Title: Moadei HaRav: Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
Author: Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick
Publisher: Urim Publications
There is no need to state in these pages that Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik was one of the greatest Talmudists of the past few hundred years. But for English readers, there has long been a dearth of books in English that captured the depth and breadth of R’ Soloveitchik’s Talmudic genius.
In Moadei HaRav: Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick has written a fabulous work, based on his notes from the Rav’s shiurim. Rabbi Pick is a former student of the Rav, who now teaches Talmud and Maimonidean thought at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and brilliantly captures the Rav’s ideas in these lectures.
The book begins with an introduction to Rav Soloveitchik’s methodology of Torah study. Rabbi Pick then writes 17 chapters on various Talmudic issues. For me, the most startling point in the introduction is that while the Rav, who studied in Berlin and was familiar with the methodologies of academic Talmud research, was fundamentally opposed to it. Rabbi Pick writes that the Rav felt that way as he thought academic Talmud both focuses on insignificant matters, and puts too much significance on the consequence of socio-historical or psychological processes.
The Rambam, in his opening chapter to the laws of tefillah (Hilchot Tefillah 1:1), states the following: “It is a positive command to pray every day, as it states in Exodus 23:25: ‘Va’avadetem eit Hashem Elokeichem… – You shall serve Hashem your G-d…’ ” We have learned, as transmitted by tradition, that this avodah is prayer, as it states in Deuteronomy 11:13: “U’le’avdo b’chol levavchem… – to serve Him with all your heart…” Our sages (Ta’anit 2a) offer this explanation: “What is [meant by] service of the heart? This is prayer. And the number of [daily] prayers is not Biblically commanded, nor is their form [text]. And [lastly] prayer has no Biblically-set time.”
Rambam sets forth no less than 15 chapters specifically devoted to the topic of prayer. He includes its laws in numerous other chapters in his magnum opus work, the Yad Hachazakah. The Tur, the Mechaber and the Rema devote no less than 45 simanim to this topic. Notwithstanding, many of our present day practices will not be found in their works. Yet, as these are ingrained in our prayer service, we question why and where. That is, many of these practices seem to have no reason and no obvious source.
Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen is an erudite scholar and long-serving pulpit rabbi in numerous positions in the U.S. and Australia, a prolific author of seven books on halacha, and a longtime halacha columnist for The Jewish Press. He set about to resolve these dilemmas with the publication of his most recent work, Jewish Prayer: The Right Way, Resolving Halachic Dilemmas.
Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality introduces the English-speaking public to the scope of rabbinic authority in general and the workings of the institution of the beit din in particular. In this work, published by Urim Publications, Rabbi A. Yehuda Warburg presents ten rulings in cases of Jewish family law and civil law which he handed down as a member of a beit din panel. In each decision, the author offers a rendition of the facts of the case, followed by claims of the tovea (plaintiff), the reply of the nitva (defendant) and any counterclaims. Subsequently, there is a discussion of the halachic issues emerging from the parties’ respective claims and counterclaims, followed by a decision rendered by the beit din panel. To preserve the confidentiality of the parties involved in these cases, all names have been changed, and some facts have been changed and/or deleted.
These decisions touch on issues of employment termination, tenure rights and severance pay, rabbinic contracts, self-dealing in the not-for-profit boardroom, real estate brokerage commission, drafting a will, a revocable living trust agreement, the division of marital assets upon divorce, spousal abuse and a father’s duty to support his estranged children.
I was recently invited to review A Neuropsychologist’s Journal: Interventions and “Judi-isms.” Normally this wouldn’t take me long as I would get the gist of the book by quickly skimming through it. Instead I found myself engrossed in reading this book word by word, cover to cover. The short chapters had me hungrily turning the 459 pages for more, and at times, I just could not put it down.
Now, I must admit, I am acquainted with Dr. Guedalia’s work as we are professional colleagues and I have heard her speak on numerous occasions, and, as I read her book I could almost feel her presence because her writing style manages to capture the essence of who she is, both as a person and a professional. This makes the book enjoyable for both the professional and lay reader alike.
Dr. Guedalia, in describing the American psychiatrist Milton H. Erickson’s approach (p. 83) captures her own style as well: “For [Milton] Erikson, the unconscious mind was creative, solution-generating, and often positive. But more than anything else, his ability to ‘utilize’ anything about a patient to help them change, including their beliefs, favorite words, cultural background, personal history, or even their neurotic habits, fit with my ideas of the goals of therapy: to help my patients solve problems, achieve goals, and change their behavior.” This is what she shows us in this book.
Dr. Guedalia wears many hats. The head of neuropsychology at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, she brings us into her life – whether as a member of the hospital’s emergency response team, while conversing with Chaim K (a respirator dependent quadriplegic man who co-authors her column for The Jewish Press), winning an award, or as an eshet chayil around her Shabbat table.
Dr. Deena Zimmerman is an equally appropriate author for “Midor l’Dor – Genetics and Genetic Diseases: Jewish Legal and Ethical Perspectives.” The Hebrew words mean “from generation to generation.”
She earned her BA at Yale and MD at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In the program of advanced Torah study for Women at Nishmat in Jerusalem, she earned the title yo’etzet halacha, female halachic advisor who answers women’s questions about the mitzvah of family purity. She wrote A Lifetime Companion to the Laws of Jewish Family Life (2005), a clear halachic and scientific presentation of the mitzvah. In Israel she works at TEREM Emergency Medical Services. She and her husband are the parents of three boys and two girls.
Dr. Zimmerman begins with an organized, cogent, short course in genetics so that a layperson can understand what the field is about. It’s helpful to study this opening section; when she notes in a later chapter that a disease is “inherited in an autosomal recessive manner,” you will understand. The mother and the father each carried a recessive gene for the illness and were unaware that there was a 25 percent chance that their baby would have the disease. It is understandable that they are shocked.
When you learn that many genetic problems are the result of carriers marrying each other, and see in which areas of Jewish settlement – Lithuania or Morocco, for example – there is a greater likelihood of being a carrier of a problematic gene (say 1:10 instead of 1:500), you have a good argument for marrying a spouse with an ancestry different from your own.