13 12, 2022

A Guide for the Jewish Undecided

By |2022-12-13T06:52:12-07:00December 13th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

  Maggid Books, together with Yeshiva University Press, published “A Guide for the Jewish Undecided: A Philosopher makes a case for Orthodox Judaism” by Dr. Samuel Lebens, a rabbi and Orthodox Jew who is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Haifa in Israel. His other books are “The Principles of Judaism” (2020) [...]

1 12, 2022

Interesting facts about Iran

By |2022-12-01T08:44:28-07:00December 1st, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

Anyone interested in understanding the government of Iran must read the brilliant ten-page analysis by Nolan Drazin in the current issue of the prestigious Cambridge Journal of Political Affairs. The article is remarkably easy to read despite the vast amount of information that it contains. For example, the author cites close to 100 sources. By [...]

27 11, 2022

The truth about the Oral Law

By |2022-11-27T08:23:56-07:00November 27th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

  Many Jews are convinced that the laws and customs that originated with the rabbis were taught at Sinai to the Israelites during the days of Moses and are called “Oral Law,” even though the Torah itself states that only the Decalogue that people call The Ten Commandments were spoken there. Rabbi Dr. Benyamin Lau [...]

24 11, 2022

A Jewish view of evolution

By |2022-11-24T08:19:40-07:00November 24th, 2022|Thoughts|

People should be familiar with "The Origin of the Species" by Charles R. Darwin (1809-1882), published in 1859. The book started a controversy that still, unfortunately, continues today between some religious and secular people. What is generally ignored is the idea that evolution can, indeed, should, be accepted even by the most conservative religious.  They [...]

22 11, 2022

An Example of Prejudice

By |2022-11-22T07:11:46-07:00November 22nd, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

  Unthinking prejudice resulted in the deaths of millions. The stories of Voltaire and Jenner are examples. The Frenchman Voltaire (1694-1778) tried unsuccessfully to get the French to inoculate children from smallpox. He was a very intelligent member of the Enlightenment, a writer, historian, and philosopher who criticized Christianity and slavery. He was an advocate [...]

21 11, 2022

When did Jews begin to observe Biblical Laws?

By |2022-11-21T07:16:30-07:00November 21st, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

  The question of when did Jews begin to observe the practices and prohibitions of biblical laws is one of the most important yet thorniest questions that has bothered scholars for centuries. While traditional Jews believe their ancestors accepted and practiced Torah laws since the time of Moses, there is no clear statement that this [...]

16 11, 2022

How does God want peole to behave?

By |2022-11-16T13:30:02-07:00November 16th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

  In Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed, book 3, chapter 51, in the easy-to-read translation by Michael Friedlander, Maimonides tells readers: “The present chapter does not contain any additional matter that has not been treated in the (previous) chapters of this treatise. It is a kind of conclusion, and at the same time, it will explain in [...]

10 11, 2022

The Yeshiva Volume II

By |2022-12-28T08:18:28-07:00November 10th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

    The Chaim Grade masterpiece “The Yeshiva II” is subtitled “Masters and Disciples” because it tells of dozens of lives of people in a manner unequaled by other writers. Each of the many people who populate this story has interesting and exciting lives that fascinate readers. Grade is uniquely capable of telling their tales and [...]

3 11, 2022

Journeys to heaven and hell

By |2022-11-03T06:31:08-07:00November 3rd, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

  “Journeys to Heaven and Hell” by Bart D. Ehrman, a highly respected New Testament scholar, tells some of the different notions various nations and people had about the afterlife in ancient times. He describes a wide variety of katabases and anabases, but not all. Katabasis means going down, a descent. It is used to [...]

24 10, 2022

The Yeshiva – Part One – by Chaim Grade

By |2022-10-24T04:45:52-07:00October 24th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

    I wrote in past reviews of Chaim Grade’s books that I and many others are convinced Grade deserves the Nobel Prize for literature. Most readers of his book published in Yiddish in 1967 titled Tsemakh Atlas and translated into English in 1976 as The Yeshiva in two parts will agree. The first part [...]

