Fascinating and persuasive conjectures about one of the Bible’s most famous men

August 17, 2020

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.


I Am For My Beloved – Podcast Interview

July 29, 2020

Talli Rosenbaum on love and marriage and the joys and challenges of intimacy.

“Sex is not something you ‘have’ but rather an expression of an intimate and erotic energy that a couple mutually shares.” This quote, from the recently released book, I Am For My Beloved: A Guide to Enhanced Intimacy for Married Couples by co-authors Talli Rosenbaum and David Ribner, reflects the theme that a passionate marriage is about cultivating a loving, emotionally intimate relationship.

In this episode of Intimate Judaism, Rabbi Scott Kahn interviews co-host Talli Rosenbaum, and her co-author Dr. David Ribner about the book, which helps couples improve both their emotional and physical intimate lives. Join Rabbi Scott, David, and Talli, as they discuss the challenges of writing a book about sex for Orthodox Jewish couples, the topics they chose, and the book’s relevance for Jewish couples, regardless of their background. 

Finally, listen here as Talli and David offer suggestions for sustaining passion in a long term, monogamous marriage.


I Am For My Beloved – new review

July 28, 2020

Rabbi Simcha Feuerman ● NEFESH The International Network
of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals

Imagine one day, on the eve of the Pesach Seder, Eliyahu HaNavi issued a special hora’at Sha’ah, commanding all the Jews to eat a Ham and Cheese sandwich while reclining at the Seder instead of the usual Matzah and Maror.  Even the most devout believers would have great difficulty fulfilling this unusual directive without choking on their food. This is what marital intimacy can be like for a newlywed religious couple. All of the sudden, that which is taboo, is now permitted and even an obligation!

Read the rest of this entry »

On Jewish Mindfulness, Corona and Life in General

July 21, 2020

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 »

Can Orthodox Judaism have female rabbis?

July 20, 2020

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 »

May a woman be a leader in the Orthodox Jewish community?

July 19, 2020

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 »

I Am For My Beloved: “Presenting once-taboo subjects to the religious community in a clear way”

July 13, 2020

Stephen G. Donshik ● Jerusalem Post

I Am for My Beloved, which focuses on married couples within the religiously observant community, is a book that is larger than itself. David Ribner and Talli Rosenbaum have found a way to discuss subjects that were once taboo and present them in a clear, direct and sensitive way to couples of all ages and religious orientations who want to enhance their intimate sexual relationships. 

The authors of I Am for My Beloved make a wonderful contribution to the literature on the meaning of the sexual relationship in marriage. They begin with a discussion of the meaning of intimacy and how it is understood within the marriage relationship. They also suggest ways to achieve intimacy in the context of a healthy sexual relationship.

Visit the Jerusalem Post website to read the rest of the article.


New Cookbooks Spark Kitchen Creativity

March 25, 2020

Sandy Eller ● Jewish Press

Who’s ready to shake things up? Stuck as we are in the final stretch of winter when things are still gray and gloomy, there’s nothing like contemplating some new culinary frontiers to chase the cold and the darkness away.

If your childhood was anything like mine, the phrase “waste not want not” was uttered on many an occasion, and was most often applied to food. Taking that concept into the kitchen, Yaffa Fruchter uses those very words as the title of her new cookbook, with 120 recipes that repurpose leftovers into foods that will hopefully have everyone at your table excited. In her introduction, Fruchter describes Waste Not Want Not as more of a cooking course, challenging home chefs to channel their creativity and find ways to use the odds and ends already lurking in their fridges, freezers and pantries and turn them into delicious goodies instead of just chucking in the trash.

Given the subject matter, it seems appropriate for this cookbook to open with a chapter on food safety since giving your family food poisoning by feeding them spoiled ingredients is definitely something to be avoided. Among her suggestions are avoiding anything that looks, smells or tastes off, marking dates on all leftovers, storing things in airtight containers, using extra caution when it comes to anything made with fish, meat or eggs and throwing out any questionable food items. Having gotten that bit of business out of the way, the sky is the limit in Waste Not Want Not, where the vegetables used to flavor your chicken soup are transformed into patties, kugels, veggies loaves and tzimmes, in addition to being used as the base for other soups. Have extra chicken that didn’t get eaten over Shabbos? Try turning it into blintzes, bourekas, shawarma, a fleishig pizza or even chicken sushi. I confess that I think my family would disown me if I tried the recipe for a chummus-like dish made out of pureed, leftover cholent and topped with fried onions, although I can’t see anyone objecting if I followed the recipe for gazpacho made with day old Israeli salad.

I have resurrected leftover challah by slathering it with garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil and making it into garlic bread on many an occasion and Fruchter also suggests turning it into bread crumbs, croutons or soaking it and squeezing it out for use in hamburgers, chopped liver and stuffing. And should you ever find yourself with too much cake on hand, Waste Not Want Not includes it as an ingredient in baked Alaska, cake pops, rum balls and that simcha favorite, trifle. Fruchter also peppers her book with practical advice, like rotating items in your pantry to use them before they expire, keeping spices in the freezer to maintain freshness and tips on salvaging burned items, doing her best to keep food waste to a bare minimum.


Was Yosef on the Spectrum

March 24, 2020

Professor Majia Nadesan ● Canadian Journal of Disability Studies

What is autism? Although autism is ultimately a diagnostic category, people who exhibit symptoms we now label as autistic are not restricted to the modern era (see e.g. Houston & Frith, 2000). Detailed historical analyses of the concept of autism have described a constellation of symptoms that were formally delineated and medicalized in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but pre-existed contemporary nosologies (e.g. Hacking, 2009; Nadesan, 2005; Waltz, 2013).

People experienced as “different” in their communication and social pragmatics have troubled normative expectations across recorded history. Samuel Levine’s Was Yosef on the Spectrum: Understanding Joseph Through Tora, Midrash, and Classical Jewish Sources argues that Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel from the Book of Genesis, was possibly autistic. Diagnosing people retrospectively as autistic raises complex “hermeneutic” or interpretive questions, including the possibility that our selective readings and attributions of recorded histories reveal more about our current concerns than past realities. Yet, while acknowledging this post-modern possibility of non-retrievable origins, the hermeneutic tradition offers a dialogic framework for understanding the mingling of the past and the present using the idea of a textual fusions of horizons (Gadamer, 2011). Roughly, the hermeneutic tradition holds that each reading of a historical text links the past and present, with the potential for a better understanding of the (“intersubjective” or social) self and its project forward. It is in the spirit of this hermeneutics that Levine’s text finds contemporary relevance.

Read the rest of this entry »

Food for Thought

March 18, 2020

Haim A. Gottschalk, Olney, MD ● AJL News and Reviews

From Forbidden Fruit to Milk and Honey: A Commentary on Food in the Torah is a collection of short essays on each individual Bible parashah (passage of scripture). Biblical scholar Diana Lipton assembled a diverse group of Jewish scholars, divided evenly between men and women. Each scholar wrote a short essay, one scholar per parashah (with one exception) about food, and Lipton follows up with a verse by verse commentary on issues that the essays did not cover. Lipton also explains in the introduction that the book does not address what the ancient Israelites ate, sacrifices being discussed, nor kashrut.

The work is not a cookbook. What the work does and does well is give a derash (interpretation) through the prism of food for each parashah (excluding double parashiyot and holidays). The scholars certainly give you plenty of food for thought.

This book is a welcome addition to any library, especially a synagogue library and recommended to those who are looking for something different to grace their Shabbat table.