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    Joel B. Wolowelsky

picture of Dr. Joel B. Wolowelsky  

Joel B. Wolowelsky is a Modern Orthodox rabbi, professor, and author. He is the dean of faculty at the Yeshiva of Flatbush high school, where he teaches Jewish philosophy and mathematics. He has written extensively on topics pertaining to the role of women in Judaism and Jewish medical ethics. He is the Associate Editor of Tradition, the Journal of Jewish Thought, published by the Rabbinical Council of America, the Tora u-Madda Journal published by Yeshiva University, and MeOtzer HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

~ wikipedia


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  • Women and the Study of Torah

    Joel B. Wolowelsky

    Women And The Study Of Torah is a collection of thoughtful and informative essays about advanced Torah study, all of which originally appeared over the course of two decades in the periodical "Tradition: The Journal of Orthodox Thought", published by the Rabbinical Council of America. There is an age-old debate in Jewish Law on whether it is proper for women to study the Oral Law. The first collection of essays in Women And The Study Of Torah concern encouragement for women to engage in some study of the Oral Law, including Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's case for why women should be allowed to study Talmud. The second part of Women And The Study Of Torah is a collection of more individual and personal essays by people who work in the field of Jewish education, including heads of schools that offer advanced Torah study for women. A fascinating and persuasive book, very highly recommended for students of Judaic philosophy, culture, and religion.
    From Publishers Weekly
    To what extent should Orthodox Jewish women be required or permitted to study the Torah? In Women and the Study of Torah, essayist Naomi G. Cohen advocates the full religious education of Jewish girls, and contributors Arthur Silver, Warren Zev Harvey and Mayer Twersky follow suit. The essays trace the issue of women's learning through Jewish history and rabbinic tradition. The second half of the book presents the opinions of educators who are in the trenches of Orthodox shuls and seminaries, educating women of all ages. Their insights into the development of Jewish women's education are truly fascinating. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Learn More
  • Mind, Body and Judaism

    David Shatz and Joel B. Wolowelsky

    1 Review(s)

    The essays in this volume focus primarily on the interaction of Torah with the disciplines of psychology and biology. The first section deals with the more general issue of science and religion. Three prominent scholars with recognized expertise in the secular disciplines discuss the general issue, followed by a prominent scientist with extensive training in Torah discussing the more specific question of evolution.

    The second section , "Judaism and Mental Heath Forum : A Fictional Case with Commentaries," explores the issue of psychology and religion through a series of responses to a fictional case in which a psychiatrist unfamiliar with Orthodox Judaism attempts to treat an "obsessed" religious personality.

    The final sections deal with the interface between biology and religion. The symposium on "Judaism, Genetic Engineering and the Cloning of Humans" explores such issues as: What are the moral and religious limits of the new technologies, their appropriate and inappropriate uses? Are these technologies really welcome? How shall we understand human identity when some people will have had no parents? Then, moving from the beginning of life to its end, "The Halakhic Definition of Death in Light of Medical History" places the current halakhic debate on whether brain death constitutes halakhic death in the context of a history of the past debates on defining the end of life.

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 06

    Festival of Freedom

    Joseph B. Soloveitchik

    Joel B. Wolowelsky and Reuven Ziegler

    Festival of Freedom, the sixth volume in the series MeOtzar HoRav, consists of ten essays on Passover and the Haggadah drawn from the treasure trove left by the late Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, widely known as "the Rav." For Rabbi Soloveitchik, the Passover Seder is not simply a formal ritual or ceremonial catechism. Rather, the Seder night is "endowed with a unique and fascinating quality, exalted in its holiness and shining with a dazzling beauty." It possesses profound experiential and intellectual dimensions, both of them woven into the fabric of Halakhic performance. Its central mitzvah, recounting the exodus, is extraordinarily multifaceted, entailing study and teaching, storytelling and symbolic performance, thanksgiving and praise.
    In these essays, the Rav explains how the resonances of the Seder extend far beyond the confines of one night. As he sets forth, the Seder teaches us about the Jewish approach to the meal, Torah study, peoplehood, and the nature of freedom. Yetzi'at Mitzrayim is not just the story of an event lying in the distant past. It is the doctrine of the Jewish people, the philosophy of our history.
    In exploring the various themes in this volume, the Rav explicates in new and creative ways nuances in the biblical and rabbinic texts associated with Passover. He presents a philosophical analysis of the nature of Jewish community and its religious experiences. In the process, he opens vistas not just on the Jewish people's past, but on its present and future.
    The editors of Festival of Freedom are Joel B. Wolowelsky, Dean of the Faculty at the Yeshivah of Flatbush and Associate Editor of the MeOtzar HoRav series; and Reuven Ziegler, Editor-in-Chief of the Virtual Beit Midrash at Yeshivat Har Etzion and Director of Research at the Toras HoRav Foundation.

