AJL Review of Reading the Sacred Text

by Ilka Gordon, Beachwood, OH

ReadingtheSacredText web1Reading the Sacred Text provides a short overview of the Five Books of Moses. The book’s purpose as stated by the author is, “a serious reading based on the proposition that the Torah says what it means and means what it says.” Well written and easy for anyone somewhat familiar with the Torah’s content to understand, Lichtenstein discusses only the plain and literal meaning of the text. Each sacred book is treated as a unique literary unit with a distinct beginning and ending. Reading the Sacred Text is recommended for all libraries because it is unique in its literal interpretation of Biblical text and it is extremely interesting and enjoyable to read.

This review appeared in the AJL Reviews February/March 2016 issue.



AJL Review of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values

By Beverly Geller, The Frisch School, Paramus, NJ


Knowing how often the teachers in my school request Rabbi Nachum Amsel’s The Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues, I was eager to see his new volume. It does not disappoint. This book is an extremely valuable reference work for learning the Jewish view on numerous topics, including some for which I was not even aware there was a Jewish view (i.e. self-esteem in Judaism). It provides a source for in-depth essays on classic moral and ethical issues, such as anger, jealousy and revenge, as well as other important topics that confront our generation, such as cloning, stem cells, the ethics of downloading films and songs, and many others. Rabbi Amsel includes over two hundred pages of source material, Biblical and Talmudic selections quotes from works of Jewish philosophy, so that the reader can follow up on the essay. This volume is highly recommended.

This review appeared in the AJL Reviews February/March 2016 issue.


AJL Review of The Mystery of the Milton Manuscript

By Barbara M. BibelMilton

Keith Jessup, a graduate student at Oxford, is working on a PhD in English literature. He is studying John Milton. His professor, Thornton Livingston, is one of the foremost authorities on Milton and his masterpiece, Paradise Lost. When Professor Livingston fails to appear at a lecture that he was to deliver at Cambridge, Keith is worried. When the police discover the professor’s body in a ravine near his car, Keith is sure that the death was not accidental. The professor was about to present his findings about a newly discovered manuscript offering Milton’s interpretation of the poem. Further investigations reveal that Livingston’s home had been ransacked and his lecture notes are missing. Keith is determined to carry on the professor’s work, but he soon finds that the research will endanger his life. It seems that Milton’s theology is based on Jewish law as well as the New Testament, and some scholars do not want this information revealed. The author, a dentist who also writes plays and lyrics, has done a great deal of research on Milton to create this literary mystery. He provides references and a discussion guide for reading groups. This book will appeal to readers who enjoy historical mysteries and English literature. Fans of The Da Vinci Code will be pleased to discover something that is well written. There is plenty of material for book clubs to discuss as well.

This review appeared in the AJL Reviews September/October 2015 issue.

AJL Review of Kosher Movies

By Debbie Federkosher movies web2

A combination of movie summaries and Divrei Torah (words of Torah), this book is a lot of fun for anyone who enjoys movies and relates to Jewish principles. Connecting movies with Torah elements, Rabbi Herbert Cohen, PhD, presents a unique blend of a lifetime of movie going with Jewish learning. Cohen’s own academic background is eclectic and rich and this aides him in linking the world of movies to the world of Torah. There is a lovely anecdote in the early part of the book about the first time Rabbi Cohen heard Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik at YU, which helps the reader to understand his life and influences. The book is divided into topic areas, which include parenting, improving yourself, growing older, adversity, relationships, sports, decisions, second chances, time, and ethics. The movies referenced include a wonderful blend of old classics and new bolder titles (e.g., Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Rocky, 127 hours, the Hurt Locker, and Inception, to name a few). An index of movie titles is provided in the back of the book.

This book is well done, and each entry is fairly short making for a quick read. The book can be used in many ways by different groups of people. While Herbert Cohen is an Orthodox rabbi, readers will find his entries quite universal and palatable.

This review appeared in the AJL Reviews September/October 2015 issue.



Review of Journey Together: 49 Steps to Transforming a Family

By Daniel D. Stuhlman, AJL ReviewsJourney Together: 49 Steps to Transforming a Family

“…this book connects seven sefirot of Kabbalah to the 49 days of counting the omer. Each one of the weeks has one of these concepts as a base and each day is paired with each of the other concepts. For example Chesed (loving kindness) is the base for week one. Pairing gevurah (strength/discipline) with chesed recognizes that for health and growth there are times when love is restrained by discipline. The author gives examples and wisdom from the Bible, rabbinic literature and contemporary sources. Then the author connects these ideas to advice for family relationships. Each chapter ends with questions for further discussion and thought.

This book made me think about kindness, strength, truth, eternity, humility, bonding, and leadership and how combinations of these concepts temper and reinforce each other.”

AJL Reviews