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How to Read a Page of Talmud

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Bibles, Talmud, and Prayer Explanations, et al
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Of these you will enjoy the fruits in this life..., honoring one's parents, deeds of mercy, visiting the ill, hospitality to the stranger, hastening early to the synagogue, bringing peace between humans and between husbands and wives. But the study of Torah leads to them all. - Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 127a

By the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism and JPS

October 12, 2001. 1,520 PAGES
The latest Jewish commentary on the Torah in Conservative Judaism in SEVENTY years. A replacement for the HERTZ commentary. It was a 10 Year project (you know how slow committees work...). 78,000 copies already SOLD.
MONUMENTAL AND PRODIGIOUS ACHIEVEMENT, A commentary that reflects the beliefs and ideology of the Conservative movement, reflects the secure position of Jews in American culture (is not apologetic in tone), and uses standard modern English. This commentary does not sugar coat the actions of the early Hebrews, and it does not hide from the belief in redactors and an evolving Torah.
Contributors include Rabbis Chaim Potok, Harold Kushner, Elliot Dorff, Susan Grossman, Michael Fishbane, and dozens of others. Rabbi Grossman led a team of five female rabbis who reviewed early drafts to give voice to d'rash's by women. Include commentaries not only on the Torah portion, but on the Haftorah as well. For each chapter, the Hebrew and English translation is published. A p'shat commentary which is based on the JPS five volume commentary (by Tigay, Sarna, Levine, and Milgrom) follows under the text and was edited by Chaim Potok. A D'rash section of commentary, edited by Harold Kushner, is also included for each test. It will provide the deeper moral meanings of the passage. A third running commentary is included, edited by Rabbi Dorff and Rabbi Grossman, and it will show how various biblical verses served as the basis for Jewish laws and Conservative practices. In the back of the chumash are 41 essays by leading scholars and rabbis. The commentaries for the Haftorahs have been edited by Michael Fishbane. Of the book, Ellen Frankel, CEO of Jewish Publication Society, said, "It may spark conversation with in the Conservative laity about approaches to the Bible they may not have been aware of or thought of."Click to read more
P.S. Also, stay tuned for the New Reform Chumach on Bereshit, titled THE BOOK OF GENESIS: A CONTEMPORARY VIEW, by E. Gunther Plaut and Chaim Stern (UAHC Press, May 2002, which uses gender neutral terms and more feminist POV commentaries)

[book] The Zohar
Pritzker Edition, Volume Four
Translated by Daniel Matt
September 2007, Stanford
Sefer ha-Zohar (The Book of Radiance) has amazed and overwhelmed readers ever since it emerged mysteriously in medieval Spain toward the end of the thirteenth century. Written in a unique, lyrical Aramaic, this masterpiece of Kabbalah exceeds the dimensions of a normal book; it is virtually a body of literature, comprising over twenty discrete sections. The bulk of the Zohar consists of a running commentary on the Torah, from Genesis through Deuteronomy. This fourth volume of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition covers the first half of Exodus. Here we find mystical explorations of Pharaoh's enslavement of the Israelites, the birth of Moses, the deliverance from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the Revelation at Mount Sinai. Throughout, the Zohar probes the biblical text and seeks deeper meaning-for example, the nature of evil and its relation to the divine realm, the romance of Moses and Shekhinah, and the inner meaning of the Ten Commandments. In the context of the miraculous splitting of the Red Sea, Rabbi Shim'on reveals the mysterious Name of 72, a complex divine name consisting of 216 letters (72 triads), formed out of three verses in Exodus 14. These mystical interpretations are interwoven with tales of the Companions-rabbis wandering through the hills of Galilee, sharing their insights, coming upon wisdom in the most astonishing ways from a colorful cast of characters they meet on the road.
Click the book cover to read more. Or click on Volumes 1, 2, and 3 below
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From one of America's top bible scholars:
[book] How to Read the Bible
A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now
by James L. Kugel
September 2007, Free Press
Scholars from different fields have joined forces to reexamine every aspect of the Hebrew Bible. Their research, carried out in universities and seminaries in Europe and America, has revolutionized our understanding of almost every chapter and verse. But have they killed the Bible in the process? In How to Read the Bible, Harvard professor James Kugel leads the reader chapter by chapter through the "quiet revolution" of recent biblical scholarship, showing time and again how radically the interpretations of today's researchers differ from what people have always thought. The story of Adam and Eve, it turns out, was not originally about the "Fall of Man," but about the move from a primitive, hunter-gatherer society to a settled, agricultural one. As for the stories of Cain and Abel, Abraham and Sarah, and Jacob and Esau, these narratives were not, at their origin, about individual people at all but, rather, explanations of some feature of Israelite society as it existed centuries after these figures were said to have lived. Dinah was never raped -- her story was created by an editor to solve a certain problem in Genesis. In the earliest version of the Exodus story, Moses probably did not divide the Red Sea in half; instead, the Egyptians perished in a storm at sea. Whatever the original Ten Commandments might have been, scholars are quite sure they were different from the ones we have today. What's more, the people long supposed to have written various books of the Bible were not, in the current consensus, their real authors: David did not write the Psalms, Solomon did not write Proverbs or Ecclesiastes; indeed, there is scarcely a book in the Bible that is not the product of different, anonymous authors and editors working in different periods. Such findings pose a serious problem for adherents of traditional, Bible-based faiths. Hiding from the discoveries of modern scholars seems dishonest, but accepting them means undermining much of the Bible's reliability and authority as the word of God. What to do? In his search for a solution, Kugel leads the reader back to a group of ancient biblical interpreters who flourished at the end of the biblical period. Far from na´ve, these interpreters consciously set out to depart from the original meaning of the Bible's various stories, laws, and prophecies -- and they, Kugel argues, hold the key to solving the dilemma of reading the Bible today. How to Read the Bible is, quite simply, the best, most original book about the Bible in decades. It offers an unflinching, insider's look at the work of today's scholars, together with a sustained consideration of what the Bible was for most of its history -- before the rise of modern scholarship. Readable, clear, often funny but deeply serious in its purpose....It offers nothing less than a whole new way of thinking about the Bible. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] I Will Wake the Dawn
Illuminated Psalms
Commentary by Arnold Band (UCLA), Illustrated by Debra Band
June 2007. JPS, Jewish Publication Society
Professor Arnold Band has been at UCLA for nearly five decades.
From the acclaimed author and artist who created The Song of Songs: The Honeybee in the Garden, this breathtakingly beautiful book fuses the artist Debra Band's stunning illuminated interpretation of selected psalms with the scholar Arnold Band's insightful analysis of the text. In shimmering gold and brilliant color this book invites contemporary readers to experience the intense emotion embodied within the ancient verses. It features 36 of the most well-known and moving psalms, including songs of personal and communal joy, prayers for healing and redemption in times of desperation, expressions of love and longing for Jerusalem, and prayers of comfort traditionally included in mourning rites. Band ingeniously interprets each psalm through two illuminations on facing pages: one that brings to life the Hebrew text; the other that illustrates the JPS English translation. Each pair of full-page illuminations is followed by an analysis of the psalm by Arnold Band and an explanation of the symbolism of the artwork by Debra Band. This beautifully bound book can be used for prayer and study, as well as aesthetic enjoyment, and, it makes an unforgettable gift for weddings, anniversaries, and other special occasions. Included in the volume is a foreword by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner and an appendix with the text of all 150 psalms in Hebrew and in English. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] What I Wish My Christian Friends Knew about Judaism
by Robert Schoen
2004. Loyola
From Publishers Weekly: Written in a breezy, conversational style and laced with humor, this primer on Judaism delivers precisely what the title indicates. Schoen describes himself as "a layman" and an "average Jewish American." He is actually an accomplished musician whose compositions have been played in recital and appear on two CDs. Schoen claims that he wrote the book to present a systematic response to questions about Judaism that were posed by his Christian friends. Schoen begins his guidebook with a clear explanation of the streams of Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist. He then discusses what goes on inside the synagogue, followed by an examination of the Jewish holidays. The final sections deal with Jewish life cycle events, home life and beliefs and Judaism in the world. The book concludes with a plea for inter-faith cooperation. What is truly remarkable about this compendium is its thoroughness and lucidity. Schoen manages to touch briefly on practically all aspects of Judaism-from Israel, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism to the role of women, Jewish symbols, Jewish art and appropriate behavior at a bar or bat mitzvah, Jewish weddings and Jewish funerals. Although Schoen says he wrote the book as a manual for Christians, Jews can also benefit from this masterful overview of their religion, either as a refresher or as a quick source of new information
Click the book cover to read more.