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  • Orthodox Forum # 15

    War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition

    Lawrence Schiffman, Joel B. Wolowelsky and Robert S. Hirt

    With focus centered the United States' involvement in Iraq and Israel's ongoing war with terrorism, the sixteenth annual meeting of the Orthodox Forum in March 2004 took up the question of War, Peace, and the Jewish Tradition, the papers of which are published here.

    Mobilizing intellectual and spiritual resources within the Jewish Orthodox community, the Forum developed perspectives on war informed by moral sensitivity, political wisdom and above all fidelity to the biblical and rabbinic tradition. It was drawn, in the first instance, to two questions: when is it right, justified or obligatory to go to war (the "jus ad bellum" question), and how war, once justified or mandated, must be conducted (the "jus in bello" question).

    Its religious explorations engaged secular ethical perspectives and secular legalities, as well as perspectives promulgated by Christianity in its quest for a definition of "just war." It thereby placed Jewish tradition in conversation with general moral sensibilities and international regulations. With regard to Jewish tradition, three topics were explored extensively: the ethics of entering and waging war; the religious significance of having an army and of army service; and the value of peace.


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  • The Megillah: Majesty & Mystery

    Norman Lamm

    Joel B. Wolowelsky

    Purim is one of the most festive days on the Jewish calendar, but the trappings of joy and merrymaking mask a more serious message. Join Rabbi Norman Lamm as he thoughtfully reveals the underlying themes of Megillat Esther and the Purim holiday.

    OU Press and RIETS/Yeshiva University Press are proud to offer Rabbi Lamm's unique and eloquent insights into Torah, human nature, God's role in history, the relation of God and humankind, and other timeless themes.
    This compelling commentary consists of Rabbi Norman Lamm's insights on Megillat Esther and the Purim holiday, as well as on Tefillat Ma'ariv, the evening prayer service, gleaned from the vast corpus of his oral and written offerings.
    Together with several complete derashot on other "days of thanksgiving," this new presentation of Rabbi Lamm's thought provides a broad canvas on which Rabbi Lamm portrays, in his inimitable style, God's repeated salvation of His people, a salvation which is sometimes clear and bold, at others times ambiguous and obscure.
    The holiday of Purim takes on new and deeper meaning with Rabbi Lamm's keen insight and nuanced perspective.

    From Rabbi Lamm's commentary 

    A famous Talmudic statement concerning Purim is that one ought to drink more than his usual standard of sobriety. It permits one to drink so that he does not distinguish between accursed Haman and blessed Mordecai (Megillah 7b). This does not mean, assuredly, that one must intoxicate himself to the point where he loses his capacity for analytic distinctions. Rather, it means that one must drink only slightly more than usual so as, on the contrary, he gains greater spiritual insight. This spiritual insight will show that, indeed, there is truly no difference at all between "accursed Haman" and "blessed is Mordecai." . . . It is when the anti-Semite accuses us of fostering the unity of Israel, the differentness of Judaism, and the resistance to idolatry that is part of our national character, that we can rise to our fullest stature as being loyal to our spiritual destiny and vocation. There is, and there should be, no difference between Haman's curse and Mordecai's blessing. Haman's indictment is a "true bill," it points to the source of our strength and our blessing.

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  • The Royal Table

    Norman Lamm

    Joel B. Wolowelsky

    Compiled and Edited by Joel B. Wolowelsky
    Published in Association with the OU Press.
    The Passover Haggadah is perhaps the most popular Jewish liturgical book after the siddur. Each year families gather around their tables to retell the story of the Exodus of the nascent Jewish community from Egypt, using an ancient text made ever-relevant by each generation's added commentaries. Now the OU PRESS has the honor of publishing Rabbi Norman Lamm s Haggadah commentary, a work of brilliant insights expressed in Rabbi Lamm s inimitable style, articulate and engaging, while sensitive and moving.

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 03

    Out of the Whirlwind

    Joseph B. Soloveitchik

    David Shatz, Joel B. Wolowelsky and Reuven Ziegler

    1 Review(s)

    The topics of mourning and suffering are among the most salient in the writings of Rabbi Soloveitchik, both when he describes personal experiences and when he articulates his philosophy.

    The essays in this volume powerfully illustrate the Rav's peerless ability to derive a Jewish understanding of both God and the human condition from Biblical and Halakhic sources. The Rav explores such topics as the stages of mourning, the relationship between mourning practices and the mourner's inner experience, the contrasts between individual and communal mourning, the significance of suffering, and the importance of emotions in the Jewish world view.

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 08

    Days of Deliverance

    Joseph B. Soloveitchik

    Eli D. Clark, Joel B. Wolowelsky and Reuven Ziegler

    "The Megillah contains two stories: the story of human happiness and fulfillment, as well as the story of human misery and distress. The reading of the Megillah is a dialectical performance. We pray to the Almighty while we read the Megillah, because we are in distress; we thank God and relate His wonders while we read the Megillah, for we have found refuge in Him; He has saved us."

