Midrash Raba, Genesis Ch. 24]
“…God asks of us to love. This may sound simple, but it turns out that it doesn’t come naturally; and it takes time and effort to learn to do it. To love others, we must uncover hidden forms of our self-interested concerns. Only then can we direct our thoughts, feelings, and actions toward giving to others. In addition, we need to recognize the aspect of divinity in each human being we encounter. When we see the greatness of others, this awakens within us our love for them. In particular, the greatness in their aspect of divinity connects our love of them to a love of God.”*Read the rest of this entry »
Midwest Book Review ● The Judaic Studies Shelf
Synopsis: Halakhah is the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from the written and Oral Torah.
The role of halakhah is to serve as a bridge between our eternal Torah and the world’s changing realities. However, the dizzying pace of developments in postmodern society and the obsession with personal freedom are generating unprecedented gaps between Torah and reality, challenging our obedience to Halakhah, contributing to the erosion of rabbinic authority and causing a growing confusion within our community.Read the rest of this entry »