Welcome to Torah Book Reviews! Torah Book Reviews is a blog for reviews of books on all Torah related topics. Publishers and authors are welcome to submit books, in Hebrew or English, for review on the site.
Books can be sent to me at: Rechov Nachal Dolev 31/15, Ramat Beit Shemesh, 99630, Israel. Email: rabbiari / hotmail / com
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Contemporary Halakhic Problems Vol. VII
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 prevailed, with the Kinneret water supply being closed off to
Beit Shemesh during Pesach with water being supplied from local wells instead.
Other issues that are dealt with include using video surveillance to negate
Yichud issues and to declare milk as Chalav Yisrael, both of which have ample
authority to permit doing so, contact with wine by non-observant Jews, the
halachic weight of vaccinations, a possible kashrut concern with Styrofoam cups,
and about a dozen other cutting-edge contemporary issues.
The chapter on entering a church was especially fascinating
and relevant. It includes a discussion on whether Christianity is idolatry, entering a church for ceremonial or tourist purposes (Westminster Abbey,
Vatican Museum), historical anecdotes of rabbinical figures who have done so, and other issues relating to Christian influence.
For more information and to order: https://www.korenpub.com/maggid_en_usd/contemporary-halakhic-problems.html
Sexuality and Jewish Law
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
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…
The Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook
The Writing of a Jewish Mystcic
By: Rabbi Ari Ze'ev Schwartz
Gefen / 270 pp
I was wildly impressed with the Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook. After getting my hands on everything available in English over the years on Rav Kook's writings, this is the first, yes, the first, English book on Rav Kook that I was able to fully understand.
Although not a translation of any single work of Rav Kook (as most other translations are) The Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook contains important and inspiring excerpts from all over Rav Kook's writings. The book is divided into four categories. The first is "The Individual" which contains teachings on God, Torah, prayer, Teshuva, personal growth, and more. The second is "The Nation" which includes many of his (in)famous teachings on Zionism. The third is "Humanity" which includes a chapter on our relationship with other religions. The fourth is "Creation" which is a…
Nefesh Hatzimtzum Rabbi Avinoam Fraenkel Urim Publications I am at a loss for words to
describe how blown away I am by the magnitude of Avinoam Fraenkel’s Nefesh
Hatzimtzum. Nefesh Hatzimtzum is a translation and study guide to R’ Chaim
Volozhin’s Nefesh Hachaim. For those unfamiliar, Nefesh Hachaim is the “Shulchan Aruch” of hashkafa and philosophy. The concepts presented by R. Chaim are a basic platform to give us knowledge of the closest that is humanly achievable in relating to God and by extension, our ability to serve Him. Nefesh Hatzimtzum is simply outstanding. It is a
crisp and clear presentation of what has essentially been a closed book. Now
Nefesh Hachaim is not only accessible, but in Fraenkel’s two volume set (over
1600 pages!), one also enjoys the benefits of a spoon fed education on the
material. In addition to being the best
translation of Nefesh Hachaim that I have yet to see, volume one of Nefesh Hatzimtzum
includes the full facing page Hebrew text of Nefesh Hachaim, al…