[book] Ishmael on the Border
Rabbinic Portrayals of the First Arab
by Carol Bakhos
June 2007. SUNY
Ishmael on the Border is an in-depth study of the rabbinic treatment of Abraham's firstborn son, Ishmael. This book examines Ishmael's conflicted portrayal over a thousand-year period and traces the shifts and nuances in his representation within the Jewish tradition before and after the emergence of Islam. In classical rabbinic texts, Ishmael is depicted in a variety of ways. By examining the biblical account of Ishmael's life, Carol Bakhos points to the tension between his membership in and expulsion from Abraham's household-on the one hand he is circumcised with Abraham, yet on the other, because of divine favor, his brother supplants him as primogenitor. The rabbis address his liminal status in a variety of ways. Like Esau, he is often depicted in antipodal terms. He is Israel's "Other." Yet, Bakhos notes, the emergence of Islam and the changing ethnic, religious, and political landscape of the Near East in the seventh century affected later, medieval rabbinic depictions of Ishmael, whereby he becomes the symbol of Islam and the eponymous prototype of Arabs. With this inquiry into the rabbinic portrayal of Ishmael, the book confronts the interfacing of history and hermeneutics and the ways in which the rabbis inhabited a world of intertwined political, social, and theological forces. The author is Professor of Late Antique Judaism at the University of California at Los Angeles and is the editor of Ancient Judaism in its Hellenistic Context Click the book cover to read more.

[book] American Talmud
The Cultural Work of Jewish American Fiction
by Ezra Cappell
April 2007. SUNY
In American Talmud, Ezra Cappell redefines the genre of Jewish American fiction and places it squarely within the larger context of American literature. Cappell departs from the conventional approach of defining Jewish American authors solely in terms of their ethnic origins and sociological constructs, and instead contextualizes their fiction within the theological heritage of Jewish culture. By deliberately emphasizing historical and ethnographic links to religions, religious texts, and traditions, Cappell demonstrates that twentieth-century and contemporary Jewish American fiction writers have been codifying a new Talmud, an American Talmud, and argues that the literary production of Jews in America might be seen as one more stage of rabbinic commentary on the scriptural inheritance of the Jewish people. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] The Jerusalem Book of Quotations
A 3,000 Year Perspective
by Jack Friedman, CUNY
JULY 2007. Gefen
Perhaps no other city has been spoken of as often or as passionately as Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Book of Quotations brings together the kaleidoscopic impressions and perspectives of a representative group of those who have responded to the wonder of the Holy City from the biblical period to the present: Jews, Christians, and Muslims; pilgrims as well as skeptics, travelers, conquerors, scholars, and statesmen. The work gives expression to the discordant notes of contrasting perspectives about the meaning of Jerusalem. At the same time, it reflects the city s unique distinction as the embodiment of mankind s highest ethical and spiritual aspirations. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] Muscular Judaism
The Jewish Body and the Politics of Regeneration
By Todd Presner
(London: Routledge Curzon, 2007).
This study analyzes the aesthetic dimensions of the strong Jewish body.
Providing valuable insights into an element of European nationalism and modernist culture, this book explores the development of the 'Zionist body' as opposed to the traditional stereotype of the physically weak, intellectual Jew.
At the end of the nineteenth century, when Max Nordau issued his call for the re-creation of a lost "muscular Judaism," there was probably no stereotype as deeply imprinted on the Jewish body as that of the cowardly and un-soldierly Jew. Because of their small chest size, their flat-footedness, their ungainly gait, their hunched-over backs, their susceptibility to certain diseases (diabetes, tuberculosis, alcoholism), their dietary restrictions, their inability or unwillingness to abandon the world of abstractions and speculations, and their inherent cowardice, Jews could never become good soldiers. Their unfit bodies, cowardly psychic disposition, and religious-cultural strictures supposedly prevented them from defending the countries in which they lived, consigning them to "unheroic conduct." In a scathing caricature from 1780, the year before Christian Wilhelm von Dohm published his famous treatise advocating, among other things, for the "military" improvement of the Jews, a Viennese caricaturist by the name of Johann L?schenkohl published an illustrated poem called "Jewish Recruits Complaining About Learning Military Drills." Condensing virtually all of the anti-Semitic stereotypes of the un-soldierly Jew, the poem consists of a dialogue between a Jewish recruit named "Mauschel" and a corporal who is overseeing his training. Mauschel says: "Look out, oh German world! Watch with wonder. We're going into the battlefield. Ach! Is this befitting? We have to become, all at once, a Mauschel and a soldier....

[book] Inviting God In
Celebrating the Soul-Meaning of the Jewish Holy Days
by Rabbi David Aaron
August 2007. Now in paperback
From Publishers Weekly: Aaron, a teacher of mysticism in Jerusalem, focuses on one word not usually used to describe Jewish holiday themes and observances: love. Yes, he says, Rosh Hashanah is about accountability and Hanukkah is about hope. Yes, Yom Kippur is about forgiveness and Purim is about trust. But every holiday shares one unifying ingredient not usually stirred into the Jewish recipe for the holidays: God's love. A Jewish holiday, called a mo'ed, a fixed time or date, allows us a "date with God" so that we can remember a dramatic moment in God's loving presence. Each chapter describes the "soul-meaning"-a term Aaron doesn't define-of a different holiday, an aspect of God's unconditional love. Aaron's accessible explanations make difficult mystical concepts easy to understand, especially when he offers clever, offbeat analogies. The Torah is like a love letter you read and reread. Revelation is like the traffic report on the radio, with God as the traffic helicopter deciphering patterns from above. The tragedy, says Aaron, is that today many of us are not even looking for God. For those who are, Aaron's book will provide sincere guidance toward uncovering a tender, untarnished meaning of the Jewish holidays.. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] The Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia, 4th Edition
by Mordecai Schreiber
August 2007. Schreiber
First published in 1957, this one-volume source for everything-Jewish has delighted and instructed several generations in the English-speaking Jewish world. Fully updated through 2007 (for example.. listing for Ariel Sharon discusses his hospitalization and stroke), it provides snapshots and in-depth entries on every important Jewish personality, place, concept, event and value in Israel, the United States, and all other parts of the world. CONTAINS a CD. The inside covers include a timeline of Jewish and World history. Check page 211, which has a list of Jewish populations by Country (7000 in New Zealand); Click the book cover to read more.

