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Showing posts from 2016

Contemporary Halakhic Problems Vol. VII

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Contemporary Halakhic Problems Vol. VII
Rabbi J. David Bleich
Maggid / 525 pp.

Rabbi J. David Bleich and his “Contemporary Halakhic Problems” series need no introduction. There is no student or scholar of halacha who is not familiar with Contemporary Halakhic Problems, and in fact, one is essentially unable to formulate a credible or authoritative view on a halachic issue without first studying the issue in CHP (if, of course, the issue has been covered in the series).
My day was made with the receipt of volume 7 this week.  The newest volume opens with “Passover Questions” including a discussion on what is an annually reoccurring feud here in Beit Shemesh regarding whether water from the Kinneret may be consumed during Pesach. Presenting nine different arguments and considerations (some of which I was exposed to for the first time) Rabbi Bleich concludes that there is no concern whatsoever with consuming water from the Kinneret. In Beit Shemesh, however, the stricter view has prevail…

Making It Work

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Making It Work
A Practical Guide To Halachah In The Workplace
Rabbi Ari Wasserman
Distributed by Feldheim / 524 pp.

I'm just blown away. The "Ari Wasserman" label has simply proven itself once more as being synonymous with excellence in Torah, primarily Halachic, literature.

In this latest volume R' Ari, who should be everyone's role model of a "working Ben-Torah," presents all the thorny issues that Orthodox Jews must face in the workplace. Some of the issues dealt with include yichud, shaking hands with the opposite sex, holiday parties, dina d'malchusa dina, honesty when interviewing, entering non-Kosher restaurants, and much more. Every issue includes real-life stories, mussar, hashkafa, and of course, the halachic issues.

This book is unprecedented in it's style, presentation, and "halachic honesty," presenting all the major halachic views from all ends of the Orthodox spectrum. There may not be a more well-rounded advanced Englis…

Forgotten Giants

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Forgotten Giants: Sephardic Rabbis before and after the Expulsion from Spain
Rabbi Yosef Bitton
Gefen Publishing House / 121 pp.


Although most of us have heard about such Sephardic greats like Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel and Rabbi Yosef Caro, and their accomplishments, the same may not be true regarding such other greats like Rabbi Avraham Saba and Rabbi Tam Ibn Yahya.
As such, Rabbi Yosef Bitton, an author and rabbi living in New York City, has done a tremendous service and Kiddush Hashem by resurrecting the memory of over two dozen Sephardic Scholars from the pre to post Spanish expulsion Era with his “Forgotten Giants”. Although brief, but inspiring, Rabbi Bitton presents the basic biographies of these rabbis, from where they were born to the works they left behind, many of which continue to shape Jewish law today.

I would like to take this opportunity to mention --not unique to the welcome addition of “Forgotten Giants”-- that today’s orthodox produced biographies can generally not b…

Teshuva

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TeshuvaRabbi Immanuel Bernstein Mosaica Press
Just in time for the upcoming High Holiday season, Rabbi Immanuel Bernstein, maggid shiur, and author of other pristine publications, treats us to yet another installment to help us grow in Torah and Yirah in a gentle, engaging, and inspiring fashion.
In “Teshuva,” Rabbi Bernstein offers us 66 short essays covering topics related to Elul, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. The essays are all very thought provoking, covering both philosophical and practical matters. There are number of interpretations, explanations, and commentaries of routine High Holiday themes that I have not previously seen. There are also interpretations of the High Holidays prayers scattered throughout the sefer. 
The sefer is extremely enjoyable and easy to follow. It should also be noted that the essays are also easy to “give over” as divrei Torah at the Yom Tov table. In fact, the various short sub-sections of each essay are stand-alone divrei Torah in their own rig…

Moadei Harav

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Moadei Harav Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Urim Publications / 275 pp
Rabbi Shlomo Pick’s "Moadei Harav" is a welcome and refreshing window into the thought, style, and rulings of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik. This may very well be the clearest and most readable book on the Rav that offers readers of all levels a glimpse into the world of Rav Soloveitchik's halachic teachings. Most other books on Rav Soloveitchik empathize his philosophy, and they are not always the most reader-friendly volumes.
I found almost all the essays to be practical and of great interest. Except for the entry on the status of Eretz Yisrael ("shem eretz yisrael" vs. "kedushat eretz yisrael") all essays revolve around the holidays (hence the name of the book). Some of the essays I enjoyed most are the status of Kriat Shema on Yom Kippur (a davar shebekedusha?), Pirsumei Nissa of Chanuka (the difference between “revealing” and “demonstrating” the…

The Poetry of Rav Yosef Tzvi Rimon

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The Poetry of Rav Yosef Tzvi Rimon
A Myrtle in the Desert
(Translated by Daniel Farb)
Gefen Publishing / 102 pages