20 10, 2022

A non-traditional interpretation of Ecclesiastes called Kohelet in the Bible

By |2022-10-20T07:21:44-07:00October 20th, 2022|Thoughts|

There are many widely different interpretations of the biblical book Ecclesiastes in Hebrew Kohelet. Here is another one. A non-traditional one. It sees the book telling readers how they should behave. The name The root kahal in Hebrew means “assembly. The Latin Ecclesiastes has the same meaning. Tradition claims that King Solomon wrote the book. [...]

18 10, 2022

Jewish women in time and Torah

By |2022-10-18T07:14:38-07:00October 18th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

      Urim Publications and Ktav Publishing in Jerusalem and New York have just republished “Jewish Women in Time and Torah.” It focuses on three periods of time in how Judaism treated women: (1) The early period of more than a thousand years until around the beginning of the Common Era when women were treated [...]

12 10, 2022

Maimonides’ Hidden Torah Commentary: Numbers

By |2022-10-12T07:58:41-07:00October 12th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

                     “Maimonides’ Hidden Torah Commentary: Numbers” is another of the many brilliant, learned, eye-opening, easy-to-read, and understood books by the brilliant scholar Rabbi Dr. Michael L. Samuel. It is another of his excellent contributions to scholarship. Rabbi Samuel was born in San Francisco and grew up [...]

6 10, 2022

The Unknown English Torah Commentator Marcus M. Kalisch

By |2022-10-06T08:25:10-07:00October 6th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

  The Rabbi and scholar Rabbi Dr. Michael Leo Samuel has made a significant contribution to Jewish scholarship with his book “The Unknown English Torah Commentator Marcus M. Kalisch,” the first in a series of books introducing readers to the thinking and teachings of Marcus M. Kalisch. This first volume focuses on the first half [...]

3 10, 2022

Questions about Sukkot

By |2022-10-03T10:28:08-07:00October 3rd, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

  Judaism has dozens of meaningful customs and ceremonies, but most people, even Jews, do not know all of them, their origins and their rationale. Rabbi Abraham Chill (1912-2004) gives readers of his book “The Minhagim,” Hebrew for customs and ceremonies, a very readable discussion of many Jewish practices. He focuses on 27 holidays and events: [...]

25 09, 2022

The Sacred and the Profane

By |2022-09-25T08:08:40-07:00September 25th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

  “The Sacred and the Profane’ contains three excellent novellas by Chaim Grade translated from the original Yiddish by Harold Rabinowitz and Inna Hecker Grade, Chaim Grade’s second wife, whom he married sometime after the Nazis murdered his first wife and his mother along with six million other Jews. The Yiddish name was Kloyz un [...]

19 09, 2022

Yom Kippur is not a Biblical Holiday

By |2022-09-19T07:07:34-07:00September 19th, 2022|Thoughts|

   As with Rosh Hashanah, Orthodox Jews like me recognize that Yom Kippur is not mentioned in the Bible. It replaces another day known as Yom Hakippurim, mentioned in the Bible in Leviticus 16:29–31, 23:27–32, and Numbers 29:7–11. Orthodox Jews follow the Oral Law, the ways that the rabbis interpreted the Torah. This can be [...]

15 09, 2022

Rosh Hashanah is not a biblical holiday

By |2022-09-15T07:33:13-07:00September 15th, 2022|Thoughts|

    I am an Orthodox Jew. Orthodox Judaism recognizes that Judaism today is Rabbinical Judaism. It is based on what is called the Oral Law, the rabbinical interpretation of the Bible. For example, the Oral Law teaches that “an eye for an eye” should not be taken literally; it means monetary compensation.   Rosh [...]

14 09, 2022

Another John Ajvide Lindqvist horror film

By |2022-09-14T07:52:10-07:00September 14th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

     After reading and reviewing the Swede, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s splendid book "Let the Old Dreams Die" and viewing his film “Border,” I decided to watch his first 2008 film “Let the Right One In.” The movie is in Swedish, as is “Border,” with easy-to-follow caption translations. It is based on his first 2004 [...]

11 09, 2022

An excellent writer of horror tales

By |2022-09-11T04:26:32-07:00September 11th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

I found a writer I did not know and enjoyed his writing.  The Swede, John Ajvide Lindqvist (born 1968), is a splendid writer, both his novels and short stories. He can write in a fashion that others cannot do. "Let the Old Dreams Die" is an example. It is a beautiful book. The book has [...]