    ~ Excerpted from "The Duality of Purim" Days of Deliverance

    "Hanukkah is a holiday that has general human underpinnings; it is a holiday of political victories, a holiday of the smashing of political might. Matityahu and his sons had the strength and the courage to confront the Syrian-Greek legions, to liberate the city of Jerusalem and its Temple, and to re-establish an independent Jewish kingdom. This history of dramatic bravery appeals to all, Jew and non-Jew, especially when the revolutionaries compose a small group, unorganized and poorly armed, yet unafraid of declaring war on an enemy."

    ~ "The Everlasting Hanukkah," Days of Deliverance

    Purim and Hanukkah share a rabbinic origin, a festive character, and a generally informal nature. In the essays collected here, the eighth in the series MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, both holidays serve as subtext for Rabbi Soloveitchik's classic search for religious meaning in a seemingly cold and arbitrary universe. For him, Purim and Hanukkah stand at the nexus of faith and history, of human effort and divine intervention, of solemnity and joyous celebration.

    In the Purim essays, the Rav offers not only commentary and textual interpretation, but, primarily, a rich blend of religious existentialism and Jewish historiosophy. He transforms the verses of Megillat Esther, and the Purim story as a whole, into a text about man in general and the Jew in particular. Employing classical midrash, historical analogy, a deep understanding of human nature, and a fine ear for textual nuance, he breathes vivid life into the characters and events of the Megillah, and demonstrates the story's universal and contemporaneous messages.

    In the Hanukkah essays, too, the Rav draws universal lessons from the story of the Hasmonean rebellion and victory. He applies his exegetic and homiletic skills to the account of Hanukkah in Maimonides' Code and in liturgical texts, such as Al ha-nissim and Ha-nerot hallalu. For the Rav, the spiritual core of the Hanukkah story also provides the key to explaining distinctive Halakhic features of the holiday. He views the spiritual struggle waged by Matityahu and his sons as symbolic of the battle for Jewish self-realization carried on by generations of Jews, from Jacob and Joseph in the Bible to our own day.

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 11

    Vision and Leadership

    Joseph B. Soloveitchik

    David Shatz, Joel B. Wolowelsky, and Reuven Ziegler

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    Vision and Leadership, the eleventh in the series MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, presents Rabbi Soloveitchik's reflections on Biblical narratives and characters, beginning with the Joseph stories and the Jewish people's sojourn in Egypt and ending with the story of Moses' death on the brink of return to the Promised Land. Through careful exegesis of the verses, illuminating analyses of character, and insightful readings of midrashim and classic medieval commentators, the reflections in this book seek the underlying messages of biblical stories and an understanding of what they teach us about past and present events in the life of the Jewish people. They also shed light on broader concepts, such as the nature of justice, idolatry, spiritual authority, and Halakhic thought. 


    Soon after the revelation at Sinai, the Jews committed the sin of the Golden Calf. We should note that prima facie this sin was more abominable, more horrible, than the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. If we translate it into Halakhic terms, the sin of the Tree of Knowledge consisted in eating forbidden foods, while the sin of the Golden Calf touched the very essence of Judaism, namely, the prohibition against idolatry. Yet, when Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, all future generations were struck by disaster. Adam alienated himself from his Creator and was driven out of Paradise. According to Hazal, God had intended for man to live forever, but the original sin brought about death and man became mortal. When the community alienated itself from the Creator by worshipping the Golden Calf, the consequences of the sin were not as tragic.

    ~ excerpted from Vision and Leadership

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  • A Life Steady and Whole

    Joel B. Wolowelsky and Elka Weber

    We commemorate his mastery of Torah and his capacity to draw judiciously and elegantly on the Western intellectual tradition to enhance authentic and critical religious thinking. We dwell on his ethical greatness and the magnificence of his piety, how he prayed, how he listened to other human beings, how he attended to his father, how he never wasted a moment.  We continue to be driven by the irrefutable charisma of the life rightly lived, the life lived in harness. In his absence, as in his lifetime, we continue to ask ourselves what he would think about the way we contend with our everyday challenges and what he would say about our struggle against torpor and faithlessness. 

     ~From a eulogy by R. Shalom Carmy


    Rabbi Lichtenstein (1933-2015), born in France and educated in the United States, was Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut, Israel from 1971 until his death.

    Rabbi Lichtenstein's early Torah education was at Yeshivat Chaim Berlin, where he studied with Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, and Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik. He received his advanced training and ordination at Yeshivat Rabbi Yitzchok Elchanan (Yeshiva University) from his primary mentor, the renowned Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. In addition to his yeshiva studies, Rabbi Lichtenstein completed a Ph.D. in English Literature at Harvard University. He taught Talmud and was the first head of the Kollel at Yeshiva University. At Yeshivat Har Etzion, he taught Talmud and Jewish Thought and mentored generations of students from Israel and abroad.

    Rabbi Lichtenstein has written on a wide range of Torah topics – Gemara, Halacha, Mahshava, and Tanakh. He was awarded the Rabbi Kook Prize for Original Torah Literature in 2012 and Israel Prize for Torah Literature in 2014,15623
    Review by Alan Jay Gerber, Kosher Bookworm

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