Although my interest in poetry hovers somewhere between minimal and non-existent, one cannot help from being taken aback by the poetry of Rav Yosef Tzvi Rimon. 
Originally written in Hebrew, the volume “A Myrtle in the Desert” has been translated into English by Daniel Farb. (Rav Rimon wrote several other books of poetry, as well. Perhaps they too might be translated someday.) The primary themes of the poems in a “Myrtle in the Desert” are God, prayer, and the Land of Israel. The mystical world features prominently in these poems.
Born in Poland in 1889, Rav Rimon learned in the yeshiva of Rav Reines before making Aliyah at 20 years old. Rav Rimon wrote a style of poetry that although religious in nature --spiritual actually-- its words touched the religious and secular alike. From Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook to Bialik, everyone found meaning in his words, meaning which co…

Spirituality and Intimacy: Where Heaven and Love Meet

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Spirituality and Intimacy: Where Heaven and Love Meet Rabbi Raphael Aron Mosaica Press / 196 pp.
Rabbi Raphael Aron, a Chabad Rabbi from Melbourne with a proven record of experience and expertise in the world of “Love and Judaism,” has released yet another title on the subject.
In Spirituality and Intimacy, the author presents many different facets of marriage, intimacy, and child rearing, explaining Judaism's position on the issue from philosophical perspectives. The book does a great job in highlighting the beauty of each of these issues. This is true even regarding the temporary restrictions between husband and wife that can frustrate a relationship. The author weaves material from a variety of Torah sources and genres highlighting comparisons, metaphors, and symbolism from other areas of Torah and observance.
For example, the are citations from throughout scripture on romance in Judaism, a comparison between the restrictions of marriage and the restrictions of Shabbat, marria…

The Kippah

The Kippah: All About Yarmulkes, Judaism, and Life
Rabbi Moshe Becker
Mosaica Press / 126 pp

A project whose proceeds are being put to tzedaka, the Kippah is an absolutely lovely presentation of everything one needs to know about the importance of wearing a Kippah. The book's goal is to inspire those "on the fence" to begin wearing a Kippah and to further encourage those who already do.

Every chapter presents the Kippah from a different aspect of rabbinic literature, citing the original sources in both Hebrew and English, and then elaborating upon them in an especially gentle, clear, and thorough manner. For example, chapter one cites the Talmudic sources, chapter two cites sources in the rishonim, chapter three cites the relevant halachic sources, and so on.

The book is small-size, very easy reading, and handy to have as a permanent reference guide. It is definitely required reading for your friends and neighbors who may not yet be wearing a Kippah and are in need some …

Two New Sefarim Received

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I am pleased to have received the following sefarim:

1. Chumas Mesoras Harav: With Commentary Based on the Teachings of Rabi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (OUPRESS)

Exceptionally clear and crisp making learning from it a pleasure! The commentary is delicately lomdish. It is a "must have" for chassidim of the Rav. For more see here: https://www.ou.org/oupress/product/chumash-mesoras-harav-sefer-vayikra/




2. That's Why I Married You (Gefen Publishing)

This book, although not truly qualifying as a "Torah Book" from the perspective of this site, is a Torah flavored guide to making your marriage better, written by an orthodox author. Although a little too optimistic in nature (some people just shouldn't stay married!) it is fun and practical. It is packed with essential marriage advice, information, practical exercises, tips and charts. I have already adapted some of its secrets to my marriage. 

See here for more: http://www.chanalevitan.com/

My New Halacha Sefer!

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Dear Friends- It’s FINALLY here! I am excited to announce the release of my newest English Halacha sefer: "Halichot V'halachot: Halachic Insights & Responsa". It is the EIGHTH volume in the series. As with the previous volumes, Halichot V'halachot discusses over 100 contemporary halachic issues in a very unique and encompassing manner. The style is very clear, articulate, and engaging. There are over 2500 references to halachic texts. Some of the highlights of Halichot V'halachot Include: A Brit: No Invitations Please 
Using Disposable Dishes and Plasticware on Shabbat 
Gebrokts 
Is There a Need to Wear Hats & Jackets 
Kedusha: Feet Together….Until? 
Synagogue Construction: Symbolism and Meaning 
Toothpaste and Mouthwash 
Inviting Deceased Relatives to a Wedding 
Cannibalism 
Inducing Labor 
A Husband's Presence at Childbirth 
Honorifics for the Deceased 
Yartzeit: Serving a Tikkun 
Leaving a Sefer Open 
The Fast for Dropping a Torah 
The Book of Ben Sira 
The Death …

Redemption and Revelation

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Redemption and Revelation
Essays on Pesach and Shavuot
Rabbi Mordechai Fachler, z"l
Renana Publishers / 234 pages

I was excited to receive --in the nick of time!-- the second volume of Rabbi Mordechai Fachler's writings. This volume contains essays on Pesach and Shavuot.  For those unfamiliar, Rabbi Mordechai Fachler served in a number of rabbinical positions in Johannesburg, South Africa. In the late 1990s, Rabbi Fachler left Johannesburg for London, and served as the rabbi of Shomrei Hadath Synagogue in West Hampstead, among other positions of communal leadership. He was a therapist, counselor, and a renowned orator, among other talents.