7 09, 2022

Chaim Grade’s “My Mother’s Sabbath Days”

By |2022-09-07T07:02:01-07:00September 7th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

    “My Mother’s Sabbath Days” is a beautiful, fascinating, and eye-opening story by the Yiddish writer Chaim Grade (1910-1982). His name is pronounced gra, as in open your mouth and say ah, and de at the end pronounced as in eh, the word said in surprise. Grade in German and Yiddish means “straight.” Since [...]

1 09, 2022

Is Judaism the Truth?

By |2022-09-01T07:03:52-07:00September 1st, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

  Jeffry Bloom, a graduate of the University of Chicago who studied in several Orthodox yeshivas (rabbinical schools) in Israel after college, was bothered by what the scholar Leo Strauss wrote in his book Spinoza’s Critique of Religion.[1] Strauss emigrated from Germany to the United States in the 1930s. He taught at the University of [...]

30 08, 2022

The importance of Selihot

By |2022-08-30T07:48:41-07:00August 30th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

    The comprehensive 1229-page "Koren Selihot Minhag Lita, Hebrew and English Edition" contains a wealth of information about many aspects of Judaism. Since reciting Selihot is done before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and is a significant, often repeated part of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, and these holidays teach essential lessons, [...]

22 08, 2022

What we should read and why

By |2022-08-22T06:44:47-07:00August 22nd, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

Virginia Woolf’s principal suggestion in her excellent essay “How Should One Read a Book” is to try to understand what point or points the author wants to make and enjoy what you are reading. She adds a clever idea that God is jealous of humanity because humans can get enjoyment from reading, while God cannot [...]

17 08, 2022

This book is better than Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer

By |2022-08-18T03:28:28-07:00August 17th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

    Although virtually all readers of Tom Sawyer did not live or think as Tom, they enjoyed and still enjoy his adventures, Mark Twain's sterling writing, his humor, and insights. The same applies to Levi Welton's magnificent memoir, “Be Like the Moon.” Welton's book does this and more. In 1979, the US Army called [...]

2 08, 2022

Obscure Items in the Bible

By |2022-08-02T11:40:16-07:00August 2nd, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

  I enjoyed "The Old Testament and the Truth" by S. Seth Haas. His book deserves five stars. I did not agree with all of Haas's conclusions from his study of the Five Books of Moses.  But this did not detract from my enjoyment. I found, as his readers will, that whether I agreed or [...]

1 08, 2022

May we condemn God?

By |2022-08-01T04:41:17-07:00August 1st, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

I enjoyed the poetry book "Brought Down" by Simon Constam. It is both delightful to read and thought-provoking. The phrase “brought down” is a literal translation of Yiddish, Hebrew, and Aramaic terms suggesting an ancient Jewish idea or teaching being recalled. The thirty poems are easy to read. The images created by the poetry are [...]

27 07, 2022

A horrible rabbinical mistake!

By |2022-07-27T06:27:36-07:00July 27th, 2022|Thoughts|

                                    The mistreatment by too-many rabbis of women is inexcusable. Many alterations were made in biblical marriage and divorce laws, but not for agunot.   The Hebrew Bible gives few details about marriage and divorce. Deuteronomy 24:1 states: “If a man takes [yikach] a wife and has sex with her, but she becomes displeasing [...]

19 07, 2022

A Brilliant Story

By |2022-07-19T12:48:21-07:00July 19th, 2022|Book Reviews, Thoughts|

     I am convinced that people could learn much from non-religious writings, even some, but not all, crime novels. Thus, my desire to increase my knowledge is why I still read more than a hundred fictional non-religious books annually, in addition to my studies of biblical commentaries. I will give an example of one [...]

13 07, 2022

Several Outrageous Mistakes

By |2022-07-13T04:14:25-07:00July 13th, 2022|Thoughts|

    The greatest mistake is the belief that mistakes are rare. This is untrue. We all make mistakes and do so frequently. Here are a few involving our thinking. The concept of BC and AD was apparently invented by a monk around the year 533 who thought Jesus was born 533 years before the [...]

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