Insights from the Rabbi Who Wrote the Book on ‘Open Orthodoxy’

October 22, 2019

Jonathan Kirsch ● Jewish Journal

“Orthodoxy” with a capital “O” is a misunderstood and misused word in Judaism. Modern Orthodoxy is used to identify the mainstream of strictly observant Judaism, of course, but “ultra-Orthodox” is an adjective that is applied to the Charedi, Chasidic and Yeshivish movements in Judaism, each of which is distinct from the others. 

So, where does “Open Orthodoxy” fit into the Jewish world?

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Review: Living in the Presence

September 26, 2019

Harvey Sukenic, Hebrew College Library, Newton Centre, MA ● AJL News and Reviews

Benjamin Epstein, a Jerusalem-based psychologist and rabbi, argues that Jewish mindfulness is both a traditional Jewish practice and essential to our spiritual life and growth. He sees mindfulness, termed yishuv hada’at, as not mere tranquility or peace of mind, but rather “settling into (unifying with) present moment awareness.” For Epstein, yishuv hada’at is a fundamental way of looking at life, indispensable for our basic spiritual life and growth. This state of mindfulness, he posits, can be achieved by anyone with practice and work. Living in the present moment is key to connecting to the Divine. We can be aware of the Divine in everyday life, and in our religious life, but to achieve this, we need a change of attitude; we need to let things be as they are, to slow down, be in the moment, to explore and control our thoughts.

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#MindfulMondays

September 16, 2019

Join the workshop taking place at Brooklyn College on Monday nights!


New and Forthcoming Titles

July 14, 2019

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.


Mem­o­ries of a Giant: Reflec­tions on Rab­bi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l

May 7, 2019

Yaakov (Jack) Bieler ● Jewish Book Council

Rab­bi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l, was the uni­ver­sal­ly acknowl­edged leader of Mod­ern Ortho­doxy dur­ing the lat­ter half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, when he served as Rosh Yeshi­va of Yeshi­va Uni­ver­si­ty, head of the Halacha (Law) Com­mit­tee of the Rab­bini­cal Coun­cil of Amer­i­ca, and spir­i­tu­al men­tor for the Mizrachi reli­gious Zion­ist orga­ni­za­tion. His pass­ing on April 8th, 1993 left a pro­found void for those who looked specif­i­cal­ly to him for bril­liant and orig­i­nal Torah insights and method­ol­o­gy, guid­ance in halachic (legal) and hashkaf­ic (thought) mat­ters that have arisen due to the mod­ern expe­ri­ence, and as an exem­plar of excel­lence in Juda­ic and sec­u­lar stud­ies and their interaction.

This vol­ume is a unre­vised reis­sue of the out-of-print col­lec­tion of forty-two eulo­gies offered by fam­i­ly mem­bers, for­mer stu­dents, and admir­ers, which was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 2003. While the eulo­gies con­tain inspir­ing per­son­al rec­ol­lec­tions, words of Torah, and mov­ing anec­dotes, one won­ders what those who first eulo­gized the Rav over twen­ty years ago may have want­ed to add to their memori­als for this incred­i­bly great man after the pass­ing of two decades.


Living in the Presence

May 2, 2019

Jack Mason ● Midwest Book Review

In “Living in the Presence: A Jewish Mindfulness Guide to Everyday Life”, Rabbi Epstein explains that living in the present has become a therapeutic cornerstone; that living in the presence transforms the technique into a life-changing experience.

With exquisite simplicity, straightforwardness, and heartfulness, ”Dr. Benjy” presents an approach culled from the teachings of the great Jewish spiritual masters that span thousands of years.

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