November 28, 2016
In the pages of “From Mourning to Morning: A Comprehensive Guide to Mourning, Grieving, and Bereavement”, Rabbi Simeon Schreiber (Senior Staff Chaplain at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida), translates his many years of experience and considerable expertise into a greater understanding of the emotions surrounding death, grieving, mourning, and bereavement in Judaism. From “Mourning to Morning” deftly presents these principles in a comprehensive format. Focusing on the Shiva, the seven day period of mourning in Judaism, Rabbi Schreiber explains the foundation of visiting a house of mourners, and suggests proper etiquette in conducting a visit. With sensitivity and expertise, Rabbi Schreiber provides unique and practical advise on how to cope with death, mourning, and the related issues that we all will inevitably face. Impressively well written, organized and presented, “From Mourning to Morning” is unreservedly recommended.
This review originally appeared on Midwest Book Review.
October 26, 2016
by Jack Riemer
Public figures are not allowed a private life. And so, when an oncologist has cancer, or when a politician has pneumonia, or when a rabbi becomes seriously ill, his battle has to be shared with his or her community. And sometimes, a certain suspicion takes place. How can he be a cancer doctor when he cannot protect himself from this diease? How can she be a leader when she herself has taken ill? How can he teach us how to live the way God wants us to when he himself has become seriously sick?
Rabbi Stuart G. Weinblatt understood this truth when he found out that he had cancer just when he was about to leave on a synagogue tour to Israel. Instead of trying to hide his illness, he wrote an e mail to the entire congregation, telling them what he was going through and promising to keep them informed. He went through his first chemotherapy and then left for Israel to catch up with the synagogue tour. And when he came back, he began preparing for a High Holy Days that he knew would be different, both for him and for his people, than any that they had ever experienced before.
The service was pretty much the same as usual, except for the fact that this year he could not shake hands or hug everyone as he went around behind the Torah for fear of catching anything while his immune system was weak, and except for the fact that when he announced the Prayer for the Sick and invited all those who had someone whom they cared about who was ill to rise for the prayer, the entire congregation rose in support for him.
The service may have been pretty much the same, but the sermon that day was different, because Rabbi Weinblatt spoke about what he was learning from the illness that he was struggling with. What he said that day was not very different from what he had said many times before, and from what every other rabbi has said on the High Holy Days, but this time his sermon had a note of urgency to it that made the obvious truths that he uttered feel powerfully true.
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July 29, 2015
By Rabbi Ari Enkin
Following the order of the “sefirot” that are a popular study during the Sefirat Ha’omer period, Journey Together is a guide for building and repairing relationships during the 49 days of the sefira count. Consistent with the themes of the individual sefirot, the primary attributes that are focused in the book are: loving kindness, strength/restraint, harmony/truth, endurance, humility, foundation/bonding, and leadership/nobility.
The book opens with a great introduction on the importance if counting the omer, and a primer about the concept of the sefirot. Each of the seven content-packed chapters opens with an explanation of what that week’s sefira emanation represents. For example, week one opens with a discussion of “chessed” and its ramifications on creation and the world. We then examine examples of the day’s sefira in the context of the Biblical figure who is associated with it, and then move on into the motivational stories. And so it is with each day’s sefira count
The book is overflowing with ideas and inspirational teachings, anecdotes, analogies, and stories to help us transform the days of sefira for better. There is an extremely refreshing blend of teachings from modern day rabbis, educators and inspirational speakers, such as Rebbetzin Jungreis, Rabbi Avraham Twerski, Rabbi J.B. Soloevitchik, Rabbi Akiva Tatz, Rabbi David Aaron, Rabbi Stewart Weiss, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, and many others. Read the rest of this entry »
June 4, 2015
By Ilka Gordon, AJL Reviews
Dr. Natan Ophir has written an extensive and scholarly biography of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (1925-1994). Ophir grew up on the west side of Manhattan not far from Rabbi Carlebach’s synagogue and therefore had a personal relationship with Reb Shlomo. Rabbi Carlebach fled Europe with his parents and twin brother in 1939. In America Carlebach studied in the Lakewood Yeshiva and later the family moved to Manhattan where he became a follower of Chabad. Under the direction of the sixth Lubavitch Rebbe, Carlebach was sent to college campuses to reach out to unaffiliated Jewish youth. He began composing and performing his original, and intensely moving compositions. His charismatic singing and playing mesmerized audiences. Rabbi Carlebach was the innovator and still most influential composer of Jewish music today. His songs are still sung all over the world and Carlebach synagogue services are very popular. In Dr. Ophir’s book we discover Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s life through the eyes of people whose lives were changed by his love of all humanity and his outreach to all people. Included in the book are copious footnotes, a timeline of his all too short life, an extensive bibliography, sites and Youtube videos where his music can be accessed, a discography in Hebrew and English and an index of all Carlebach songs. Recommended for the music and biography collection of all libraries.