[book] Inheriting the Crown in Jewish Law
The Struggle for Rabbinic Compensation, Tenure, And Inheritance Rights
by Jeffrey I. Roth, Touro College
February 2006. University of South Carolina Press
Roth, a graduate of Yeshiva University, Columbia, and Yale Law School, has written this legal history of the rabbinic profession from biblical to modern times. He traces the development of principles governing compensation and related benefits for rabbis, scholars, teachers, and judges under Jewish law. Roth focuses on the disconnect that evolved as rabbis wished to serve God and their communities yet needed to provide for the material needs of their families. He charts the shift from the Talmudic ideal of uncompensated service and follows the development of four material advantages sought by the rabbinic profession-compensation, protection against competition, principles of tenure in office, and inheritance rights. Roth assesses how Jewish legal authorities dealt with seemingly conflicting material and spiritual requirements. Analyzing two millennia of legal and intellectual history, he depicts the struggle of rabbinical authorities and scholars of the Torah to answer questions about their profession in a way that allowed the rabbinate to survive while limiting compromises with received standards. Through vivid historical vignettes, Roth tells a story of legal ingenuity and religious courage, of flexibility in Jewish law, and of a responsiveness to changing circumstances that ultimately, although often hesitantly, laid the foundation for the modern rabbinate. In one of the few studies of the rabbinate cutting across countries and movements, Roth places rabbis in the social and economic contexts of their times and depicts them not just as religious leaders but as wage earners, providers for their dependents, and competitors in the provision of fee-based services for the more lucrative and prestigious positions. He also draws thoughtful parallels between rabbinic tenure and university academic tenure, noting that both protect the teacher and scholar from ever-changing political winds. Click to read more.


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October 30, 2004. WW NOrTON.
This is the capstone of Alter's lifelong work to establish the literary identity to the Torah. Alter, a Comp Lit professor at Berkeley, has written this complete new translation with a probing insightful commentary which recovers the mesmerizing, literary effect that one who spoke biblical Hebrew would get. As a poet, he gets the cadences of the Hebrew Bible and conveys the musical lyrical nature of the Torah. Through a distinguished career of critical scholarship, Robert Alter's masterly new translation and probing commentary combine to give contemporary readers the definitive edition of The Five Books. Alter's translation recovers the mesmerizing effect of these ancient stories - the profound and haunting enigmas, the ambiguities of motive and image, and the distinctive cadences and lovely precision of the Hebrew text. Alter's translation conveys the music and the meaning of the Hebrew text in a lyrical, lucid English. His commentary illuminates it with learned insight and reflection on its literary and historical dimensions.
The NYT wrote, "Robert Alter, who has come up with this remarkable translation of the Five Books after decades of writing some of the most convincing analyses ever produced of the Hebrew Bible, is a critic with the strength of mind to resist the urge to uplift. Luckily for us, he is equally skeptical of what usually replaces homily in modern commentary, namely history. Scholars who study the Bible, of course, don't try to determine what ''really'' happened, as passionate amateurs do. Instead they attempt to reconstruct how the books must have been assembled. But Alter, along with critics like Frank Kermode, Harold Bloom, David Damrosch and Gabriel Josipovici, has spent the past quarter-century rejecting both the preacherly and the historicist approaches to the Bible and devising one that would allow us to grapple with it as literature. Not that Alter overlooks the Bible's moral and spiritual dimensions; he could hardly do so, given that roughly half the Five Books is made up of laws, and the other half -- the narrative half -- is concerned with working out the covenants made by God with his chosen people. Nor does he ignore the work of scholars who valiantly attempt to isolate historical voices in this blended text. As a matter of principle, though, he declines to chop stories into pieces, reassigning parts to ''J'' or parts to ''P'' for the purpose of resolving apparent contradictions. What Alter does with the Bible instead is read it, with erudition and rigor and respect for the intelligence of the editor or editors who stitched it together, and -- most thrillingly -- with the keenest receptivity to its darker undertones. In the case of the binding of Isaac, for instance, Alter not only accepts a previous translator's substitution of ''cleaver'' for the ''knife'' of the King James version but also changes ''slay'' (as in, ''Abraham took the knife to slay his son'') to ''slaughter.'' Moreover, in his notes, he points out that although this particular Hebrew verb for ''bound'' (as in, ''Abraham bound Isaac his son'') occurs only this once in biblical Hebrew, making its meaning uncertain, we can nonetheless take a hint from the fact that when the word reappears in rabbinic Hebrew it refers specifically to the trussing up of animals. Alter's translation thus suggests a dimension of this eerie tale we would probably have overlooked: that of editorial comment. The biblical author, by using words more suited to butchery than ritual sacrifice, lets us know that he is as horrified as we are at the brutality of the act that God has asked Abraham to commit."
Translators often win praise for their attention to nuance, but in the case of the Hebrew Bible subtlety has hurt more than it has helped. Biblical Hebrew has an unusually small vocabulary clustered around an even smaller number of three-letter roots, most of them denoting concrete actions or things, and the Bible achieves its mimetic effects partly through the skillful repetition of these few vivid words. The translators who gave us the King James version appear more or less to have understood this, but many 20th-century English-language translators have not. In their desire to convey shades of meaning brought out by different contexts or, perhaps, to compensate for what they perceived as the primitiveness of the ancient language, they replaced biblical Hebrew's restricted, earthy lexicon with a broad and varied set of often abstract terms.
"Not Alter. As he explains in his introduction -- an essay that would be worth reading even if it didn't accompany this book -- the Hebrew of the Bible is, in his view, a closed system with a coherent literary logic, ''a conventionally delimited language, roughly analogous in this respect to the French of the neoclassical theater,'' though plain-spoken where neoclassical French is lofty. Alter's translation puts into practice his belief that the rules of biblical style require it to reiterate, artfully, within scenes and from scene to scene, a set of ''key words,'' a term Alter derives from Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, who in an epic labor that took nearly 40 years to complete, rendered the Hebrew Bible into a beautifully Hebraicized German. Key words, as Alter has explained elsewhere, clue the reader in to what's at stake in a particular story, serving either as ''the chief means of thematic exposition'' within episodes or as connective tissue between them.
All this repetition would be merely repetitive if Alter didn't tie it to a precise notion of what's going on in nearly every passage. The art of the translator, like the art of the narrator, lies in knowing when to paraphrase and when not to. What makes Alter's ''Five Books'' more engrossing than most other modern translations is that he bases this decision on more than instinct. Like Rashi and Abraham Ibn Ezra and the other great commentators whose insights fill his superb commentary, Alter has thought these stories through to their shocking ends. Often enough his choice to be literal stems from the rare resolve not to look away from the text, even when it dismays us, or ought to. ..."
Click the book cover above to read more.

