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.
February 19, 2014
by Nathan Rosen
This excellent collection consists of fifty-two insightful essays addressing the various experiences and issues faced by women mourners who recite Kaddish. The book is very helpful and thought provoking for individual mourners and for the Jewish community as a whole. The contributors come from a wide range of Jewish denominations, backgrounds, religious involvement and education. The writers share their viewpoints and reveal their courage in confronting difficult situations. All testify to the ways in which reciting Kaddish invoked deep spiritual and meaningful experiences. Several of the essays portray the warm presence of community support and solace and the establishment or affirmation of their involvement with Jewish communal life. For them, the recitation of Kaddish indeed served to sanctify God’s name. Others portray synagogues and minyanim where the opposite occurred. At a time where community is most needed, the mourners were set adrift and even faced outright hostility and ostracism. There, the communal response reflected a lack of respect for the dead, the wounding of the mourner and a desecration of God’s name.
This book is well worth purchasing and reading. The essays reflect individual and common experiences and issues that may be unique to women or may be shared by all mourners. Readers will find that many essays speak directly to them on many levels.
This review first appeared in AJL Reviews
October 2, 2013
by Nira G. Wolfe
“For as his name is, so is he” (1 Samuel 25:25): Passages follows meticulously the fifty-four weekly biblical parashot. Rabbi Michael Hattin presents his summary of the various texts by naming each parasha with a new descriptive title. He then leads the reader to a deeper and more profound understanding of the parasha. What is particularly notable is that the reader can beneficially implement what he learns from this book into his daily life.
Rabbi Hattin describes his technique clearly in his introduction. Each parasha starts with a synopsis, followed by the discussion of important topics and concludes with suggestions for further study. An outline of a specific parasha will illustrate Hattin’s method: 1. “Vayera” (Genesis 18:1-22:24); Avimelech’s Pledge: synopsis; The Theme of the Parasha and the Episode of the Akeda; The visit of Avimelech; The Elements of the Encounter; The Interpretation of the Rashbam; The Theme of Covenant; God’s Pledge to Avraham; Reevaluating the Episode of the Akeda; For Further Study. A list of “The Rishonim: 11th – 16th Centuries” concludes the volume.
Passages utilizes a unique format Read the rest of this entry »
September 29, 2013
by Nira G. Wolfe
Rabbi Yasgur’s Torah Conversations adds light and a human face to the much admired biblical teacher Nechama Leibowitz (1905-1997). Yasgur, who has been Leibowitz’s student since 1972, has maintained a relationship with his teacher via personal correspondence, phone calls and visits. Professor Leibowitz has never left Israel since her arrival in 1930.
Rabbi Yasgur presents biblical discussions like “The Rule of Distant Past” (Avar Rahok), “Jacob’s Masquerade,” “The Arrival and Return of Jethro,” as well as contemporary religious-observant issues. One of the latter is the interesting “Psak from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach” regarding interaction with drivers on Shabbat. Professor Leibowitz writes in Hebrew and biblical quotations are in Hebrew. The Hebrew texts are supplied with parallel translations into English. Rabbi Yasgur acquaints the readers with Professor Leibowitz’s interactive “Pedagogic Principles,” as well as “Nechama’s Self-Defined Contribution to Torah Learning.” The reader is able to investigate, in English, “A Classic Example: A Gilayon from Nechama Leibowitz on the Binding of Isaac.”
Yasgur and Leibowitz discuss teaching Humash in the Diaspora, and “Living in the Diaspora vs. Israel.” The book will interest all teachers and students of the Bible. It should be a part of Jewish High Schools, Yeshivot, Synagogues and academic libraries. Updates and revisions to the volume may be found at: http://www.ConversationswithNechama.com.
This review originally appeared in the AJL Newsletter.
May 23, 2013
From AJL Reviews:
The catchy, somewhat misleading, title draws you into the journey of a woman who at forty years old discovered the beauty of Judaism at her local Chabad house in Montreal, Canada. The first section of the book describes her“Journey to Observance” with some very personal details and descriptions of Jewish holidays. In “Lessons in Life and Death,” the second section, Tansky shares her feelings about prayer and death. The third part of the book chronicles travels to Chabad houses in Victoria, British Columbia; Sacramento, Alaska, Russia, Munich and outside of Durban, South Africa and offers praise for all the emissaries stationed in remote locations. She also details a trip to Israel. The last two sections, “The Rebbe’s Reach” and “Ripples” are short reflections. A glossary is included.
December 30, 2012
by Daniel Scheide
Rabbi Shamah is a pulpit rabbi, day school principal and founder of the Sephardic Institute. This Torah commentary incorporates archeological and literary evidence of the ancient Near East along with traditional rabbinic texts in an effort to uncover the peshat (plain sense) of the Bible. Also included are essays on Ruth, Esther and Jonah as well as a bibliography, glossary and in-depth indices. A welcome addition to synagogue and school libraries of all denominations.
This review first appeared in the AJL newsletter.