January 22, 2015
By Tuly Wiesz
Though I have obviously never been pregnant myself, I have had the blessed opportunity of going through the miraculous process alongside my incredible wife four times in the last decade. For some expectant parents, it is the physical changes that are the focus of pregnancy – the nausea, the aches and pains, late night ice cream cravings and ah, those fun hormonal changes.
But for many righteous women, pregnancy is a precious opportunity for an enhanced spiritual connection with God, a topic beautifully elaborated upon by Chana Weisberg in the book Expecting Miracles: Finding Meaning and Spirituality in Pregnancy Through Judaism.
During her first two pregnancies, Weisberg found a lack of spiritual literature relating to pregnancy so she set out to fill the void with Expecting Miracles. Bursting with personal stories of Godly women who used their pregnancies as an opportunity to reflect, the book connects women to God and grow spiritually.
Weisberg shares the intimate details of her own spiritual journey from Indonesia to Jerusalem, from a secular life to a deeply religious one. However, the book focuses on interviews with 24 mothers living in Jerusalem. These women include mothers, midwives and educators – each with their own personal experience and take-home message.
As one expecting mother put it, “I felt very fulfilled during pregnancy. Even if I wasn’t doing anything else in the world, just walking around with this baby inside of me gave me a lot of confidence. I felt full of self-worth.”
Expecting Miracles is arranged by topic and deals with many big issues that couples face during pregnancy including the work-life balance, birth control, family planning, large families and prenatal screening. Read the rest of this entry »
March 4, 2013
Rabbi Jeffrey Saks talks with Michael Haruni, developer, translator and photographer of the new Siddur Nehalel about his conception for the integration of text and image to create a tool for kavvana.
Click here for the full MP3.
February 24, 2013
by Zvi Grumet
When the Nevarech bencher first appeared in 1999, it attracted attention. The notion of integrating full-page color photographs with the text of birkat hamazon caught people’s eyes. The beauty of the photographs, and he fact that they brought images of Eretz Yisrael into the birkat hamazon (perhaps redirecting the attention of that prayer to al ha-aretz hatovah), was, to many, irresistible.
As the common saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Since 1999, a number of other photographically rich birkhonim have hit the market, including the Toby Birkon (by The Toby Press) and the Praise the Land of Israel Birkon (by Koren). At a recent wedding it became clear just how far the genre had penetrated the psyche, when the family of the groom put together their own, personalized, photographic birkhon which they distributed to their guests.
In 2011, Koren moved beyond the birkhon, publishing the Koren Shabbat Evening Siddur. This slim volume is built on the foundations of the Koren Sacks Siddur, with the elegant translation and commentary of Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. It adds comments from a number of younger rabbinical figures as well as an entire section it calls “Limmud Shabbat.” The innovation here is not so much in the selection of texts, most of which already appear in many siddurim (KeGavna, from the Sefardic tradition, Bameh Madlikin, from the Ashkenazic tradition, and Shir Hashirim, often recited by Oriental Jews), but in their classification as texts to study rather than to recite. This presentation is not only true to the origins of those texts in the siddur, but is probably linked to the siddur’s target audience: traditional and progressive minyanim in many contexts, from standard denominational to experimental services, from community service to Birthright trips, from classroom settings to weekend retreats (from promotional materials provided by the publisher).
Although the text of this siddur is clearly Orthodox, it seems to be designed for an audience seeking not to discharge of their religious obligation on Friday night but to Read the rest of this entry »