11 11, 2019

An excellent history of ancient Israel

By |2019-11-11T05:22:16-07:00November 11th, 2019|Book Reviews|

Alex Israel’s new book on II Kings follows his book on the first half of the book of Kings, called I Kings. Both are excellent, easy to read, very thorough, very informative. The Book of Kings was broken into two parts because the Greek translation of the book around 200 BCE divided the book in [...]

13 10, 2019

Difficulties and explanations regarding Kohelet

By |2019-10-13T00:07:47-07:00October 13th, 2019|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

Tradition mandates that Jews should read the biblical book Kohelet, also spelt Koheleth and Qohelet, called Ecclesiastes in English, during the holiday of Sukkot. Both the Hebrew and English names mean “collector” or “collection.” We do not know why this mandate was made. Some say that since Sukkot is a very happy holiday, we need [...]

12 12, 2018

A very good Bible commentary

By |2018-12-12T05:24:50-07:00December 12th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

Koren Publishers’ “The Steinsaltz Humash: Humash Translation and Commentary” by Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz is excellent. The word “Humash” means “five” and refers to the Five Books of Moses which is in this volume in clear Hebrew text in the beautiful Koren font, with a completely new modern English translation that is faithful to the [...]

9 12, 2018

Was the biblical Joseph autistic?

By |2018-12-09T07:22:34-07:00December 9th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

  While the idea presented in Samuel J. Levine’s book Was Yosef on the Spectrum, that the biblical Joseph, son of Jacob, was autistic, having Asperger’s Syndrome, may bother some people who prefer to think that Israel’s ancient leaders had no imperfection,[1] they will still find much to learn and much to appreciate in this [...]

5 12, 2018

God vs. gods

By |2018-12-10T09:24:07-07:00December 5th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein’s book “God versus gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry" (Mosaica Press, 2018), which is found on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2NO4jLy is filled with information on every page about Jewish history, ideology, God, idols, superstition, and mistakes made by the ancients. There are seven chapters on the history of monotheism in 276 pages, many [...]

27 11, 2018

The new Rabbinical Council of America Siddur

By |2018-11-27T05:27:08-07:00November 27th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

    This new 1452-page siddur, which includes 106 additional pages of essays, edited in chief by Rabbi Basil Herring, shows why it is beneficial to have more than one version of the siddur. This new version, with weekday, shabbat, yom tov prayers, and a host of additional sections, offers much that is not in many [...]

14 11, 2018

Fascinating tales by a scoffer

By |2018-11-14T08:53:31-07:00November 14th, 2018|Book Reviews|

  “Miriam & Other Stories,”[1] is a splendid collection of stories by Ukrainian-born Micha Josef Berdichevsky (1865-1921). [2] He was a journalist, a scholar with a PhD, a writer of fiction, and a collector of Jewish legends which he published in a book called “Mimekor Yisrael,” From an Israel Source.[3] He wrote in Hebrew, Yiddish, [...]

11 11, 2018

Great stories by H. N. Bialik

By |2018-11-11T05:16:11-07:00November 11th, 2018|Book Reviews|

“Random Harvest and Other Novellas,” by Haim Nachman Bialik ((1873-1934) contains six tales which vary in length from two being about 20 pages to two being close to 90. The book has an informative introduction of 18 pages about Bialik who many consider the greatest Hebrew poet in the past six hundred years, and each [...]

7 11, 2018

The day I met Father Isaac at the supermarket

By |2018-11-07T05:45:32-07:00November 7th, 2018|Book Reviews|

Jack Riemer, a rabbi, is one of the best clergymen of all religions in delivering sermons. Clergy can learn from his speeches, and congregants can enjoy listening to them or reading what he writes. It is a shame that other clergy lack his skill because sermons can be a great teaching tool. I think that [...]

5 11, 2018

One of the best deals on Amazon

By |2018-11-05T05:27:06-07:00November 5th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

There are free short books written in easy to read English that contain significant history that can be obtained from “Hourly History” every Friday. The books can be read in their entirety in an hour. This past Friday, on November 2, 2018, for example, the free books were: Babylon, Anne Frank, Spartacus and the Slave [...]

31 10, 2018

The truth about the Balfour Declaration and its results

By |2018-10-31T04:47:55-07:00October 31st, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

On November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour sent a historic letter to a leading British Jewish citizen Lord Rothschild that publicized British support of a Jewish homeland. This was the first national recognition of the Jewish right to Israel since the destruction of Israel in 70 CE by the Romans. The letter [...]

17 10, 2018

Difficulties with the Akedah story explained

By |2018-10-17T04:01:41-07:00October 17th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

    The thrust of Soren Kierkegaard’s 1843 influential book “Fear and Trembling” is long reflections on Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac, a story told in Genesis 22.[1] Kierkegaard concludes from his analysis that Abraham represents the prototype of faith, for he showed faith when he was willing to obey God’s command to [...]

9 10, 2018

Judaism’s first non-biblical philosopher

By |2018-10-09T05:03:08-07:00October 9th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

                                             Scholars have recognized long ago that the Bible has “wisdom books,” books that contain philosophy. They are Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes (also called Qohelet), and Ben Sira (also called Sirach and Ecclesiasticus) and the [...]

4 10, 2018

Was Abel and not Cain the real villain?

