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Jewish Thought

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  • Contemporary Orthodox Judaism’s Response to Modernity - Softcover

    Barry Freundel

    In a clear, concise manner Rabbi Freundel reviews Orthodox Jewish views on 31 basic issues from Abortion, Afterlife, Messianism, Miracles, Prophecy, Drugs, Evolution, Sex, Gentiles and more. He does more than register views, he guides the reader to a deeper understanding of the Jewish approach to basic philosophical and religious issues.
    Freundel, who counts former presidential candidate Joe Lieberman among his Washington, D.C., congregants, invites readers, Jewish and non-Jewish, to gain a better understanding of Jewish law, tradition and belief in his succinct but thorough analyses of 31 different topics crucial to Orthodox Judaism, such as teshuvah (repentance), Israel, prayer and Shabbat and Kashrut. Each chapter summarizes the central sources upon which the Halakhah (Jewish law) is based in clear, understandable terms and explains the development of the tradition as well as its practical application in today's world. Additionally, Freundel provides all the relevant Orthodox opinions on the matter, including those that he or the law ultimately rejects, and elucidates how and why Jewish law maintains its ancient positions even as modernity infringes on them. He does not shy away from or gloss over sensitive or controversial issues; instead he seems eager to take them on and debunk popular myths, including the widespread notions that Judaism considers women inferior and that Jews do not believe in an afterlife. Even though most chapters number only a few pages, his essays are accurate, entirely to the point, easy to finish without losing interest and convenient to pick up or put down at any time. Freundel's evident mastery of the vast breadth of materials within Jewish thought and law combined with his eloquent and cogent writing makes for an exceptionally worthwhile, inspirational and instructive work that no informed person should be without.
    Praise for Contemporary Orthodox Judaism's Response to Modernity
    Freundel, who counts former presidential candidate Joe Lieberman among his Washington, D.C., congregants, invites readers, Jewish and non-Jewish, to gain a better understanding of Jewish law, tradition and belief in his succinct but thorough analyses of 31 different topics crucial to Orthodox Judaism, such as teshuvah (repentance), Israel, prayer and Shabbat and Kashrut. Each chapter summarizes the central sources upon which the Halakhah (Jewish law) is based in clear, understandable terms and explains the development of the tradition as well as its practical application in today?s world. Additionally, Freundel provides all the relevant Orthodox opinions on the matter, including those that he or the law ultimately rejects, and elucidates how and why Jewish law maintains its ancient positions even as modernity infringes on them. He does not shy away from or gloss over sensitive or controversial issues; instead he seems eager to take them on and debunk popular myths, including the widespread notions that Judaism considers women inferior and that Jews do not believe in an afterlife. Even though most chapters number only a few pages, his essays are accurate, entirely to the point, easy to finish without losing interest and convenient to pick up or put down at any time. Freundel?s evident mastery of the vast breadth of materials within Jewish thought and law combined with his eloquent and cogent writing makes for an exceptionally worthwhile, inspirational and instructive work that no informed person should be without.
    ~ Publishers Weekly Learn More
  • Major Themes in Modern Philosophies of Judaism

    Eliezer Berkovits

    Major Themes in Modern
    Philosophies of Judaism
    Eliezer Berkovits
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  • A Philosophy of Mitzvot

    Gersion Appel

    What divine purpose do the Mitzvot, the Biblical commandments, serve? What moral and spiritual goals do the Mitzvot envision? The Sefer ha-Hinnukh, one of the principal works in Jewish ethical and Halakhic literature, is a primary source for ta'amei ha-mitzvot, the reasons and purpose of the divine commandments in the Torah. A Philosophy of Mitzvot by Rabbi Dr. Gersion Appel sets forth the Hinnukh's objectives and his approach to revealing the religious and ethical meaning of the mitzvot. Learn More
  • The Religious Thought of Hasidism

