There are people who enter our lives, enrich our minds and inspire our hearts even though we barely know them. Yeshiva’s Norman Lamm has for decades played such a role in my life.
Outgoing British chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks seeks to achieve a union between science and religion in his latest book. Maybe he should have set his sights a little bit lower.
The array of uses and misuses of Baruch Spinoza, perhaps Judaism’s most-famed heretic, is testimony to the boundlessness of the human imagination.
Baruch Spinoza was born in Amsterdam in 1632, the son of Portuguese Marranos (or conversos, or crypto-Jews) who had fled the Inquisition.
A new book details how Orthodox rabbis dealt with questions stemming from 9/11. One major project involved permitting wives of victims to remarry.
The chasidim are not easy to understand. Chasidic mystical theology is extremely difficult to master. Moreover, aside from the Lubavitch sect, chasidic society is almost hermetically sealed, and chasidic writings — composed in an arcane rabbinic Hebrew, laced with talmudic Aramaic and obscure kabbalistic references — are comprehensible only to serious students of both rabbinic literature and the kabbala. If only for these reasons, Rabbi Norman Lamm’s new English anthology of chasidic texts is a truly important contribution to Jewish learning.
Chaim Nachman Bialik was not simply the bard of the modern Jewish national awakening. He was more than just the poetic voice of Zionism. He wrote of the Jews’ yearning for Zion, but also of the yearning for love; the awe of nature, the universal, desperate human search for transcendence. Above all else, Bialik captured exquisitely the pains and joys, the terror and excitement, of being a Jew in modern times.
“Beyond Reasonable Doubt,” an elaborate sequel to “We Have Reason To Believe,” is a learned and compelling argument for an enlightened form of traditional Judaism that Rabbi Jacobs has dubbed “liberal supernaturalism.” The liberal supernaturalist is a Jew who adheres faithfully to Jewish law and tradition in the belief that it is divinely inspired, but who at the same time cannot blithely ignore the findings of historians.
A vast, heartbreaking and, to English readers, inaccessible Yiddish and Hebrew library — of some 1,000 volumes, studded with unique memoirs and rare photographs — known as yizker-bikher, or memorial books, is devoted to eternalizing the legacies of the myriad cities and towns of Jewish Eastern Europe destroyed by the Holocaust. These books were collaboratively produced, mostly in the late 1950s through the early ’70s, by the survivors of those Jewish communities. But with the exception of a half-dozen or so, they are not the product of critical historical scholarship, and only three have been fully translated into English.
Natan Meir’s meticulous new history of Kiev Jewry in the modern period, is an assiduous work of conventional scholarship. Meir provides a thorough, lucid and ultimately heartrending account of the noble successes of Kiev’s Jews in building a solid Jewish community, with exemplary religious and charitable institutions, that included one of Europe’s most majestic synagogues and, as in Bialystok, a host of medical centers that rivaled the finest in Moscow and St. Petersburg. At the same time Meir documents with great insight and empathy the relentless obstacles, frustrations and ultimately violent rejection by the Russian majority in the city, which “greeted” the Jews’ noblest efforts to integrate into the city’s larger civic society.