New and Noteworthy Books

Tradition Online | November 19, 2023

The Rav on Tefillah: An Anthology of Teachings by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik on Jewish Prayer, edited and annotated by Jay Goldmintz (OU Press & Ktav)
From the perspective of a “pioneer in the teaching of Jewish Prayer,” The Rav on Tefillah provides readers with a lively commentary as Jay Goldmintz builds upon R. Soloveitchik’s contributions to our understanding of tefilla. This anthology creates an accessible version in English of the writing and shiurim of the Rav, formulating his teachings on tefilla within the sequence of the Siddur. Readers will be enabled to apply these teachings to their interpretation of Jewish prayer in order to enhance their worship.

David Harbater, In the Beginnings: Discovering the Two Worldviews Hidden within Genesis 1-11 (Gefen Publishing)
Through a close reading of the first eleven chapters of Genesis, David Harbater approaches an interpretation original in its scope. Building off of a careful reading of the text, Harbater presents his readers with the argument that there are two slightly divergent creation narratives running parallel to each other. Yet these two narratives reflect the dueling outlooks regarding the nature of God, humankind, sex and gendered relations, among other topics. In the Beginnings not only elaborates on the richness of the Bible’s creation story, but also utilizes that richness to display to readers the multi-valanced voice of Torah speaking to Jewish past and present.

Avraham Stav, As a Fleeting Dream: Coping with Pregnancy Loss—Halakhic and Spiritual Guidance for Coping with Miscarriage and Stillbirth (Mosad Harav Kook)
Avraham Stav’s As a Fleeting Dream engages in the heartbreaking topic of pregnancy loss as a traumatic experience. Suffering parents and those near to them are thrust into a world of questions and doubt—made more complicated by the absence of the type of halakhic rituals that guide other experiences of mourning. Through halakhic and hashkafic lessons, Stav presents a sensible approach for those searching for spiritual guidance while dealing with bereavement. It also deals with the many personal and spiritual questions that arise as a result and can benefit both couples who are experiencing such loss, as well as rabbis and professionals who support the mourners.

Jonathan Grossman, Abraham: The Story of a Journey (Maggid Tanakh Companions)
Highlighting Abraham’s “multifaceted and paradoxical” story, Grossman offers a captivating look at the founder of religious monotheism. Through the significant milestones in Abraham’s life from describing the line of Terah up until finding a wife for Isaac and the end of Abraham’s life, the book examines the historical period of Abraham, our forefather as a literary character, and the structure of the Abrahamic cycle. Ultimately, Grossman paints a picture of the father of Judaism in an immensely complex and highly readable way.

Michael Rosensweig, Mimini Mikhael: Essays on Yom Kippur and Teshuvah (RIETS & Maggid Books)
This volume offers its readers a meticulous interpretation of the key principles of Yom Kippur and the themes of Elul and the Aseret Yemei Teshuva. R. Rosensweig pulls from a variety of sources to analyze the halakhic questions that arise when considering Yom Kippur as a period of time. Conclusively, he presents the kedusha of Yom Kippur by specifying the importance of heightened observance; ultimately, to create a meaningful life in the midst of the presence of God. [Read the book’s introduction and chapter 1.]

Alon Goshen-Gottstein, Covenant & World Religions: Irving Greenberg, Jonathan Sacks, and the Quest for Orthodox Pluralism (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization)
Goshen-Gottstein tackles the complexities of religious pluralism, suggesting that in order to surpass a tradition of hostility and competition and to advance towards one of acceptance and collaboration, current perspectives require some re-imagination. According to Goshen-Gottstein, there are few voices in Orthodoxy that explore these relations in the aforementioned light; and in doing so, he identifies Irving (Yitz) Greenberg and Jonathan Sacks as the two most important advocates for a pluralistic outlook. Covenant & World Religions utilizes the theological views of these two thinkers to focus on forging new roads in Judaism’s approach to religious differences around the world.

The Koren Tanakh of the Land of Israel: Numbers, edited by David Arnovitz (Koren Publishers)
The most recent installment in The Koren Tanakh of the Land of Israel poses a fascinating approach to the book of Numbers. Readers are able to explore findings by modern scholars on the ancient Near East as well as a new English translation from R. Sacks. The volume further explains the Biblical narrative in the context of the location in which it took place and clarifies several complexities while maintaining the integrity of the sacred text [see sample pages here].

The Citron Compendium: The Citron (Etrog) Cirus Medica L.: Science and Tradition, edited by Eliezer E. Goldschmidt and Moshe Bar-Joseph (Springer)
The citron (etrog) is known by Jews across the world for its religious significance; however, the fruit’s many scientific and traditional complexities are often overlooked by the general public. The Citron Compendium provides an in-depth, scientific approach to this most precious of citrus––as well as a detailed presentation of traditional interpretations of its identity. The book begins by introducing the botany of the etrog and moves into topics such as cultivation, population, art, Kabbalah, literary analysis, and historical inquiry. Within its twenty-two chapters, accessible scientific language sets the book’s aim at a wide range of readers.

Rebecca Scharbach Wollenberg, The Closed Book: How the Rabbis Taught the Jews (Not) to Read the Bible (Princeton University Press)
Contrary to the popular belief that early Judaism was a culture steeped in divine bookishness, Rebecca Scharbach Wollenberg argues that the biblical text of Judaism was not embraced until nearly a thousand years after the Bible was canonized. Thus, she depicts the importance of the rabbinic Oral Torah as unbound by the limitations of written text. Wollenberg’s writing suggests that maybe “the people of the book” can be reinterpreted as they relied on oral tradition many years before their literary or studious reputation came to light.

Ira Robinson, “A Link in the Great American Chain”: Studies in the Evolution of the Orthodox Jewish Community in Cleveland, Ohio (Touro University Press & Academic Studies Press)
Ira Robinson undertakes the task of describing the development of Cleveland as a unique Jewish community. Many scholars have provided readers with small but relevant facts concerning the city’s Orthodox population; however, as never done before, Robinson achieves a comprehensive description of the community––from its beginnings to the early twenty-first century. In the end, Robinson presents the Cleveland community on a broad scale as an important asset to the historical development of Orthodoxy in America.

Eugene Korn, Israel and the Nations: The Bible, the Rabbis, and Jewish-Gentile Relations (Academic Studies Press)
By introducing his thesis with the complexities of the Jews as a chosen nation, Eugene Korn expresses the conflicts that arise with this biblical classification. This book explores Christian-Jewish and Muslim-Jewish relations throughout history—specifically from the biblical and talmudic era to modernity. Korn compares the varieties of our relations with Gentiles and comes to question if the advance to secular tolerance changes how Jews should react today. While aiming for an audience of everyday Jews as well as scholars in theology, Korn broadly asks what are the bounds of Jewish tolerance and religious pluralism: should things change after being attacked by extremism and violence?

The Golden Path: Maimonides Across Eight Centuries—Featuring Highlights from the Hartman Family Collection of Manuscripts and Rare Books, edited by David Sclar (Liverpool University Press & Yeshiva University Museum)
This exhibition compendium highlights Maimonidies as a rabbi, jurist, Talmudist, philosopher, physician, astronomer, and producer of halakhic text, medicine, and theology. As the preeminent figure of medieval Jewry, Maimonides served to disseminate textual manuscripts and The Golden Path displays these manuscripts in its two sections: catalog and essays from leading scholars. By providing an exceptional private collection of Rambam’s manuscripts and the intellectual nature of that work, Sclar gives his readers an exclusive look into the life and career of Maimonides. Visit the exhibit at the Yeshiva University Museum (closes December 31, 2023).

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

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