    Norman Lamm

    "The academic study of Hasidism has in comparatively recent years begun to take seriously the primary sources of the movement, especially the books, essays, and other literature of its major exponents. Much like the popular views of Hasidism-which both romanticized and demonized it beyond recognition, identifying it with the 'shtetl' experience which it either glamorized or scorned - too many students of religion have fallen prey to reductionist tendencies.... Whatever their views, too many have failed to appreciate the intellectual power ad theological importance of the leaders of the movement over the last two centuries and more. These have been overlooked partly because of the reductionist inclination mentioned above and part because of a language problem: some hasidic thinkers created their own vocabulary; others were regrettably inarticulate; while others delivered their discourses orally....""""
    ~ From the Preface to The Religious Thought of Hasidism
    Praise for The Religious Thought of Hasidism
    Lamm... offers a monumental and magisterial history of Hasidism. When it emerged in the 18th century under the leadership of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (usually referred to as the Besht), Hasidism combined the mystical elements of Kabbalah with scrupulous observance of Torah and halakah. Because Hasidism was a strongly messianic movement, many critics accused it of not taking seriously enough halakic regulations concerning prayer and worship. Lamm's invaluable collection of primary documents narrates Hasidism's theological development. Each of the book's 18 chapters focuses on intellectual topics ranging from """"God and Providence"""" and """"The Soul"""" to """"Evil and Suffering"""" and """"Exile and Redemption."""" Lamm introduces each chapter with a brief historical and theological essay, then gathers the writings of various Hasidic teachers, from the 18th to the 20th centuries, on these topics. For example, the section on the soul opens with reflections on the """"ten sefirot of the Jewish soul,"""" by Rabbi Shneur Zalman (1745–1813), and includes a meditation on the soul by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (1772–1811), a grandson of the Besht, concluding with Rabbi Elimelekh of Lizhensk's (1717–1787) reflections on """"the soul as wife."""" Included here are also the writings of the Besht and his successor, the Maggid of Mezeritch (1710–1772), who continued his teacher's emphases on asceticism and mysticism. Lamm's collection opens the pages on a fascinating chapter in religious history and practice. Presents annotated translations of selected passages, arranged according to topic. Introductory sections provide an overview and a context for the material in each chapter, and a general introduction does the same for the volume as a whole. It sketches the historical background of the early Hasidic movement, charts its central ideas in their intellectual and historical context - the wider range of Jewish and mystical thought. Hasidic Thought is an encyclopedia of hasidic religious thought, covering all of the major topics and major hasidic thinkers of the first three generations.
    ~ Publishers Weekly
    This immense anthology of the wisdom of the Hasidic teachers and sages, with extended commentary and relevant scholarly material, is almost unprecedented as a resource in English, with the possible exception of Louis Newman's Hasidic Anthology (1934). Readers not already familiar with these teachings in Hebrew should benefit tremendously from this carefully annotated collection of advice on every subject, from the nature of the godhead to the body. Recommended for most collections.
    ~ Library Journal " Learn More
  • Between Rashi and Maimonides