[book] The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions
(JPS Desk Reference Series)
by Ronald L. Eisenberg
November 2004. Jewish Publication Society.
How much do you really know about Judaism? After reading The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions, you may be in for a surprise! Did you know that: Dividing the Bible into chapters and verses was a Christian innovation; Although a recital of the Ten Commandments was once part of the daily service at the Temple in Jerusalem, Jews elsewhere were forbidden to recite them; The Kaddish, which now closes every Jewish service, as well as sections within the service, was originally not even part of the synagogue ritual; Ronald Eisenberg has distilled an immense amount of material from classic and contemporary sources into a single volume, which provides thousands of insights into the origins, history, and current interpretations of a wealth of Jewish traditions and customs. Divided into four sections-Synagogue and Prayers, Sabbaths and Festivals, Life-Cycle Events, and Miscellaneous (a large section that includes such diverse topics as Jewish literature, food, and plants and animals)-this latest title in the JPS Desk Reference Series is an encyclopedic reference for anyone who wants easily accessible, accurate information about all things Jewish. Eisenberg writes for a wide, diversified audience, and is respectful of the range of practices and beliefs within today's American Jewish community-from Orthodox to liberal. The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions is certain to be a meaningful addition to institutional and personal libraries. It is also an excellent gift for b'nai mitzvah, and other lifecycle events and holidays. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book] Memory In Jewish, Pagan And Christian Societies Of The Graeco-roman World
(Library of Second Temple Studies)
by Doron Mendels, Hebrew University
2005. T + T Clark.
The ten studies in this book explore the phenomenon of public memory in societies of the Graeco-Roman period. Mendels begins with a concise discussion of the historical canon that emerged in Late Antiquity and brought with it the (distorted) memory of ancient history in Western culture. The following nine chapters each focus on a different source of collective memory in order to demonstrate the patchy and incomplete associations ancient societies had with their past, including discussions of Plato's Politeia, a "site of memory" of the early church, and the dichotomy existing between the reality of the land of Israel in the Second Temple period and memories of it. Throughout the book, Mendels shows that since the societies of Antiquity had associations with only bits and pieces of their past, these associations could be slippery and problematic, constantly changing, multiplying and submerging. Memories, true and false, oral and inscribed, provide good evidence for this fluidity. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book] From Martyr to Mystic
Rabbinic Martyrology & the Making of Merkavah Mysticism
(Studies & Texts in Ancient Judaism)
by Ra'anan Boustan
J.C.B. Mohr (P. Siebeck) (December 30, 2005)
A analysis of the literary and conceptual relationships between the rabbinic martyrological tradition and the early Jewish mystical writings known as Heikhalot literature. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book] The Jesus Family Tomb
The Discovery, the Investigation, and the Evidence That Could Change History
by Simcha Jacobovici, Charles Pellegrino
March 2007, Harper San Francisco
Sort of like CSI Jerusalem. Simcha J, a Jewish film maker famous for Hollywoodism, teams up with Charles P., in search of the archaeological find of the new century... Tune in to the Discovery Channel for a James Cameron directed story on this book in Spring 2007.. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book] Light And Fire of the Baal Shem Tov
by Yitzhak Buxbaum
Continuum International Publishing Group (September 1, 2005)
This is a life, in stories, of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1700-1760), the founder of Hasidism. The Baal Shem Tov, or the Besht, as he is commonly called, led a revival in Judaism that put love and joy at the center of religious life and championed the piety of the common folk against the rabbinic establishment. He has been recognized as one of the greatest teachers in Jewish history, and much of what is alive and vibrant in Judaism today, in all denominations, derives from his inspiration. Abraham Joshua Heschel, who was descended from several illustrious Hasidic dynasties, wrote: "The Baal Shem Tov brought heaven to earth. He and his disciples, the Hasidim, banished melancholy from the soul and uncovered the ineffable delight of being a Jew."
"Yitzhak Buxbaum's book is the scripture that should have been written about the Baal Shem Tov two-hundred-and-fifty years ago, but wasn't....No one who wants to draw from the wellsprings of Hasidism should be without this book. If you don't have enough money to buy it, pawn your shoes and run to the bookstore barefoot." -Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
"Buxbaum has put his finger on the pulse of the values that lie at the heart of the Baal Shem Tov's message and conveys them in words that speak to the heart of our generation."-Arthur Green
Click the book cover above to read more.

[book] Did God Have A Wife?
Archaeology And Folk Religion In Ancient Israel
by William G. Dever
Following up on his two recent, widely acclaimed studies of the history and social life of ancient Israel, William Dever here uses archaeological and biblical evidence to reconstruct the folk religion of ancient Israel. Did God Have a Wife? shines new light on the presence and influence of women's cults in early Israel and their implications for our understanding of the official "religion of the book." Dever pays particular attention to presences of the goddess Asherah, reviled by the authors of the Hebrew Bible as a foreign deity but considered by many modern scholars to have been popularly envisioned as the consort of biblical Yahweh. The first book by an archaeologist on ancient Israelite religion, this fascinating study critically reviews virtually all of the archaeological literature of the past generation, and it brings fresh evidence to the table as well. While Dever digs deep into the past - revealing insights are found, for example, in the form of local and family shrines where sacrifices and other rituals were performed - his discussion is extensively illustrated and communicated in non-technical language accessible to everyone. Dever calls his book "a feminist manifesto - by a man," and his work gives a new prominence to women as the custodians of Israel's folk religion. Though the monotheistic faith and practice recounted in the Bible likely held sway among educated, elite men in Jerusalem, the heart and soul of Israelite religion was polytheistic, concerned with meeting practical needs, and centered in the homes of common, illiterate people. Even more popularly written than Dever's two previous books, Did God Have a Wife? is sure to spur wide, even passionate, debate in all quarters. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book] The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature
Selections Annotated & Explained
by Rami M. Shapiro
The first of God's creations and God's endless delight, Wisdom (also known as Chochma and Sophia) is the Mother of all life and the guide to right living. The voice of the Divine Feminine in the Holy Scriptures of Jews and Christians, Wisdom's teachings are passionate, powerful and rarely heard. That is about to change. Drawing from the Hebrew books of Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes and Job, and the Wisdom literature books of Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon, the Divine Feminine speaks to you directly. Rami Shapiro's contemporary translations and powerful commentaries clarify who Wisdom is, what She teaches, and how her words can help you live justly, wisely and with compassion. This is not a book about Wisdom but the voice of Wisdom herself, freed to speak her mind in a manner that is liberating, uplifting and intrinsically compelling. Now you can experience the Divine Feminine and understand her teachings with no previous knowledge of Wisdom literature. This SkyLight Illuminations edition presents insightful yet unobtrusive commentary that explains the selections' meanings and messages and makes plain the Divine Feminine's call to find her, Wisdom, in all things. . Click the book cover above to read more.