By |2018-10-04T11:04:52-07:00October 4th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

In his 1919 superb novel Demian, the 1946 Nobel Prize winning author Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) suggested, despite the biblical text clearly stating that Cain criminally murdered his brother Abel, that it is possible to interpret the biblical story of Genesis 4 hinting that Abel was the brother who acted improperly.   The 1919 novel Hesse’s [...]

19 06, 2018

An extremely important book

By |2018-06-19T07:18:42-07:00June 19th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

In "21 Lessons for the 21st Century," Yuval Noah Harari gives us an extremely important book. He has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Oxford. He has a deep understanding of human behavior and states his views clearly and vividly. His prior two books on the past and future of humanity, Sapiens: A Brief [...]

30 05, 2018

All we want to know about Saudi Arabia

By |2018-05-30T03:54:54-07:00May 30th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

Ellen R. Wald’s book “Saudi, Inc.” about the Arabian kingdom’s pursuit of profit and power has been justly praised as “crucial reading for understanding Saudi Arabia” by Steve Forbes, and as “Masterful” by James B. Smith, American Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2009-2013. He also called it “mandatory reading.” They are right. The book is [...]

27 05, 2018

Ecclesiastes does not say what we think it says

By |2018-05-27T10:29:23-07:00May 27th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

The JPS Bible Commentaries are highly respected for their scholarship and for the clear and easy to read manner in which this scholarship is presented so that even readers with little knowledge of the biblical books can effortlessly understand what is being explained. Michael V. Fox's 2004 interpretation of Ecclesiastes in the JPS series reflects [...]

7 05, 2018

A Guide for the Perplexed for the Modern Jew

By |2018-05-07T06:06:03-07:00May 7th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

  Jay Harris is the author of the in-depth important and enlightening book “Guiding the Perplexed of the Modern Age.”[1] It is a well-organized study of an important nineteenth-century Jewish scholar and philosopher. Harris is Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard University. Nachman Krochmal (1785-1840) lived in Galicia, Austrian Empire, which is now Ukraine. [...]

2 05, 2018

An atheist’s humorous irreverent interpretation of the Bible

By |2018-05-02T04:13:49-07:00May 2nd, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

Jose Saramago’s (1922-2010) last book Cain is a delightful, frequently funny, heretical, mocking, feverishly anti-God, retelling of the early books of the Hebrew Bible. He is the 1998 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. According to Saramago’s book, no snake spoke to Eve in Eden and persuaded her to eat the forbidden apple; snakes [...]

25 04, 2018

Adin Steinsaltz saves the honor of Ecclesiastes

By |2018-04-25T04:19:46-07:00April 25th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

The Hebrew volume Chameish Megillot, published by Koren Press,[1] is part of a series of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s commentaries on the Bible called Hatanakh HaMevoar. This volume contains commentaries to the five Megillot, “scrolls,” biblical books that are read in synagogues on five holidays; the books of Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), and [...]

22 04, 2018

A famous mystic’s view of ecclesiastes

By |2018-04-23T04:36:56-07:00April 22nd, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

While scholars such as Rashbam, Abraham ibn Ezra, Maimonides, and others read what the Bible actually states, Nachmanides (1194-1270) read mysticism into the biblical words. According to Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel, he was the first Bible commentator to do so.[1] He also explained the biblical text by claiming that certain events, behaviors, and conversations [...]

18 04, 2018

My interpretation of a famous baffling story

By |2018-04-18T04:26:43-07:00April 18th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

 Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), winner of many awards for his writings, who wrote or edited more than 500 books, is considered one of the top three science fiction writers. Although his parents were Orthodox Jews, he called himself a non-observant Jew. One of his many books is “Asimov’s Guide to the Bible,” reflecting his interest in [...]

15 04, 2018

Some thought-provoking ideas about Kohelet

By |2018-04-16T04:28:31-07:00April 15th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

Robert Alter is a supreme translator of the Bible in readable English and an excellent commentator of the texts. In “Wisdom Books,” his writes an introduction to, translates, and comments on Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. He tells readers that “there is little in the three biblical books that is specifically Israelite.” He notes that the [...]

11 04, 2018

Another fantastic Agnon parable

By |2018-04-11T04:48:22-07:00April 11th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

"And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight" is a brilliant book by the Noble Prize Winner for Literature, S. Y. Agnon. It is typical of his ironic style. Despite its title, the crooked is not made straight in this novel - just the opposite. The book was published in Hebrew in 1912. It was Agnon's [...]

4 04, 2018

Maimonides said what Nietzsche said

By |2018-04-04T06:29:40-07:00April 4th, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) offers three main ideas in “The Gay Science,” written in 1882 with additions in 1887, a book called “one of his most beautiful, most idea rich books,”[1] whose title is also translated as “The Joyful Wisdom.” First, God is dead or, as I understand it, the reliance on God should cease. He [...]

2 04, 2018

Senator Lieberman teaches the value of Torah law

By |2018-04-02T13:48:25-07:00April 2nd, 2018|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

Senator Joe Lieberman and Rabbi Ari D. Kahn offer readers fifty essays in “With Liberty and Justice.”[1] The number is built on the brilliant rabbinical idea to connect the holidays of Passover and Shavuot by instituting the practice of counting 49 days between the two holidays (changing the biblical requirement to count seven full weeks), [...]