19 06, 2024

Leap of Faith is not a Jewish concept

By |2024-06-19T12:56:32-07:00June 19th, 2024|Jewish Books|

     A rabbi in the Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 88a praises the Israelites who said at Mount Sinai naʿaseh ve-nishma, “let us do and let us hear” in Exodus 24:7. He claims that the Israelites showed a “leap of faith.” They accepted God's commands even before they heard what God was demanding. The Talmud states. [...]

13 06, 2024

Careful Beauties Ahead

By |2024-06-13T13:40:37-07:00June 13th, 2024|Jewish Books|

Tuvia Tenenbom's "Careful Beauties Ahead!" is very funny. He achieves his humor by mocking the religious practices of very pious Jews as well as sometimes those of Judaism generally. For example, he recognizes that Jews prefer to respect God and do not mention the divine name, even use G-d instead of God, and many substitute [...]

11 06, 2024

Secrets of Shavuot 2

By |2024-06-11T06:31:30-07:00June 11th, 2024|Jewish Books|

                                                                                 In my first essay on Shavuot, I pointed out that the Hebrew name “Shavuot” means “weeks” and that the command to observe it as a holiday is in Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:9, 10, and 16; and Leviticus 23:15 and 16, where the Bible tells the Israelites to count seven full weeks [...]

10 06, 2024

Secrets of Shavuot

By |2024-06-10T06:28:41-07:00June 10th, 2024|Jewish Books|

                                                                                    Many people have wrong ideas about Shavuot. It is almost like the truth was held as a secret.   The current holiday called Shavuot is not a biblical holiday No Jewish holiday is practiced today as the Bible mandates. Shavuot, called Pentecost in English, is a good example. The current observance [...]

3 06, 2024

Franz Kafka

By |2024-06-03T08:01:11-07:00June 3rd, 2024|Jewish Books|

  Today, June 3, 2024, is Franz Kafka’s Yahrzeit. It is precisely one hundred years since Kafka, born in 1883, died on June 3, 1914, of tuberculosis at age forty while his parents were still alive. His three sisters survived him but were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Kafka was a German-speaking Bohemian-Jewish [...]

2 06, 2024

Many People Misunderstand the Hebrew Bible

By |2024-06-02T07:52:13-07:00June 2nd, 2024|Jewish Books|

  Most people, even scholars, do not understand the Hebrew Bible correctly. They think the Bible, called Torah in Hebrew, a word that means instruction, contains stories of people living proper lives that should be an example for all who read it. This is not entirely true. Virtually every significant person mentioned in the Torah [...]

26 05, 2024

Isaac Leib Peretz’s Masterpiece “Bontshe the Silent”

By |2024-05-26T13:36:58-07:00May 26th, 2024|Jewish Books|

     Yiddish writer Isaac Leib Peretz’s short story, “Bontshe Shvayg,” generally translated as “Bontshe the Silent,” was first published in 1894. It is one of the most widely known, anthologized, and translated Yiddish stories. Bontshe is a poor man who never complains, no matter what pains the situation gives him. And there are many. [...]

21 05, 2024

Isaac Leib Peretz’s Masterpiece “If Not Higher”

By |2024-05-22T05:48:01-07:00May 21st, 2024|Jewish Books|

   The Polish Jewish writer and playwright I. L. Peretz (1852-1915, died at age 62), who wrote in Yiddish, is considered by many to have been one of the three great classical Yiddish writers with Mendele Mokher Seforim and Sholem Aleichem. I place him as number one because his short tales were well-crafted, enjoyable, dramatic, [...]

14 05, 2024

The radical views of Spinoza

By |2024-05-14T08:42:23-07:00May 14th, 2024|Jewish Books|

   My friend Turk Hill, who generally agrees with me, requested that I place his views about Spinoza on my website, booksnthoughts.com. I am doing so and putting it in my book Philosophical Ideas. We differ primarily in what we emphasize. He agrees that Maimonides was brilliant but thinks Spinoza was equally so. I do [...]

13 05, 2024

Isaac Bashevis Singer’s tale Simple Gimpl

By |2024-05-13T05:56:54-07:00May 13th, 2024|Jewish Books|

   It is a pleasure to read the three versions of Simple Gimpl, a short tale by the Noble Prize-winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902-1991): the original in Yiddish by Singer., the translation into English by Singer and David Stromberg, and the translation by Noble Prize-winning author Saul Bellow (1915-2005). Each of the three has [...]