The 400 Most Commonly Asked Questions About the Old Testament
by Rabbi Morry Sofer
Schreiber Publishing, Inc.; (September 25, 2004)
Who were The three patriarchs of Israel? The three matriarchs? The first three kings of Israel? The place where the law was given to Israelites? Name The city of David? Who was Nahum? Was Joel a prophet? Who was he? Why are Ezekiel, Isaiah and Jeremiah considered "literary" prophets? Why did Judah last longer than Israel? In 1 Samuel, why didn't the ark of the covenant protect Israel's army? Was the brass erpent of Moses magical? Why is Psalm 18, a war psalm, included in the peaceful Book of Psalms? Does David proclaim himself a son of God in Psalm 2? "Ask the Bible" looks at questions people everywhere have been asking for ages. The answers respect all faiths. Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut has already praised this clear, well written book. Many questions reach deeply into human existence, ranging from the origins of the universe to the problem of good and evil. The purpose of this book is to look at the questions that have been most often asked by all sorts of people, from biblical scholars to people with very little knowledge of the Bible, and through an honest discussion, based on general and unbiased knowledge and the opinions of many scholars throughout the ages, offer sensible answers which hopefully will help the reader form his or her own view, and thereby gain a better understanding of the Bible. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book cover click here] Around the Family Table
A Comprehensive Bencher and Companion for Shabbat and Festival Meals and other Family Occasions
With insights and commentary
by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat
URIM; Ohr Torah Stone, (May 2005)
Around the Family Table is a practical and inspiring book of devotion and prayer for the Jewish home. Many uplifting and ancient Jewish traditions are rooted in the home and celebrated with the family. This book of prayer and celebration is intended to serve as a guide for meaningful expressions of the Jewish experience at home. Inspiring stories and personal commentary by the author supplement the text throughout. Blessings and songs celebrating the entire year of Jewish festivals and Sabbaths, in Hebrew, with English instructions and translations, make this work of fundamental value for the Jewish home. From the blessings said on festivals and for Hannukah candle lighting to birth celebrations for boys as well as for girls, the marriage ceremony and blessings, prayers for inaugurating a new house, and other momentous life cycle occasions, all are marked with traditional praise and holy words. Rabbi Riskin's sensitivity and unique imprint is present throughout this comprehensive and handy companion. Some of the special additions include the following: Blessings for the children on Yom Kippur eve; Symbolic foods and ceremony for Rosh Hashana; Ushpizin for sukkot meals (welcoming patriarchs and matriarchs); Songs for all festivals Hunnukah candle blessings; Eve of Israel Independence Day meal celebration; Tu b'shevat seder; Shalom Zakhar, Shalom Bat; Circumcision ceremony; Redemption of the firstborn; Simhat bat ceremony for baby girls; Dedication of a new home. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book cover click here] TORAH LIGHTS
Genesis Confronts Life, Love and Family
by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat
URIM; Ohr Torah Stone, (May 30, 2005)
Rabbi Riskin writes, "The world of biblical commentary reveals many secrets. First and foremost, the Bible... may be likened to a magnificent diamond, glistening with many brilliant colors all at the same time. And although the different hues often appear to be contradictory, when you view the totality of the light emanating from the diamond, you begin to appreciate how complementary they really are. Thus the sages of the Talmud understood that there are many possible truths contained in each biblical statement, each adding its unique melody to the magnificent symphony of the whole, synthesizing not in conflicting dissonance but in holy dialectic...." Click the book cover above to read more.

[book cover click here] THE WOMEN WHO DANCED BY THE SEA
by Marsha Mirkin, Phd, Brandeis University; Fall 2004
The central theme of "The Women Who Danced by the Sea is that connection, empathy and the yearning for meaningful relationships form the core of wisdom. Each chapter looks at a different foremother and at a different issue with which she must grapple in order to gain the wisdom to move into deeper relationship, with herself, those she loves, and the Divine. Each chapter ties their struggles to those of contemporary women and men Mirkin has met in her 20-year clinical practice and looks at what we can learn from their experiences. Our foremothers' stories offer profound lessons in living. Their legacies can guide us as we face similar challenges, and find similar hope and blessings on our paths to more intimate connection. Chapters include: Eve. Choosing a Life Worth Living; Sarah, Hagar and Abraham: Empathy and Belonging; Rebecca. Envisioning our Relationship; Leah and Rachel. Struggle and Compassion; The Women of Early Exodus: Birthing an Ethical Community; And Miriam Danced. Finding Joy and Sustenance during Difficult Times; Hannah. Voice, Freedom and Grace; Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. Finding Sustenance I the House of Israel. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book] JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh
Pocket Edition
by Jewish Publication Society of America
August 2003. JPS.
Now, for the first time, a pocket version of The JPS Hebrew-English TANAKH is available, with the exact same text and number of pages as our standard edition. The type, though small, is clearly readable, and the letters, Hebrew vowels, and cantillation marks are crisp and clear. The sturdy, coated paperback cover embossed in black with gold lettering is made to endure heavy, constant use. Fitting easily into a backpack, handbag, or briefcase, the new pocket JPS Hebrew-English TANAKH will appeal to students and others who need a lightweight, compact version of this essential JPS text. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book cover click here] KOHELET
Transl by Leonard Kravitz and Kerry Olitzky
2003. UAHC.
Using Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and other classical and modern commentators, this is a line by line translation and commentary on Kohelet... for everything there is a season. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book cover click here] SEEK HER OUT
by Elyse M. Goldstein
2003. UAHC.
Rabbi Goldstein addesses the issue of women and Judaism from a timely perspective. Divided into content areas, this book focuses on 3 main topics: The study of Torah, the observance of halachah, and the language of theology. How does the portrayal of women in the texts and laws affect our view of women in Judaism. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book cover click here] PASSAGE TO PESACH
Preparing for Passover through text and tradition
by Frances Weinman Schwartz
2003. UAHC.
a text based enrichment course of understanding of why we do what we do and when we do it. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book] The Monotheists:
Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Conflict and Competition, Volume I : The Peoples of God
by F. E. Peters
Fall 2003. Princeton.
The world's three great monotheistic religions have spent most of their historical careers in conflict or competition with each other. And yet in fact they sprung from the same spiritual roots and have been nurtured in the same historical soil. This book--an extraordinarily comprehensive and approachable comparative introduction to these religions--seeks not so much to demonstrate the truth of this thesis as to illustrate it. Frank Peters, one of the world's foremost experts on the monotheistic faiths, takes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and after briefly tracing the roots of each, places them side by side to show both their similarities and their differences. Volume I, The Peoples of God, tells the story of the foundation and formation of the three monotheistic communities, of their visible, historical presence. Volume II, The Words and Will of God, is devoted to their inner life, the spirit that animates and regulates them. Peters takes us to where these religions live: their scriptures, laws, institutions, and intentions; how each seeks to worship God and achieve salvation; and how they deal with their own (orthodox and heterodox) and with others (the goyim, the pagans, the infidels). Throughout, he measures--but never judges--one religion against the other. The prose is supple, the method rigorous. This is a remarkably cohesive, informative, and accessible narrative reflecting a lifetime of study by a single recognized authority in all three fields. Click the book cover above to read more.

New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Haftarah Portions, the 5 Megillot and Special Shabbatot.
Edited By Rabbi Elyse Goldstein
September 2003. Jewish Lights.
I fell in love with the Women's TORAH Commentary. An instant classic and must have. And now this, for the first time, women's unique perspectives and experiences are applied to the weekly portions and special readings. Includes feminist interpretations of the stories of Yael and Devorah, David and Goliath, David and Batsheva, Jonah and the fish (and female fish), Jerusalem as female, the motif of the whore, and the Witch of Endor. Click the book cover above to read more.

By Israel Knohl (Hebrew University, Hartman Institute)
October 2003. Jewish Publication Society. The author of "The Messiah Before Jesus," Knohl shares his understanding of how the Torah was edited into its final form. He bridges the gap between ancient Israel (c. 1400 - 586 BCE) and Second Temple period (c. 536 BCE - 70 CE) by showing the continuity between those eras and the gradual evolution of the biblical worldview, which formed the foundation of later Rabbinic Judaism. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book] Hasidism on the Margin
Reconciliation, Antinomianism, and Messianism in Izbica and Radzin Hasidism
Modern Jewish Philosophy and Religion: Translations and Critical Studies
by Shaul Magid
Fall 2003. Univ of Wisconsin Press
Hasidism on the Margin explores one of the most provocative and radical traditions of Hasidic thought, the school of Izbica and Radzin that Rabbi Gershon Henokh originated in nineteenth-century Poland. Shaul Magid traces the intellectual history of this strand of Judaism from medieval Jewish philosophy through centuries of Kabbalistic texts to the nineteenth century and into the present. He contextualizes the Hasidism of Izbica-Radzin in the larger philosophy and history of religions and provides a model for inquiry into other forms of Hasidism. Click the book cover above to read more.