    Ephraim Kanarfogel and Moshe Sokolow

    Using Rashi and Maimonides as intellectual templates, this volume seeks to examine aspects of their writings in particular, while others provide a
    broader comparative view between the rabbinic cultures of Ashkenaz and
    Sefarad. All the of the studies feature close textual readings as well as
    insights into the methodology of the key figures that they treat.
    Praise for Between Rashi and Maimonides
    This is a collection of fifteen scholarly articles discussing the two great sages Rashi (1040–1105) and Maimonides (1138–1204) who lived almost exactly a century apart and who had radically different views about virtually everything related to Judaism. Rashi's ideas are taught to young school children and in higher grades, and are the substance of the sermons of many pulpit rabbis and the basis of the thinking of most Jews about their religion. The teachings of the great eagle, as the rationalist philosopher Maimonides is called, is known only to a few intellectuals, and frequently misunderstood. Hence, this volume that discusses his views and contrasts them with those of Rashi is a welcome addition to our knowledge, and it stimulates readers to think more deeply about Judaism in particular and religion generally.
    Menachem Kellner, for example, contrasts the world views of the two sages in his article. In his first commentary to the Torah, Rashi offers his particularistic Jew-focused view that the Torah begins by saying that God created the world to declare that it belongs to Him, He wants the land of Israel to be given to the Jews, and He created the world so that the Torah could be handed to Jews.
    Maimonides does not claim to know why the world was created. He would consider Rashi's idea, to use Kellner's words: "misconceived; it is both a philosophical mistake, and I am confident he would have said, an act of unparalleled hutzpah." Yet, although Maimonides had no knowledge why God created the world, he felt that it is reasonable that God revealed laws to improve the behavior of individuals and societies and to raise individuals to the highest perfection they can attain. Maimonides taught that this perfection can only be achieved if individuals learn how God functions in this world. This requires that people study philosophy. But they cannot study philosophy unless they have already studied and understood the sciences, including physics. Thus, concludes Maimonides, the Torah does not begin by speaking about creation to tell us, as Rashi contends, that God owns all that is created and He gave Israel to the Jews. Instead, the Torah opens with a discussion about science since this is the basic knowledge that people must learn. However, since many people are unable to grasp the principles of science, the Torah teaches science in mythic, parabolic language. Thus, besides the already stated differences, Rashi takes the creation story literally, while Maimonides sees it as a parable.
    Both Rashi and Maimonides recognize that the Torah is a book of laws. However, "they disagree mightily on the nature of those laws and the reasons for which they were commanded." Rashi is particularistic: the Torah is for Jews. Maimonides is universalistic: the Torah has messages for all people.
    Rashi, as some other sages, was convinced that the patriarchs, the Jewish ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - and even other righteous people, such as Noah - observed all of the 613 commands contained in the Torah, even though the Torah was not revealed until centuries after their death. Rashi was persuaded that the Torah existed before the world was created. Maimonides rejected the notions that the Torah pre-exited creation and righteous people observed all of its laws before it was revealed to Moses. These ideas made no sense to him.
    Maimonides had, Kellner teaches, an understanding that was fundamentally and far-reachingly different than Rashi's. God did not choose the Jews; the Jews chose God. "Maimonides presents what might be called a natural history of religion." Jews having Torah is "not a historically necessary event. The founder of the Jewish people is the Patriarch Abraham," not God. "Abraham discovered God on his own."
    God did not choose Abraham, God did not seek him out, God did not make Himself known to Abraham. God waited till someone discovered the truth about Him; that someone happened to be Abraham, progenitor of the Jews. It did not have to be Abraham. Had the first human being to discover the truth about God been, say, a Navajo, and had that Navajo philosopher the courage and effectiveness of Abraham, then the Navajos would be the chosen people, the Torah would have been composed in the Navajo language, its narratives would reflect their history, and many of its commandments would reflect that history and the nature of Navajo society at the time of the giving of the Torah to them.
    Thus, Menachem Kellner shows that while Rashi sees the world and God in an almost mystical, certainly in a non-philosophical Jew-oriented sense, Maimonides is philosophically sensitive, focuses on the world, Torah, and Judaism naturalistically.
    Alfred Ivry makes similar remarks in his discussion on the manner in which Rashi and Maimonides treated the rabbinical homilies, Midrash. Rashi took the Midrashim (plural of Midrash) at "face value, unquestioned and uninterpreted." In contrast "Maimonides sets out to disabuse his readers of what he regards as a simplistic literal reading of Scripture" and Midrash. Maimonides reads the Midrashim as "parables the internal or esoteric meaning of which must be appreciated, lest a person becomes confused or perplexed," and fail to learn the truth that the rabbis meant to teach when they composed these parables. Genesis 3's story of the serpent in the Garden of Eden is an example. Rashi accepts as a fact the Midrash that the serpent coveted Eve after seeing her and Adam copulating. Maimonides was convinced that serpents do not speak or covet human females and interprets the story as a parable in his Guide of the Perplexed 1:2. He "understands these allegories for what they are: coded and discreet messages that are wonderfully helpful to the wise, but misunderstood by the bulk of his coreligionists and their leaders."
    Eric Lawee describes about a dozen frequently quite vitriolic critiques of Rashi's overuse of Midrashim. Nachmanides was repeatedly critical of Rashi in his commentary to the Bible. In one instance, for example, he wrote that Rashi's analysis is psychologically implausible. Others called Rashi's interpretations barbaric, full of hot air, the work of a dolt, a figment of an overwrought female imagination, and the writings of one who does not know the true meaning of the Torah or of the Midrashim he is quoting.
    These are some of the fifteen interesting articles that appear in this thought-provoking volume.
    ~ Dr. Israel Drazin, author of over twenty-five books, including Maimonides: Reason Above All Else Learn More
  • Akeydat Yitzchak:Commentary of Rabbi Yitzchak Arama on the Torah

    Yitzchak Arama

    The commentary in this set covers the major philosophical problems, the relationship between the Torah and man-made philosophy, the conflict between faith & reason, man's free will, and God's knowledge of the future. Rabbi Arama makes the important point that the Torah takes precedence when in conflict with human reasoning.

    The translator, Eliyahu Munk, was born in Frankfurt on Main, where he received his education at the Samson Rafael Hirsch Realschule, and the Yeshiva of the late Rabbi Joseph Breuer, of blessed memory. He continued his education at the Yeshiva in Gateshead, England. He served in Jewish education (primarily as a teacher) for almost 30 years in Toronto, Canada.

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  • Torah Mysteries Illuminated

    Thomas Furst

    This book is a collection of fascinating discussions related to Jewish thought. From holidays to daily commandments, Thomas Furst articulates an original approach in understanding fundamental questions and lessons in Judaism, including the implications of Shabbat and the importance of learning Torah in Israel. The essays provide clear answers for broad questions that focus on laws and traditions which stem from the Hebrew Bible.

