New and Noteworthy Books

Tradition Online | January 15, 2023

Samuel Lebens, A Guide for the Jewish Undecided: A Philosopher Makes the Case for Orthodox Judaism (Maggid Books & Yeshiva University Press)
In his new and important work, Sam Lebens utilizes philosophical and scientific approaches to engage with questions surrounding the relationship between rationality and belief, objectivity and choice. He makes a cogent case for adherence to a humanistic and nuanced Orthodox Judaism, and asserts that an embrace of Jewish practice is necessary to rise to the call of human responsibility in the modern world. This book will be of particular use to Jewish educators tasked with discussing complex, philosophical treatments of belief in a sophisticated manner.

Hillel Goldberg, Across the Expanse of Jewish Thought: From the Holocaust to Halakhah and Beyond (Ktav)
Goldberg, a long-time member of TRADITION’s editorial board, highlights the diversity and breadth of Jewish thought and philosophy in this expansive book concerning prayer, biblical interpretation, musar, theology, and biography. He relies on his prior works regarding Eastern European Jewish thinkers to unify manifold philosophies and worldviews and frame their contributions as facets of a fully realized halakhic whole.

Eliezer Schweid, Siddur Hatefillah: The Jewish Prayer Book – Philosophy, Poetry, and Mystery, translated and with an introduction by Gershon Greenberg (Academic Studies Press)
The Siddur is Judaism’s most frequently vocalized and most internalized text. It is a lens into Jewish unity, and its evolution is a mirror through which Jewish tradition and transformation can be analyzed. In Siddur Hatefilla the late, distinguished Israeli philosopher, Prof. Eliezer Schweid, fills a gap in both Jewish scholarship and experience as the first-ever study of the Jewish prayer book in a historical, literary, and philological context.

Eliezer Berkovits with a forward by Rahel Berkovits, Jewish Women in Time and Torah (Urim & Ktav)
Clearly, we are witnessing a moment of renewed interest in R. Eliezer Berkovits. The new edition of this 1990 book offers a critical analysis of the role and position of women in halakha. Berkovitz provides a theological thesis that asserts that much of the perceived inferiority of women in Jewish law and practice is residual of ancient near eastern culture. In its time, the book provided suggestions for steps to be taken with the ultimate goal of further equalizing rights and roles for women within Judaism. Berkovits’ granddaughter offers a contemporary assessment of his achievements in her new forward.

Neil Lauer, The Tripod: A New Perspective on the Shalosh Regalim (Mosaica Press)
The Tripod offers a unique study of the Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot holidays ranging from the ways they are portrayed biblically to how they are perceived and practiced by Jews today. The book asserts that a deeper understanding of the elements of festival observance, absent from current practice due to the destruction of the Temple, will allow us to grasp a new perspective and spiritual depth to these three intertwined holidays.

Binyamin Lau, The Sages: Character, Context & Creativity—Volume V: The Yeshivot of Babylonia and Israel (Maggid Books)
Binyamin Lau once again brings the rabbis of the Talmud and their world to life, unearthing a rich panorama of the challenges rabbinic figures faced, the ideologies with which they grappled, and the lives they lived. The fifth volume focuses mainly on the intricacies of Hazal’s lives in the yeshivot of Babylonia and the Land of Israel during the Talmudic era, among them Rav Huna, Rav Hisda, Abaye and Rava

David Torollo, Sefer ha-Pardes by Jedaiah ha-Penini: A Critical Edition with English Translation (Open Book Publishers)
An English translation and critical edition of Sefer ha-Pardes, a Hebrew book that details Jewish parables and moral lessons, and also offers insight into the opinions and outlook of its 13th-century author, Jedaiah ha-Penini. Torollo’s translation and analysis adeptly integrate four 16th-century manuscripts, examining the book’s place within an intellectual tradition, and providing a rich ground for future lines of research. [Free e-book edition here.] 

Jonathan Sacks, I Believe: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible with a foreword by President Isaac Herzog (OU Press & Maggid Books)
I Believe contains essays by R. Sacks z”l on each weekly parasha, compiled as part of his Covenant and Conversation series. Each essay offers a statement of profound faith, and collectively they deliver an intimate and rich outlook into how R. Sacks viewed the world through the lens of Torah, and how we can follow in his footsteps.

In Hebrew:

(יעקב נגן, שראל רוזנבליט ואסף מלאך, ושמו אחד: ריפוי הקשר בין ישראל ודתות העולם (בית מדרש לישראל והאנושות / ספרי מגיד

The three authors of this volume ask how the Jewish return to sovereignty in our own land alters the form and focus of Judaism’s relationship with other faith communities. How can age-old tensions be repaired, especially in today’s globalized reality? [Listen to Yaakov Nagen’s discussion of the book on a recent episode of the TRADITION Podcast.]

(דב שוורץ, גבולות: פרקים באסתטיקה ציונות דתית (הוצאת אוניברסיטת בר-אילן

Artistic creativity is an essential feature of human existence, and its role and relationship to religious life is both important and complex. Schwartz examines the interaction of these fields as they play out thematically, on the intersection of philosophy and literary criticism, within the Religious Zionist community. He also offers a sweeping historical overview of the topic as well as a sociological analysis of the Dati Leumi’s relationship to aesthetics over time.

(אהרן ליכטנשטיין, רוח אביב: על עבודת ה’, משפחה וקהילה (משנת הרא”ל וספרי מגיד

This newest book collects essays by R. Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l, investigating the questions that naturally arise from the encounter between Jewish identity and heritage with the surrounding culture as they play out in the realms of worship, family, and community. Most of the essays appeared originally in English as part of the Orthodox Forum series, and collected in R. Lichtenstein’s Leaves of Faith and Varieties of Jewish Experience. Their appearance in Hebrew will be a welcome addition to religious discourse in Israel.

Compiled with the assistance of Gabriella Jacobs.
Appearance here does not preclude review in our print journal or on Publishers can contact our editor to submit titles.

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