[book] Jesus in His Jewish Context. A Historians View
Geza Vermes)
Geza Vermes was born Jewish, raised Catholic, and at Oxford, once again became a Jew. These studies develop further the investigation carried out in Geza Vermes' book Jesus and Jew and The Dead Sea Scrolls and shed light on many important and controversial issues from that period. Subjects include the relationship of Jewish studies to the interpretation of the New Testament; Jesus' understanding of himself; an updated account of Qumran research after fifty years; Josephus' notice on Jesus and his summary of the Law. In particular, this volume contains the Riddell Memorial Lectures, 'The Gospel of Jesus the Jew', which represent a continuation of Jesus the Jew Click the book cover above to read more.

[book] Sarah Laughed
by Vanessa Ochs
Summer 2004. McGraw Hill
PW WRITES: With warmth, erudition and a very contemporary sensibility, Ochs offers reflections on the lives of Old Testament matriarchs that should appeal to women across religious lines. Director of Jewish Studies at the University of Virginia, Ochs uses her own research with unobtrusive grace to shed light on gaps in the biblical stories. While focused on the narratives, she chooses to combine an inspirational self-help message with Jewish lore and the testimony of modern female friends. Most often, she is successful, as when she discusses well-known figures like Sarah, laughing in reaction to the news that she will bear a child in her old age. "Sarah's laughter gives us perspective on our yearning. We can hear her laughter when we hold on to our dreams and when we decide it's time to relinquish them." Even when she grapples with enigmatic or tragic women, like Jephthah's daughter, Ochs finds parallels between their stories and the dilemmas of her modern readers. Divided thematically by topics such as friendship, parenting and healing, the chapters include translations from the Hebrew, a "midrash-like" commentary on the story and practical rituals designed to bring home the diverse lessons of this appealing book.
From Eve's rebellious taste of wisdom to the righteous anger of Job's wife, each woman's story is retold in imaginative prose and accompanied by real-life rituals that you can perform at home, gaining insight into: Finding inner wisdom; Speaking the true self; Being a good friend; Maintaining romantic partnerships; Raising a family; Letting go of children; Feeling blessed with a life well lived; and much more. Click the book cover above to read more.

By Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
and Playwright David Mamet
August 26, 2003. Schocken Books.
From Schocken Books or from Shocking Books? Wait. Time Out. I thought that Moses requested that six cities of refuge be created when the Israelites crossed the Jordan. But this book's title says five. Why? Because the five areas of refuge for us today are the five books of Moses. Kushner and Mamet have been Torah study partners (in Johnny's Deli outside of Boston) for years. This book grows from the tradition of kavannah, or intention, a short message of intentional focus at the beginning of prayer or study. For each of the weekly portions of Torah study in the Jewish calendar, they select a sentence or two from the portion, show it in Hebrew characters with an English translation, and provide a short kavannah. Rabbi Kushner and Playwrite Mamet look at Torah in new ways, and they interpret the passages from their varied backgrounds, whether that be from law, history, Freud, Hasidism, mysticism, the theater, or life. In the words of Mamet, "The struggle with the angel, Judaism's struggle, is this: not that we will wrest more information from him - we will not - but that we learn to live with the information we possess- to cease seeking information and to pursue wisdom."
This book helps you to find that wisdom and develop your own. Examples: For the first chapter of Bereshit, David Mamet (DM) writes that there is no closure in Judaism. Creation is an ongoing process. One should celebrate that there is no completion to creation. For the story of Noach, Lawrence Kushner (LK) asks how righteous Noach was; he allowed everyone else to be destroyed. He was a tzaddik in a fur coat, who pulled his coat tighter to stay warm, rather than building a fire to help others. DM compares the story to Tolstoy. For Lech Lecha, LK discusses the idea of "going forth", while DM rails against anti-Semitism which may have its roots in Abraham's choice to "stand apart." Did this create the perception that poor, rich, impertinent, and intransigent Jews are clannish? Or that they "try to pass." For Exodus 6:2-5, a witty DM asks whether God changed His name because El Shaddai sounded "too Jewish." For the crossing of the Red Sea, LK discusses the commentaries of Dov Baer of Mezritch on the idea of being in the midst of the Sea but simultaneously being on dry land; while DM talks of Freud and the need to "remember in order to forget." For Vayakhael-Pekude, LK discusses the need for the tabernacle, or mini-Sinai, in light of the Golden Calf incident; DM talks of the cloud resting on Moses instead of on the tent, and how the community views leaders as "servants or good for nothings." For Aharemot-Kedoshim, DM talks of individual holiness, even if your name is not Levy or Horowitz; and LK writes of how IF each of us is holy, then we must act differently towards one another. For Ki Tisa, where God says, "You cannot see my face... and live", LK explains that face might mean present and future, while God's back is the temporal afterward; and DM writes that God has no face, but can comfort people with goodness if not the greater plan. Click to read more.

[book] Moadim Lesimcha:
Explorations into the Jewish Holidays
by Shlomo Aviner

Fall 2002. URIM. The title of this book comes from "Vateeten Lanu MOADIM LESIMCHA chagim U'zmanim L'sasson" (and You have given us holidays on which we rejoice, festivals and times for jubilation...). Rabbi Shlomo Aviner has written about 50 books, nearly all are in Hebrew. The rabbi of the Israeli settlement of Beit El, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Ateret Kohanim yeshiva, and a follower of Rabbi Kook's son, Aviner's writings have influenced several branches of Orthodox Judaism, Gush Emunim, and religious/messianic segments of Israel's West Bank settlers. This book has translated many of Aviner's essays into English, especially drawing from his book, "Tal Herman." When reading his essays, keep in mind that his brand of religious nationalist Zionism has tried to justify the removal of rights for Palestinians and tried to stamp out any type of a Palestinian state. Yet, putting that aside for a moment, Aviner reminds the reader that along the Jewish calendar, the Jewish holidays have a theme that one should study and act upon. Aviner criticizes those obsessive compulsive co-religionists who focus on stringently cleaning every bit of bread crumbs from their homes prior to Passover and forget the holiday's spiritual theme. His Hanukkah theme is that of faith versus miracles, and miracles from god for those who act like the Macabees. His essays reinforce the idea of action and a strain of militarism can be read between the lines. When discussing the Purim story, he portrays Mordechai as strong, self-confident, and proud when he does not capitulate to Haman. His Purim essays include the titles, "The Mitzvah to Drink," and "Kneelings Saps Our Strength." His essay on Sukkot he addresses the material world and the spiritual. His discussion on Rosh Hashana discusses repentance and its centrality in the universe.

[book] Fifty Jewish Messiahs 50 Jewish Messiahs
by Jerry Rabow

October 2002. Gefen
The untold life stories of 50 Jewish Messiahs since Jesus, and how they changed the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worlds. A spiritual adventure. Includes the messiah who killed the Pope, the second Moses who tried to part a Sea, the Rabbi who made Cromwell change a law of England, the Baghdad Night of Flying, The Jew who was hid by a Pope in the Vatican, The Messiah who returned two years after being beheaded, the 17th Century orgies, the Jewish Messiah who partnered with the pope to reclaim Jerusalem, the Messiah who was certified by the King of Portugal, the Messiahs who lost their heads, the ones who died in bed, and the one who did both.