9 05, 2024

Maimonides’ idea of the goal of the Messianic Age

By |2024-05-09T05:53:05-07:00May 9th, 2024|Jewish Books|

     I agree with Howard Kreisel’s view about what Maimonides considered the goal of the Messianic Age. Howard Kreisel’s 2015 book “Judaism as Philosophy: Studies in Maimonides and the Medieval Jewish Philosophers of Provence” is excellent. It is published by Academic Press, 978-1-61811-179-1, and sells for $139.00. It is part of an outstanding series [...]

6 05, 2024

What is Spinoza’s Philosophy

By |2024-05-06T07:22:33-07:00May 6th, 2024|Jewish Books|

Spinoza: Freedom’s Messiah By Ian Buruma Yale University Press ISBN 978-0300248920 2024, 216 pages, $23.20                                                               What is Spinoza’s Philosophy? Ian Buruma’s 2024 “Spinoza: Freedom’s Messiah,” a significant addition to Jewish studies, is published by Yale University Press. This book is a comprehensive introduction to the life of the short-lived renowned Jewish philosopher Baruch [...]

1 05, 2024

A very enlightening book

By |2024-05-01T11:33:06-07:00May 1st, 2024|Jewish Books|

  Maimonides: Faith in Reason  Yale University Press (Jewish Lives) By Alberto Manguel 256 pages, 2023 ISBN 978-0-300-21789-6 $14.84                                               Maimonides: Faith in Reason   Alberto Manguel’s 2023 “Maimonides: Faith in Reason,” a significant addition to Jewish studies, is published by Yale University Press. This book is a comprehensive introduction to the life, books, and [...]

26 04, 2024

Becoming Elijah

By |2024-04-26T09:56:23-07:00April 26th, 2024|Jewish Books|

  Becoming Elijah, Prophet of Transformation By Daniel C. Matt Yale University Press March 15, 2022 248 pages ISBN 978-0-300-24270-6 $20.70   Daniel C. Matt’s book “Becoming Elijah, Prophet of Transformation” is a testament to his profound expertise in Kabbalah and Jewish thought. It is excellent and intellectually stimulating, as well as a balanced blend [...]

24 04, 2024

The Year Passover Died

By |2024-04-24T09:35:42-07:00April 24th, 2024|Jewish Books|

      The biblical holiday Passover, a significant event in Jewish history, disappeared entirely when the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 CE. This cataclysmic event marked the end of an era and led to a significant shift in religious practices. However, its name, Passover, was resurrected and given to the holiday Chag Hamatzot, [...]

22 04, 2024

A superb review from my friend

By |2024-04-22T12:19:09-07:00April 22nd, 2024|Jewish Books|

    A Visit To Elijah I read this book, "Becoming Elijah: Prophet of Transformation" (2022) in preparation for Passover. As the book points out, most Jews know Elijah primarily through experiences of the seder, in which the door is opened and a cup of wine offered to Elijah, usually near the conclusion of the [...]

18 04, 2024

Aristotle and Maimonides on the issue of the eternity of matter vs. creation out of nothing

By |2024-04-18T08:31:18-07:00April 18th, 2024|Jewish Books|

Our friend Turk Hill requested that I give my opinion on the subject matter. Here it is. There is disagreement among scholars on whether Maimonides accepted Aristotle's view that matter existed eternally. Some say he agreed with Aristotle and others that he disagreed. I favor the view that he agreed with Aristotle. Or, possibly felt [...]

15 04, 2024

Why was the first Passover different from all other Passovers?

By |2024-04-15T08:16:50-07:00April 15th, 2024|Jewish Books|

  The first Passover is a unique event celebrated by the Israelites in Egypt just before their exodus. It is described in Exodus 12:1-11. It stands out from the subsequent Passovers mandated by the Torah.   Exodus 12, which describes the Egyptian ceremony, raises many questions. (1) Why does the Torah command that “this month,” [...]

11 04, 2024

How to become wealthy

By |2024-04-11T05:01:38-07:00April 11th, 2024|Jewish Books|

   Our friend Steve asked how he should prepare for his retirement. I decided to put my secret on this website for him and the rest of my readers. My wife Dina and I married 64 years ago, in 1960. At that time, I was a First Lieutenant in the US Army, earning $2000 a [...]

8 04, 2024

A very instructive Haggadah

By |2024-04-08T06:59:48-07:00April 8th, 2024|Jewish Books|

  Empowering Seder Conversations Passover Haggadah Leora Ashman et al. Urim Publications, Jerusalem. New York 128 pages, 20124 978-965-524-370-3                                                                         [...]

