Life-changing work: Rabbi Leo Dee’s new book explains how the Torah can bring happiness to all

May 18, 2016

By Miriam Kates Lock transforming web001

When Leo Dee was a rabbi in a small village n the British county of Hertfordshire, he organized a question-and-answer session on one Yom Kippur afternoon. More than 400 Jews of all ages sat before him, and one young man – a science student at a British university – raised his hand to ask a question.

“Rabbi, isn’t the Torah just an ancient text that is out-of-date and irrelevant in our modern age?” he asked.

It was the most basic of all questions a rabbi could be asked.

Transforming the World is Dee’s answer.

Why is the Torah still relevant after thousands of years? What does the Torah offer to contemporary Jews living in today’s word? In Transforming the World Dee begins not with a discussion of history or faith, but instead with a reflection on the subject of happiness – what happiness means to people and the line between happiness and Judaism.

Transforming the World is not a scholarly volume intended for Jews with an extensive background in Jewish law and Jewish study. Instead, it is a straightforward book that addresses Jews who want to know what Judaism has to offer them personally. In today’s atmosphere of self-disclosure and openness, the pursuit of happiness is a subject examined and discussed frequently in the media, literature and popular culture. Dee presents Judaism in this novel way in order to bring his main point across to his readers: Judaism is worth investigating and absolutely has something to offer the modern Jew.

The rest of the review can be found in the Jerusalem Post Magazine.

 


In Tribute to Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

April 22, 2015

Religion, I was otherwise taught, stems from the most sophisticated and complicated thinking. It probes the most difficult quandaries of human existence, metaphysical presence and purpose, identity, and spiritual makeup. It seeks to bridge ancient devotions with contemporary sensibilities. It seeks to embrace both the particularistic and humanistic aspects of nationality. It aims to authenticate and guide our creativity and drive for success in all fields of human endeavor. It is more relevant and needed than ever in the modern age.

I learned much of this complex approach to religious thinking from Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein, dean of the multi-faceted and magnificent Har Etzion hesder yeshiva in Gush Etzion. Last Friday, I was privileged to join more than 1,500 of Rabbi Lichtenstein’s students and alumni in a Torah conference marking his 80th birthday.

Since moving to Israel from America more than forty years ago, Rabbi Lichtenstein has taught the highest-level Talmud, halacha and philosophy to his tens of thousands of students. He did so while simultaneously validating their service in the IDF as a religious obligation and their subsequent pursuits of university education as a natural outgrowth of their religious personalities. Himself a former professor of English literature, he has taught that intellectual openness is a hallmark of true Orthodoxy, alongside single-minded devotion to Torah study and adherence to halachic boundaries and values.
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Reinvigorating The Study Of Tanach

December 18, 2014

By Rabbi Yitzchak EtshalomTanakhAnOwnersManualWeb1

The Tanach is that Book of Books which we claim as our legacy to the world. For multiple reasons, the in-depth study of the 24 books of Torah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim had been effectively removed from the Jewish curriculum for the past several hundred years. Thankfully, the rigorous and creative disciplines associated with the mastery of these Divine treasures have been revived in the last two generations.

The New School of Orthodox Tanach study owes much of its energy and direction to the pioneering work of R. Mordechai Breuer, zt”l, and to his many students in Israel and abroad. These teachers have incorporated many of the disciplines developed in the world of academia to enhance and deepen our understanding of Tanach.

This school is not really new. Teachers from Bar-Ilan University and Yeshivat Har Etzion – to name two of the proving grounds of in-depth Tanach study – utilize traditional sources, such as Talmud and Midrash, to bring their new observations to light.

The exciting and explosive growth of serious Tanach study can easily be seen every summer, where close to 10,000 students attend a five-day Bible seminar at the Herzog College in Alon Shvut. This yearly event, in its third decade, has grown from a two-day gathering of fewer than a 100 students. The lecturers are, to a one, enthusiastic in shedding new light on ancient texts through the introduction of archeology, literary theory, ancient new eastern texts and much more – and that enthusiasm is contagious as the many thousands of attendees will attest.
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The Carlebach Bootlegs

March 7, 2012

by Jonathan Mark

Thousands of hours of audiotapes yield mystical insights from the scholarly side of Reb Shlomo, as well as 300 lost songs.

After Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s passing in 1994, “Carlebach minyans” have blossomed around the world, driven by the fact that anyone can sing (and daven) along with the music famously recorded by him. But if the music lives on, Reb Shlomo’s Torah teachings have suffered a more elusive afterlife. Singing along is one thing, but how can one study along with, or even find, his unrecorded, unpublished teachings that were often casually spoken in situations as ephemeral as they were enchanted?

“The good news is that Reb Shlomo was, by far, the most bootlegged Jewish artist of all,” says Shlomo Katz, director and editor of the recently created Shlomo Carlebach Legacy Trust. “He was recorded everywhere, constantly — concerts, classes, conversations. It became clear,” says Katz, a musician and teacher in his own right, “that we had to form a central place to house everything, not just for archival purposes but for disseminating and publishing, and for the kovod [honor] of Reb Shlomo.” It’s something that Katz, who at 31 never met Reb Shlomo, has been working on informally and now professionally for several years.

Reb Shlomo’s teachings were mostly unstructured, jazz-like expositions ranging from the Zohar to stories of Moishele the Water Carrier, to the Holy Thieves, improvised without notes, and differing — depending on his evolving scholarship and consciousness — from one session to the next. In his endless travels, he would often take at least two suitcases, one for clothes, one for a portable library — volumes of Ishbitz, Rav Kook, Reb Nachman — a moveable feast that fueled his teachings at the next port of call.

The trust, a project administered by the Carlebach family, has collected some 21,000 hours of Reb Shlomo bootlegs — mostly audiotapes, with about 1,000 hours of video — according to the trust’s website. More than 95 percent of these tapes have yet to be transcribed and processed, says Katz, who is editing the tapes from his home in Neve Daniel, Israel.

The gathering and transcribing of tapes began, in fits and starts, even before Reb Shlomo’s death in 1994. However, the coordination of the project under the trust, based in Jerusalem, began in 2009, says Katz, who is being assisted by about a half-dozen people working on the tapes in various locations.

The tapes have already yielded nearly Read the rest of this entry »