A Pioneer of the Jewish publishing Industry – Bernie Scharfstein z”l of Ktav

October 14, 2018

The New York Times

SCHARFSTEIN–Bernard, passed away peacefully at home in the loving embrace of his family on October 4, 2018 at age 92. Bernie devoted his professional life to Jewish scholarship and education. In close collaboration with his late brother, Sol, he published Jewish scholarly books and educational material at KTAV Publishing House, which was founded by his parents, Asher and Fannie in the 1940s. He was recognized for his impact on Jewish scholarship and learning with an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University in 1997.

Born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Bernie attended Yeshiva College, where he starred on the basketball team, which in its day competed against leading college teams. He graduated from New York University and received a law degree from Brooklyn Law School. He was an avid reader of The New York Times, where many of his letters to the editor were published. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, to whom he was devoted for 59 years and their three sons, David (Sarah), Jonathan (Suzanne) and Daniel (Julie). He is also survived by nine loving grandchildren (Allison, Rebecca, Michelle, Benjamin, Julia, Kayla, Eliza, Ava and Nadia). It gave him great joy that all of his children and grandchildren were educated at Jewish day schools, where they learned from many KTAV books, and that they continue to have a deep appreciation for Judaism.

Contributions may be made to the Fannie and Asher Gemilus Chessed Fund at Yeshiva University c/o Rabbi Dr. Herbert Dobrinsky, 500 W. 185th St., BH312, NY, NY 10033.

 

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New Review: Six Days of Cosmology

October 5, 2018

Alan Jay Gerber • The Jewish Press

Six Days of Cosmology.jpgNew Beginnings

It is a new year with new reviews for your reading and learning pleasure.

One of our nation’s oldest Jewish publishers, Ktav Publishing, recently brought to the Jewish reading public a fascinating literary work, “Six Days of Cosmology and Evolution: A Scientific Commentary on the Genesis Text With Rabbinic Sources” by Daniel Langer, with an endorsement from astrophysicist Dr. Amitai Bin-Nun.

With the upcoming Torah readings from the book of Genesis this timely work should serve as a unique literary experience tailored to both our religious and intellectual needs.

The method employed by the author utilizes a verse by verse analysis of the Genesis narrative of the story of the world’s creation through the use of both scientific and rabbinic “lenses”.

In his introduction the author details for us his goals in what has in previous generations proven to be a daunting literary experience.

“The aim of this book is to demonstrate that the Torah’s account of Creation is not in conflict with the sciences of cosmology, geology, or evolution. This requires an understanding of the nature of time, the overlapping character of the six days, and the use of homonyms in the Bible.”

Further on the author details the following very candid sentiments:

“This approach will be criticized from the left and from the right. Fundamentalists who hold a literal reading of Scripture may object to the suggestion that words in the Torah can mean different things to different generations, or that passages can be reinterpreted in ways that conform to empirical data and scientific theory. Scholars on the left hold that the Torah is not a science text: treating it as such distorts its message.”

The author concludes his introductory thesis with the following teaching from that great scholar Rabbi Elie Munk, zt”l, from his classical commentary, “The Call of the Torah” where he teaches us the following:

“The Torah does not stipulate as an absolute act of faith that G-d exists. Indeed, the existence of G-d is presupposed throughout, but it is not the object of a proof, nor even of a doubt. But the word order in the initial verse of the Torah [The word “God” appears after “created”] discreetly suggests that we seek out G-d in Creation, and so progressively acquire with our intelligence that which faith puts forward to us at the beginning of our human experience. For faith is crowned by knowledge.”

The timely publication of this work beginning with the reading of Sefer Bereishis makes for a very fortunate religious literary decision.

Do read and enjoy this new literary contribution.


Maimonides: Between Philosophy and Halakhah

August 29, 2018

Midwest Book Review • The Judaic Studies Shelf

Maimonides.jpgCompiled and edited by Lawrence J. Kaplan (Professor of Rabbinics and Jewish Philosophy in the Department of Jewish Studies of McGill University in Montreal), “Maimonides: Between Philosophy and Halakhah” is the first and only comprehensive study of the philosophy of Maimonides by the noted 20th-century rabbinic scholar and thinker, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Based on a complete set of notes, taken by Rabbi Gerald (Yaakov) Homnick, on R. Soloveitchik’s lectures on Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed at the Bernard Revel Graduate School, and edited by Professor Kaplan, this work constitutes a major contribution to our knowledge of both Maimonides and Rabbi Soloveitchik.