    Praise for Torah Mysteries Illuminated

    “With probing analysis, profound wisdom and an unusually gifted question-and-answer style, the author takes on a host of crucial and fundamental issues of Jewish life and law, and embellishes them with meaning we had never suspected. This is a book to educate, to inspire and to treasure.”
    ~ Rabbi Benjamin Blech, Professor of Talmud, Yeshiva University

    “Tom Furst has invested many years, and his considerable intelligence and insight, into delving into matters of Jewish law and life in ways that animate the Torah’s wise teachings. He role models for us all what la-asok b’divrei Torah means – to make Torah one’s preoccupation, especially when it is not one’s professional occupation. Kol ha-kavod on this special accomplishment.”
    ~ Dr. Erica Brown, Author of "Happier Endings" and "Inspired Jewish Leadership"

    “In this volume, Thomas Furst demonstrates the wealth of wisdom that lies within the Torah and actively encourages the reader to seek that wisdom. With sharp insight and cogent style, he travels along enriching paths of analysis and boldly uncovers new layers of meaning in the text. I am very pleased to recommend this work.”
    ~ Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, Author of "Unlocking the Torah Text"

    “Thomas Furst has written an insightful and original commentary on major Torah topics. His thoughts are at many times profound and suffused with wisdom, understanding and faith. His work shows us once again the depth and breadth of Torah and its relevance to all times. Any Jewish library will be enhanced by the inclusion of this work in it.”
    ~ Rabbi Berel Wein, Best-selling author

    About The Author

    Thomas Furst, a descendant of the Chasam Sofer, is a son of Holocaust survivors. The author attended Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh, is a graduate of McGill University, received an MBA from the University of Michigan and a law degree from the University of Toronto. He is a real estate attorney in Manhattan. The author lives with his family in Great Neck, New York, where he is an active member of the Great Neck Synagogue. Born in Czechoslovakia, he is named after Thomas Masaryk, a three-time President of Czechoslovakia who was a great friend of the Jewish people. The author can be contacted through his website www.thomasfurst.com

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  • Jewish Arguments and Counterarguments

    Steven Bayme

    American Jewish Committee leader Steven Bayme's published writings on American Jewry and Judaism, Israel and Jewish peoplehood and the claims of Jewish tradition in the modern world.
    Praise for Jewish Arguments and Counterarguments
    Jewish Arguments And Counter Arguments: Essays And Addresses by Jewish historian Steven Bayme is a scholarly compendium of writings on Jewish history, Jewish identity in America, the effects both immediate and long-term of intermarriage, Israel-diaspora relations, and a great deal more. A literate, well-reasoned, highly recommended critique of both the Jewish community worldwide, and those who criticize it, Jewish Arguments And Counter Arguments is written with keen insights into the realities and problems of day-to-day living.
    ~ Midwest Book Review Learn More
  • Torah Conversations with Nechama Leibowitz

    Benjamin S. Yasgur

    1 Review(s)

    Torah Conversations with Nechama Leibowitz takes the reader on a journey to discover the story beneath the story of key biblical passages. Each chapter presents one or more principles of Torah learning, introducing new dimensions in familiar narratives. This volume can change the way someone learns Torah. It can make one think, ask questions and feel the joy of discovery.
    The author has meticulously captured many teachings of the late Professor Nechama Leibowitz, a preeminent biblical scholar, pedagogue and master trainer of teachers. Written by Rabbi Benjamin Yasgur, an educator with extensive teaching experience, Torah Conversations with Nechama Leibowitz will be of interest to a general audience as well as to the accomplished Torah learner.

     

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  • Darosh Darash Yosef

    Avishai C. David

    Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik zt"l (1903-1993) was not only one of the outstanding talmudists of the Twentieth century, but also one of its most creative and seminal Jewish thinkers. Drawing from a vast reservoir of Jewish and general knowledge, "the Rav," as he is widely known, brought Jewish thought and law to bear on the interpretation and assessment of the modern experience.

    Rabbi Avishai David, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Torat Shraga in Jerusalem, attended the Rav’s daily shiurim in yeshiva for several years during the early and mid-1970s, and was a staunch attendee of the shiurim in Congregation Moriah in Manhattan for over a decade. For five years, between 1977 and 1982, he attended the Rav’s Humash shiurim on Motza’ei Shabbat in Boston, as well as many of the summer shiurim that the Rav presented on various topics. The Humash shiurim published in this book are an amalgam of all of the aforementioned venues, but are drawn primarily from the shiurim in Boston on Motza’ei Shabbat. 

     

    About the Author

    Rabbi Avishai David received his rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University. While studying under such outstanding Torah giants such as Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik zt"l and Rav Nissan Alpert zt"l, Rabbi David absorbed from their knowledge and world religious outlook and values. Prior to his aliyah in August 1994, Rabbi David was Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Bnei Akiva Ohr Chaim and Ulpanat Orot in Toronto and before that, principal of Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis Missouri. In Israel, Rabbi David served as a Ram in Yeshivat Hesder Ohr Etzion, and headed one of the premier post high school seminaries for women, Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY).

    Starting Elul 5762, Rabbi David became the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Torat Shraga in Jerusalem, a successful post high school yeshiva program for young men. Simultaneously, Rabbi David is the Rav of a popular synagogue in Beit Shemesh, Beit Midrash Torani Leumi. In his shul, he delivers shiurim and lectures on a host of topics, while serving as a posek for the Beit Shemesh community. 

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