The Pesach section is simply superb, filled with short and sweet divrei Torah that can be shared throughout the holiday. For example, there are divrei Torah on each of the Ten Plagues focusing on their relevance to today. Ditto for the Four Cups, the Four Sons, and more. Really nice stuff. (Really!)

The Shavuot section is a little more in d…

Transforming the World: The Jewish Impact on Modernity

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Transforming the World: The Jewish Impact on Modernity
Urim Publications / 190 pages

Guest Post by Rabbi Johnny Solomon

If you are a teacher, parent or friend to someone wishing to learn more about their Jewish heritage, then you have probably been asked various questions about Jewish living and Jewish values. While some questions may have been easy to answer, others have been harder. However, it was on a Yom Kippur afternoon in the Radlett Centre when Rabbi Leo Dee was asked what is probably the most important question for any Jew: ‘Rabbi, isn’t the Torah just an ancient text that is out of date and irrelevant in our modern age?’.

This question - which should be presented to every Rabbi, Rebbetzin & Jewish educator when applying for a new job - gets to the roots of Jewish living. However, few people are actually prepared to ask this question, and few educators are necessarily prepared to answer it. As Rabbi Dee explains, ‘in the microsecond after he uttered those words, I sensed a le…

The Rabbi Daniel Travis Collection

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I'm new to them....but I'm hooked already. Whether it is one of his works on tefilla, hashkafa, or halacha (my favorite!), every one of Rabbi Travis' sefarim is truly a "grand slam." His work is for all audiences, with his Hebrew halacha sefarim geared more to the advanced reader and rabbis.
For those unfamiliar, Rabbi Travis, a close confidant of Rav Moshe Shternbuch, lives in Har Nof and is Rosh Kollel of the "Kollel Toras Chaim" halacha kollel. I am impressed by his unique style of writing and psak that manages to remain loyal to the Israeli-Chareidi approach while being refreshingly balanced by his American background. 
His series on prayer is exceptionally easy to read and inspiring. His most recent work "Wine and Wisdom" is the everything about wine and halacha. I enjoyed every page. His "she'ilot and teshuvot" are original, relevant, and often brave. 
Indeed, I was so excited about Rabbi Travis' sefarim that I went out a…

Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality Vol.2

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Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality Vol. 2
Rabbi Yehuda Warburg
Urim Publications / 368 pages

Once again, Rabbi Yehuda Warburg gives us an insiders look into  a number of actual cases that transpired in his Beit Din. There are both Even Ha’ezer and Choshen Mishpat related cases. There is much reference and comparison to precedents and principles in secular law. 
Here is the table of contents:
Part I: Rabbinic Authority: The Vision   Chapter 1: The Multifaceted Halakhic Identity of a Jewish Investment Broker   Chapter 2: The Propriety of a Civil Will   Chapter 3: Harnessing the Authority of Beit Din to Deal with Cases of Domestic Violence and Child                     Abuse   Chapter 4: An Employer’s Vicarious Liability for an Employee’s Sexual Misconduct   Chapter 5: The Status and Role of a To’ein Rabbani in the Beit Din Process
Part II Rabbinic Authority: The Reality   Chapter 6: Decisions in Even ha-Ezer     a. Spousal Rape, the Grounds for Divorcing anAdulterer, Retrievin…

The Theory and Practice of Universal Ethics – the Noahide Laws

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The Theory and Practice of Universal Ethics – the Noahide Laws Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen
Insitute for Judaism and Civilization: NY and Melbourne, 2014 / 386 pp
I was excited to have received a copy of this book. It is definitely required reading for philosophers and theologians of all types. Very, very thorough. Below is an excerpt from the book's promotional material. AE 
The Noahide laws – the seven laws in which all humanity must observe - have become a matter of wide importance both for Jews and their intended recipients, the non-Jewish world.
Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen has performed an important dual task in his new book, The Theory and Practice of Universal Ethics – the Noahide Laws, the product of many years of research and writing. The first part, the “Theory of Universal Ethics”, undertakes the “marketing task” of universal ethics: how the Noahide laws can be presented to an intelligent, non-Jewish public from a variety of perspectives: theological, philosophical, religious, psycholog…