In these lectures Rabbi Soloveitchik emerges as a major commentator on the Guide. In a wide-ranging analysis he eloquently and incisively explores such diverse topics in Maimonides’ philosophy as his views on prophecy, the knowledge of and approach to God: normative, intellectual, and experiential; divine knowledge; human ethics and moral excellence; the divine creative act; imitation of God; and the love and fear of God. He also undertakes an extensive and penetrating comparison and contrast of Maimonides’ and Aristotle’s philosophical views. Over the course of these lectures develops a very profound and challenging overall approach to and interpretation of the Guide’s central and critical issue: the relationship between philosophy and divine law. This work sheds a bright light on the thought of both Maimonides and Soloveitchik — two great philosophers and rabbinic scholars. Simply stated, “Maimonides: Between Philosophy and Halakhah” is a significant and enduringly valued contribution to personal, rabbinic, community, and academic library Judaic Studies collections in general, and Maimonides supplemental studies lists in particular.

 


Translating One Classic After Another – For 40 Years: An Interview with Eliyahu Munk

July 2, 2018

Elliot Resnick • Jewish Press

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Translating one peirush on Chumash is hard enough. Translating 15 is nothing short of remarkable. But Eliyahu Munk has done just that. The Ohr HaChaim, the Alshich, the Akeidas Yitzchak, the Kedushas Levi, the Ksav v’Hakabalah, the Chizkuni, the Shelah, the Tzror Hamor, the Tur, Rabbeinu Bachye – all translated into English by one man.

And he’s still going strong. At age 96, Eliyahu Munk is now translating the Meshech Chachmah. Amazed at this literary output, The Jewish Press recently called Eliyahu Munk in Israel to speak to him about his life and work.

The Jewish Press: What’s your background?

Munk: I was born in Frankfurt, Germany. My father came from Cologne and taught mathematics, chemistry, and physics.

I attended Rav Joseph Breuer’s yeshiva 10 hours every week. He taught me the haftarot, and the way he made a navi come to life is something I haven’t forgotten. He had a knack of making a navi talk to you. It was a terrific thing. Read the rest of this entry »


Scholarly Man of Faith

June 27, 2018

JLNJ Staff • Jewish Link of New Jersey

Scholarly Man of FaithIn “Scholarly Man of Faith: Studies in the Thought and Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik,” Dr. Kanarfogel and his co-editor, Dr. Dov Schwartz, professor of philosophy at Bar-Ilan University, bring together the expanded studies of written works of the rav that emerged from a joint conference between YU and Bar-Ilan in 2012. Other YU faculty contributing chapters include Rabbi Shalom Carmy, assistant professor of Jewish philosophy and Bible at Yeshiva College; Rabbi Dr. David Shatz, Ronald P. Stanton University Professor of Philosophy, Ethics and Religious Thought at Stern College for Women; and Dr. Daniel Rynhold, associate professor in modern Jewish philosophy at Revel…

“In ‘Scholarly Man of Faith,’” said Dr. Kanarfogel, “outstanding international scholars examine areas of his intellectual endeavors that have not been fully explored, making the volume valuable to anyone interested in the rav’s teaching…. I have had the pleasure of investigating with my fellow scholars the forces that have shaped the distinct elements of the Jewish character.”

 

164_250_200(Courtesy of Yeshiva University) Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel, E. Billi Ivry University Professor of Jewish History, Literature and Law at Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, has co-edited two new volumes, one focusing on the writing of Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik and the other on the emergence of Jewish identity during the medieval period in Europe.


Memoirs of a Hopeful Pessimist

June 6, 2018

Debbie Weissman • Times of Israel

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In the mid-20th century, the great American Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel credibly wrote “Judaism today is the least known religion.” But recent decades have seen Christians making impressive efforts to fill in the knowledge gap. For many years, I have had the privilege of teaching groups of Christians who come to Jerusalem from throughout the world. Many of them are priests, pastors and nuns on sabbatical; some are lay people. They come from anywhere from a week to a year and my involvement varies, depending on the length and depth of the program. The programs are held at Christian institutions in and around Jerusalem.

I teach them about Judaism and about Israel. I give introductions to the Christians who visit our synagogue on Friday nights for prayers, and we sometimes also provide them with home hospitality for Shabbat dinners. It is fascinating to note what questions they ask. In one case, a young woman was surprised that our sanctuary was not decorated with pictures of Moses. Once, I told a group of seminarians that they were imposing Christian questions on Judaism; what interested them almost exclusively were Read the rest of this entry »


Memoirs of a Hopeful Pessimist

June 3, 2018

Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi • Tikkun

“Reading Debbie Weissman’s memoir leaves us with some hope… whose teaching and writing in Israel and the Diaspora and commitment to dialogue between people of different faiths have had a world-wide impact…. An insight into the principles by which Debbie guides her own behavior can be seen as she adopts a modified version of Levinas’ teaching that we should see the “face of God in the Other.” “It would be enough,” she says, “if we could just look at the Other and see a face no less human than our own.”

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