[book] Maimonides and the Hermeneutics of Concealment:
Deciphering Scripture and Midrash in the Guide of the Perplexed
(Suny Series in Jewish Philosophy)
by James Arthur Diamond

April 2002. SUNY. Maimonides and the Hermeneutics of Concealment demonstrates the type of hermeneutic that the medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) engaged in throughout his treatise, The Guide of the Perplexed. By comprehensively analyzing Maimonides' use of rabbinic and scriptural sources, James Arthur Diamond argues that, far from being merely prooftexts, they are in fact essential components of Maimonides' esoteric stratagem. Diamond's close reading of biblical and rabbinic citations in the Guide not only penetrates its multilayered structure to arrive at its core meaning, but also distinguishes Maimonides as a singular contributor to the Jewish exegetical tradition

[book] Women of the Wall:
Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism's Holy Site
by Phyllis Chesler (Editor), Rivka Haut (Editor)
January 2003. Jewish Lights Publishing.
Phyllis Chesler, a founder and board member of the International Committee for Women of the Wall, has been fighting for Jewish women's religious and human rights for more than thirty years. She is a psychologist and the author of eleven books, including Women and Madness and Woman's Inhumanity to Woman. She is a specialist on the topics of patriarchy, psychiatric treatment of women, custody battles, child abuse, women and the criminal justice system, and Camp Sister Spirit. In Israel today, the Kotel is under the religious authority of the rabbinate. Women have only limited rights to practice Jewish ritual in its precincts. This passionate book documents the legendary grassroots and legal struggle of a determined group of Jewish women from Israel, the United States, and other parts of the world--known as the Women of the Wall--to win the right to pray out loud together as a group, according to Jewish law; wear ritual objects; and read from Torah scrolls at the Western Wall. Eyewitness accounts of physical violence and intimidation, inspiring personal stories, and interpretations of legal and classical Jewish (halakhic) texts bring to life the historic and ongoing struggle that the Women of the Wall face in their everyday fight for religious and gender equality. Click to read more.

[book] Torah of the Mothers
Contemporary Jewish Women Read Classical Jewish Texts
by Ora Wiskind-Elper (Editor), Susan A. Handelman (Editor)

2000. URIM. This interesting and important book brings together writings by 23 Orthodox Jewish women, Torah scholars all, but none of them rabbis or feminists, as in more liberal divisions of Judaism. In certain ways, these essays do not differ much from other contemporary Torah commentaries here, as in similar works, are close readings of Torah and applications of its meaning to modern life. Yet these women are aware of the complexity and irony of their situation, as they reflect on themes such as the exile of the Shekhinah or the search for authentic identity. For example, Sarah Schneider writes: "If [the rabbis] are to imitate Moshe then they must find a place of deep and authentic compassion for the women who approach them with halakhic petitions." This collection should prove thought-provoking for thoughtful Jewish readers of all persuasions. Highly recommended.

[book] The Kid's Cartoon Bible
by Chaya M. Burstein

July 2002. JPS. Award-winning author-illustrator Chaya Burstein combines her talents as a storyteller and an artist to bring alive the Bible for young readers. Opening with the Five Books of Moses, her colorful and imaginative drawings vividly tell the story of the earth's creation, Moses' triumphs over Pharoah's magicians, God's blessing of Joshua before the deliverance to the Promised Land, and more. Burstein continues with artful depictions of the works of the Prophets and Writings, including the popular stories of Ruth, Esther, and Daniel. Children and adults will appreciate her Bible people-finder, an index locating dozens of personalities within the text.

Visionary words from Moses and Miriam To Henrietta Szold and A. J. Heschel
Edited by Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire (Leo Baeck College, HUC)

February 2002. An illustrated collection of Jewish prophecy. Includes prophiles of Abravenel, Akiva, Amos, Baal Shem Tov, Leo Baeck, Ben-Gurion, Buber, Ibn Gavirol, Herzl, Heschel, Hillel, Hosea, Isasiah, Manasseh ben Israel, Jeremiah, Rav Kook, Janusz Korczak, Maimonides RamBam, Dona Gracias Mendes, Micah, Miriam, Lily Montagu, Moses, Bachya ibn Pakuda, Samuel, Barukh Spinoza, Henrietta Szold, Hannah Webermacher, Stephen S. Wise, and Yohanan ben Zakkai.

by Bradley Shavit Artson, Miriyam Glazer

Summer 2001. Friendly text makes the teaching of Torah accessible to everyone The Bedside Torah guides you into the dramatic and spiritually riveting world of Torah. While weaving together ancient, medieval, and modern views, it offers three different and original commentaries on each of the 49 Torah portions. Written in a friendly and accessible tone, it includes a glossary of terms and a short introduction at the beginning of each portion, explaining its most salient characteristics

[book] Midrashic Women
Formations of the Feminine in Rabbinic Literature
(Brandeis Series on Jewish Women)
by Judith R. Baskin (Director of Jewish Studies, Univ of Oregon)

2002. A unique look at how non-legal rabbinic writings imagine women and their lives. While most gender-based analyses of rabbinic Judaism concentrate on the status of women in the halakhah (the rabbinic legal tradition), Judith R. Baskin turns her attention to the construction of women in the aggadic midrash, a collection of expansions of the biblical text, rabbinic ruminations, and homiletical discourses that constitutes the non-legal component of rabbinic literature. Examining rabbinic convictions of female alterity, competing narratives of creation, and justifications of female disadvantages, as well as aggadic understandings of the ideal wife, the dilemma of infertility, and women among women and as individuals, she shows that rabbinic Judaism, a tradition formed by men for a male community, deeply valued the essential contributions of wives and mothers while also consciously constructing women as other and lesser than men. Recent feminist scholarship has illuminated many aspects of the significance of gender in biblical and halakhic texts but there has been little previous study of how aggadic literature portrays females and the feminine. Such representations, Baskin argues, often offer a more nuanced and complex view of women and their actual lives than the rigorous proscriptions of legal discourse..

[book] Reading the Women of the Bible
A New Interprestation of their stories
by Tikva Frymer-Kensky

2002. Schocken. Library Journal wrote: "A professor of Hebrew Bible at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, Frymer-Kensky (In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth) investigates biblical stories about women to ascertain why "a clearly androcentric text from a patriarchal society" has "so many stories that revolve around women." Deliberately omitting a few prominent women (e.g., Eve and Miriam), Frymer-Kensky focuses on four groups of women: the victors, the victims, the virgins, and those with voice (prophecy, necromancy). She finds that "[c]ontrary to all assumptions...the Hebrew Bible, unlike other ancient literature, does not present any ideas about women as the `Other.' The role of woman is clearly subordinate, but the Hebrew Bible does not `explain' or justify this subordination by portraying women as different or inferior." The author argues that the Hebrew Bible's notion of women as subordinate but not inferior became a paradigm for Israel's understanding of its own subjugation by other nations." Check for a great review of the book by Judith Hauptman (May 9, 2003)

[book] Thoughts to Ponder: Daring Observations about the Jewish Tradition
by Nathan T. Lopes Cardozo

2002. Urim publications. A book on Jewish thought, its care for the stranger, its justice for the weak, its biblical promise, based on email exchanges, by one of the leading Jewish writers. Cardozo, a Dutch born graduate of Mir and Gateshead, is like a Moses, a leader and a spiritual ambassador, since he too was raised in a non-observant "Egyptian" household.

