Faith and Freedom – review

May 6, 2019

Yaakov (Jack) Bieler ● Jewish Book Council

Theologian and Jewish philosopher Rab­bi Eliez­er Berkovits (1908−92) was the author of many books of Jew­ish thought, his­to­ry, and phi­los­o­phy. For this new hag­gadah, edi­tor Reuven Mohl has select­ed pas­sages from these works to com­prise the com­men­tary that accom­pa­nies the tra­di­tion­al text.

The Passover seder has many com­po­nents, includ­ing rit­u­als, like Kid­dush (the sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion of the holy day being cel­e­brat­ed) and Hal­lel (psalms com­mem­o­rat­ing the Exo­dus expe­ri­ence); read­ing pas­sages from rab­binic lit­er­a­ture; and engag­ing in long stand­ing tra­di­tions — chil­dren ask­ing ques­tions, open­ing the door to wel­come the prophet Eli­jah, and recit­ing litur­gi­cal poems. Mohl has drawn from Rab­bi Berkovits’s incred­i­bly broad oeu­vre to pro­vide thought-pro­vok­ing insights per­tain­ing not only to the hag­gadah but also obser­va­tions that go beyond the text, includ­ing his strong advo­ca­cy for liv­ing accord­ing to halakah — Jew­ish law.

Inter­spersed with many of Rab­bi Berkovits’s more philo­soph­i­cal and the­o­log­i­cal state­ments are sto­ries and com­ments about the Holo­caust, which he expe­ri­enced first-hand. See­ing the top­ics play­ing off one anoth­er through­out the hag­gadah offers a unique insight into Rab­bi Berkovits’s expe­ri­ences and thinking.

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Faith and Freedom

April 16, 2019

Dr. Ari Kinsberg ● Jewish Press

Eliezer Berkovits (1908-1992) remains one of the most important Jewish theologians of the twentieth century.

Born in what is today Romania, he received semicha at the Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin (where he was the talmid muvhak of the Seridei Eish) and a PhD in philosophy from the University of Berlin. While ministering as a respected rav in locales across the globe and later serving as the beloved chairperson of Jewish philosophy at Skokie’s Hebrew Theological College, Rabbi Berkovits also published an array of essays and books on halacha, philosophy and other topics of contemporary Jewish relevance. It is unfortunate that Rabbi Berkovits’ writings are today largely unknown to the larger Jewish public, even though the wisdom contained therein remains as relevant as ever.

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Insight Into Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Berkovits

April 16, 2019

Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot ● Jewish Standard

On the bookshelves of the contemporary young and not-so-young college-educated modern Orthodox Jew, one most often will find the theological works of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and his esteemed son-in-law, my revered teacher, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, both of blessed memory.

On another shelf one will probably find works of Rabbi Norman Lamm, the former president of Yeshiva University, as well as the increasingly popular (in both senses of the word) writings of Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. On another shelf one also may find some writings of Rav Kook and in some instances the newly translated works of Rav Shagar. These thinkers rightly occupy a pride of place in the pantheon of modern Orthodox thought leaders. The dominance of these voices, however, sometimes has come at the price of relegating other significant voices from the 1950s to the 1970s that contributed significant ideas to our thinking about the engagement of halachic Judaism and the modern world.

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The Haggadah, Symbolically Speaking

April 15, 2019

Steve Lipman ● The New York Jewish Week

On the cover of Martin Bodek’s new book about Passover, three small pictograms set against a stark white background catch the reader’s attention: a man speaking, a sea shell and a ram.

Welcome to “The Emoji Haggadah.”

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Faith and Freedom

April 14, 2019

Dov Peretz Elkins ● Jewish Media Review

Faith and Freedom Passover Haggadah presents selections of the writings of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits, one of the major Jewish philosophers of the twentieth century, as a new and meaningful commentary for the Passover Haggadah. The Seder night experience will be enriched with the reading of the traditional telling of the Exodus along with Rabbi Berkovits’ insightful and refreshing ideas that address crucial topics for the modern era.

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Pesach Haggadah – A Creative Approach

April 14, 2019

Jonathan Kirsch ● Jewish Journal

An emoji can be seen as a contemporary revival of the hieroglyphics that were so prominent in ancient Egypt. And so, as we recall the flight from Mitzrayim during our third-millennium seders, what could be more appropriate than “The Emoji Haggadah” (KTAV), which tells the tale entirely in playful and inventive images? It’s the handiwork of Martin Bodek, a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and co-founder of TheKnish.com, which has been described as “a Jewish version of The Onion.” 

To be sure, “The Emoji Haggadah” is more of a game than a haggadah, but it will surely engage the lively interest of younger participants and enliven the seder for everyone even if, on the other hand, the challenge of decipherment isn’t going to make your seder any shorter. But, just as the Rosetta Stone was the key to decoding Egyptian hieroglyphics, the author provides some helpful tips for translation as well as the complete text of a traditional haggadah in both Hebrew and English.


Faith and Freedom – A Passion Project

April 12, 2019

Bracha Schwartz ● Jewish Link

The wisdom of an author can reach into your heart and mind, shaping your views and changing your life. It is not uncommon for people to read all the works of a writer they admire. But Dr. Reuven Mohl went further after becoming dedicated to the teachings of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits. Dr. Mohl, who lives in Teaneck with his wife and three children, has just edited and published “Faith and Freedom Passover Haggadah” (Urim Publications), where he linked passages of Rabbi Berkovits’ writings as commentary to the Haggadah text.

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