4 04, 2024

A new superb Haggada

By |2024-04-04T07:27:18-07:00April 4th, 2024|Jewish Books|

       Maggid Books’ 2024, “The Promise of Liberty, A Passover Haggada,” is superb. It tells the story of the Israelite exodus from Egyptian slavery over 3,300 years ago and reveals the many lessons applicable today, especially what freedom means in Judaism and America. Unbeknownst to many, the Sidur, the daily prayer book, Machzor, [...]

2 04, 2024

Review of movie “Joseph and His Brethren”

By |2024-04-02T07:32:33-07:00April 2nd, 2024|Jewish Books|

       This is an excellent film, but it has a severe problem. I have seen many movies where screenwriters insist, or imply, that it is based on the biblical story. This 2005 film, “Joseph and His Brethren,” wins the prize, if you can call it that. It is the first movie of its [...]

31 03, 2024

Review of the movie “Solomon”

By |2024-03-31T08:19:35-07:00March 31st, 2024|Jewish Books|

   The acting, dialogue, scenery, and drama in the 1997 movie “Solomon” are excellent and enjoyable. However, the only way it matches what the Bible states is that despite the claim that Solomon was very wise, a close reading of the biblical text reveals that he did virtually everything wrong. Of course, few things were [...]

27 03, 2024

A good commentary on Leviticus

By |2024-03-27T04:50:22-07:00March 27th, 2024|Jewish Books|

  In this third excellent volume of Rabbi David Fohrman’s Parasha Companion series, “Leviticus,” which follows Genesis and Exodus, the rabbi raises interesting questions, offers possible answers, makes the biblical book Leviticus meaningful, and causes us to think. Without the rabbi’s help, Leviticus is difficult to understand and relate to the modern age. Rabbi Fohrman [...]

25 03, 2024

A possible solution why there is evil

By |2024-03-25T09:18:59-07:00March 25th, 2024|Jewish Books|

  I will explain why there is evil in this world. God did what is sensible. The world is, as the Hebrew Bible states, “Good.” It gives people free will. Humans cause evil in three ways.   The world is created with duality Opposites are generally two sides of the same thing. For example, love [...]

19 03, 2024

Is the biblical Book of Esther a parable?

By |2024-03-19T07:23:30-07:00March 19th, 2024|Jewish Books|

    Our friend and reader of Booksnthoughts.com asked a good question: Is the Purim story a parable? “What is the significance that Esther is a Persian name? Did Esther really exist or is she a fictional character?” I thought all of our readers would be interested in the answer. Therefore, I am writing the [...]

18 03, 2024

The Secret of the Book of Esther

By |2024-03-18T06:03:35-07:00March 18th, 2024|Jewish Books|

    The Holiday of Purim occurs in 2024 on the eve of March 23 to the eve of the 24th. Tradition tells Jews to read the biblical book Esther during the first evening and the next morning services. Why should we read it?   The Book of Esther is one of the twenty-four books [...]

11 03, 2024

Thoughts prompted by the Tabernacle in Portion Pekudei

By |2024-03-11T06:30:26-07:00March 11th, 2024|Jewish Books|

                                                                          The Accounting   The opening words of the weekly Torah reading Prkudei (Exodus 38:21-40:38) state that an accounting was given of the precious metals used in the construction of the Tabernacle, the name given to the desert Temple during the days of Moses. There is no command [...]

3 03, 2024

A fascinating and informative examination of 35 Aesop Fables

By |2024-03-03T09:36:23-07:00March 3rd, 2024|Jewish Books|

  People will enjoy Rabbi Dr. Michael Leo Samuel’s brilliant, enlightening, and fascinating “Of Lions, Mice & Menorahs: A Jewish Look at Aesop’s Fables.” Samuel retells thirty-five Aesop Tales, informs us who Aesop was, describes the ancient sources, tells us that they were first introduced to teach adults, why they are treasures for all ages, [...]

25 02, 2024

The Crowd Instinct and Power

By |2024-02-25T13:54:25-07:00February 25th, 2024|Jewish Books|

  Elias Canetti (1905-1994) was a Jewish German-language writer born in Ruse, Bulgaria. His family moved to England, where his father died in 1912. His mother took their three sons back to Europe and settled in Vienna. In 1981, her son Elias was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for “writings marked by a broad outlook, [...]

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