Circle, Arrow, Spiral

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Circle, Arrow, Spiral
Exploring Gender in Judaism Miriam Kosman
Mekor Press / 376 PP
Miriam Kosman’s book, “Circle, Arrow, Spiral” is an exciting look into gender related issues in Judaism. The title is reflective of the theory that the arrow represents the male, along with traits such as excellence, accomplishment, and progress. The circle represents the female, along with traits such as the holistic, harmonious, and completeness. The spiral represents the ideal synthesis between the forces. The book helps us understand the “Circle” and the “Arrow” while striving for the “Spiral.”
The first part of the book is more philosophical in nature with my favorite piece being the section on “Mashpia and Mekabel" – all about the giving and receiving forces in the world as it applies to male and female roles and symbolism. Filled with biblical, talmudic, midrashic, and philosophic sources, readers are treated to uncharted waters in gender relate issues in general, and the “female force” i…

The Gift of Stuttering

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The Gift of Stuttering
Moe Mernick
Mosaica Press / 210 pp / HC

It is personable, motivating, and inspiring. The best autobiography I have read in years. AE

In The Gift of Stuttering,​we meet Moe Mernick as he describes his journey whilst facing the challenges presented to him in life. Moe grew up with a debilitating stutter and seemingly unanswerable questions about G­od; he found everyday life to be a painful and lonely experience. After years of suffering, though, he discovered an exceptional life of meaning and purpose — and in doing so, turned the tables on his speech impediment.

The Gift of Stuttering ​is a remarkable story of one man's journey from despair to hope, from anger at Go­d to spiritual fulfillment, from being a rebellious teenager to becoming a motivational speaker and entrepreneur. It's a story of finding meaning within life's challenges and of transforming the heaviest burdens into the greatest gifts.

For more information and to order: http://mosaicapress.…

Sukeret V’halichoteha

Sukeret V’halichoteha Rabbi Elyakim Wenger 174 pages / Heb.
Sukeret V’halichoteha (roughly translated as “Laws Concerning Diabetes”), is a fascinating look at the halachic issues facing those with diabetes. If I heard the story correctly, this sefer is the result of the author being unable to serve in the IDF due to his diabetes. So instead of IDF service, he checked himself into a Beit Midrash to study the issue and write this sefer.
The sefer seems to cover every question and scenario imaginable in the halachic life of those with diabetes. For example:
Diabetes related issues and treatments on Shabbat and Yom Tov (Extensive!) Fast Days Treating Parents Who Have Diabetes Purim (Are you yotzai “Mishlo’ach Manot” if you send candies and similar foods to a Diabetic?) Pesach/Seder Kashrut Nidda (chatzitza related issues) Revealing that a Potential Spouse is a Diabetic Transplants And much much more!
The sefer is well written, original, and very practical. There are very extensive footno…

From Sinai to Ethiopia

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From Sinai To Ethiopia Rabbi Dr. Sharon Shalom Gefen / 300 pages
Sharon Shalom’s book, From Sinai to Ethiopia, is a fascinating and unprecedented look into the halachic challenges facing Ethiopian Jews as they continue to struggle for integration into Israel's social and religious society. 
Sharon is a musmach of Yeshivat Har Etzion, received a Ph.D. from Bar Ilan university, and leads a congregation in Kiryat Gat where he lives. He is one of the gentlest and patient people I have ever met (well, spoken to on the phone and emailed…we hope to meet face to face soon!) who is working with all his heart toward helping Ethiopian Jews find their places within normative Judaism.The author’s intention is to support the spiritual authenticity and respect for Ethiopian Jewish customs and he works valiantly in an attempt to do so. Pluralism, acceptance, tolerance and mutual respect are the dominate themes of every page. It is the first book that I have ever seen with both rabbinic and kahenic ha…

Sexuality and Jewish Law

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Sexuality and Jewish Law Yaakov Shapiro 430 pages
In his Sexuality and Jewish Law, Yaakov Shapiro, an ordained rabbi and non-conformist Lubavitcher chassid, offers a thorough, unapologetic, and uncensored presentation of everything relating to sexual activity and Jewish law. 
All rabbinic texts that deal with sexual matters are cited along with the interpretations and comments of all the relevant rishonim, achronim, and poskim. There is also a full presentation of the various halachic opinions and resolutions to the contradictions between them. The exhaustive endnotes are essentially an additional book in their own right.
While the book is extremely well researched and impressive in its scope, the author clearly has an agenda and bone to pick. As he writes in the introduction, the book was born out of a bad experience and frustrations with what he was being taught in chattan classes and the “one-sided” approach to the laws of intimacy. The author seeks to put an end to the strain, fe…