Finding the Fruits of Peace
by Joani Keller Rothenberg (Illustrator), Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso

October 2001, Jewish Lights Publishing. Reading level: Ages 4-8 Hardcover - 32 pages. A springboard for talking to kids about anger and anger management. Rabbi Sasso (the second woman to be ordained as a rabbi in 1974) served congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis with her husband. Rabbi Sasso recasts the biblical tale of Cain and Abel in a way that invites adults and kids to a conversation about anger and our power to deal with it in positive ways. Cain and Abel, the first children, the first brothers, they were so much alike yet so different: Cain a shepherd, Abel a farmer. They lived side by side, surrounded by trees where wonderful, exotic fruits of many kinds grew: orapples, rasdew, and banangerines ripened all on a single branch. The air was sweet with the smell of pinango, limeberry, and waterloupe. But jealousy, anger, and fear took all this away. Cain and Abel's happiness came to an end, and with it, the trees' ability to grow these special fruits. In a world often hurt by violence, this retold biblical story gives children and adults a starting point for discussing anger and its effects on those around us. By harnessing the power we have to deal with our emotions in positive ways, we can once again cultivate the fruits of peace and change the world for the better.

Commentary on the Weekly Torah Portion
by Yeshayahu Leibowitz

January 2002. 203 pages. Urim Publications. The erudite Professor Liebowitz passed away in 1994, but he has left us with fresh thoughts on the weekly Torah portion. He was a Professor of Science at Hebrew University, having immigrated to Palestine in 1935 at the age of 31. His weekly commentaries on the parshat reveal his radical ideas on the nature of god and god's relationship to humans, he confronts the nature of prayer, and our concept of holiness in the world. He promotes the idea of compliance with the law for its own sake, and not for reward or punishment. For example, take his commentary on Noach, and the Tower of Babel, is to forego the flood, but look at the world after the flood. Was it a world as evil as the pre-flood world? Was the dispersion of people after Babel a punishment? Maybe it wasn't a punishment? Maybe is was a reward, allowing for a difference in thought and practice and a decentralization. Maybe Babel was a story of conformity, centralization and totalitarianism. Dispersion ended this. This is a very fresh thought, no? Or take Vayeshev, the story of Jacob and Joseph and Egypt, and the sentence "Joseph was BROUGHT DOWN to Egypt. Is it actually a story of free will and determinism, a story of antinomies and paralogisms. Leibowitz focuses on midrash and writings that define the word "dealing and deeds" as "making a false accusation." He delves into the idea of God bringing deeds into the world and upon man, and later places the blame on man for these deeds, and the idea that the strife between the brothers and the sale of Joseph was pre-ordained, since it was known that the Hebrews would be slaves in Egypt for 400 years. In his four page discussion of Korach, he ties this parshat to parasha of tzitzit, and the end of the Shema which is recited daily. Korach, Leibowitz writes, rebelled against Moses saying "for all the community, all of them are holy." But, Leibowitz continues, the tzitzit idea of holiness (which appears in the paragraph above the Korach story) differs from that of Korach. The tzitzit concept of holiness is one to be strived for, it is a goal; while Korach believes it is something that is granted. Korach has absolved himself of responsibility, he boasts that he is a member of a holy nation, even though he is contemptible. Are the people holy or do they become holy through their actions and performance of certain tasks? Guess what, the ideas from Korach did not end when he was swallowed up by the Earth. The continue today. If you enjoy these ideas, buy the book.

[book] Disability in Jewish Law (Jewish Law in Context)
by Tvzi Marx

April 2002. Tzvi C. Marx answers the pressing need for insight into the position of Jewish law with respect to the rights and status of those with physical impairments, and the corresponding duties of the non-disabled

[book] By the Sweat of Your Brow : Reflections on Work and the Workplace in Jewish Thought
by David J. Schnall

August 2001. Professor Schnall summarizes the primary attitudes and values of Jewish religious culture as it confronts and responds to the role of work and the workplace. He insists that the place of the worker and the mutual obligations that tie worker and employer to a vision of ethics and morality are "ordained by the word of God." Schnall draws from such sources as the Hebrew Bible and its classical commentaries, the Talmud, the rulings of early Jewish authorities and their reasoning in response to specific cases and petitions brought before them, the codes of Jewish law and tradition collected during the last 15 centuries, and modern works that apply this tradition to new economic structures and technologies that support them

[book cover] The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Judaism
by Benjamin Blech and Richard Joel

Paperback. Rabbi Blech of Yeshiva University creates a warm, accessible, conversational guide to Jewish practice, theology, and religion.

[book cover] The Complete Idiot's Guide to Jewish History and Culture
by Benjamin Blech

Paperback. They tried to kill us, we survived, let's pray and let's eat. Not, Jewish culture and history are more than this. Rabbi Blech of Yeshiva University creates this easy to understand guide to over 5,000 years of history of Hebrews, Jews, and Judaism.

[book cover] In Potiphar's House : The Interpretive Life of Biblical Texts
by James L. Kugel

A study of Jewish and other commentaries on the Joseph story

[book cover click here] SISTERS AT SINAI
By Jill Hammer

November 2001. Jewish Publication Society. From a JTS article: When asked to name her favorite female biblical character, newly-ordained rabbi Jill Hammer names Leah, who is the wife of Jacob the Patriarch. Or is she? According to a section of the Zohar, Rabbi Hammer relates, there is a split in Jacob's soul that effectively renders him two people: Jacob, married to Rachel, and Israel, married to Leah. Leah is her personal favorite, Rabbi Hammer continues, because "Leah is a namer; the way she names her children is very rich and reflects her inner life." Now it is Rabbi Hammer's turn to name names and tell tales that reflect her own inner life. As author of Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women (forthcoming from JPS, October 2001), a collection of twenty-four original midrashim on biblical women, she offers her own interpretations of the biblical text. The book also contains notes about Rabbi Hammer's creative process for each of the stories, giving a clearer and more resonant voice to some of the Bible's female characters. Rabbi Hammer explains that she sees modern midrash as a weaving of the revelations of our contemporary lives into the revelations provided by Jewish tradition. In order for women, many of whom are voiceless or muted in classical texts, to claim a voice in the tradition, she maintains, they must first claim the process of interpreting Torah. "Because so much of women's experience is missing from the tradition," she explains, "I believe the best way of entering this discourse is to build on the ancient process of midrash, to invent our way into the sacred text." Although in her book she touches on many of the "major women" - like Eve, Sarah, Miriam and Deborah - Rabbi Hammer also sought to include women from every biblical time period. In addition to the more obvious women such as the four Matriarchs, she also added some "obscure" women to the mix, such as Huldah the prophetess; David's concubine Avishag the Shunamite; Esau's wife Mahalat, daughter of Ishmael; and Joseph's wife Asenat, daughter of Potiphar. Had there been enough room, she muses, she would have liked to have written midrashim for all of the Bible's women. Rabbi Hammer describes her book as "not quite fiction," meaning that "it is in the standard American tradition of fiction, but maintains a deep connection to its rabbinic roots. It is scholarly, in the sense that it tries to analyze and use verses, but it is more artistic than scholarly." ....

by Avi Weiss

" The Talmud considers the prayers of Hannah, the mother of Samuel the prophet, as a model for the optimal prayer experience. The choice of a woman as a role model in prayer is significant. It reflects the basic truth that women, like men, can reach the highest levels of dialogue with God."(pp.30)
Review from WUJS..... This profound statement as well as the title, is a clear indication of where the content of this book is heading, as Avi Weiss explores the complex and controversial topic of women's prayer groups. He is quoted by many as the leading expert on the halakhic stance on this subject. The book is structured in such a way that a strong basis and a clear understanding of rudimentary (yet vital) concepts is created . He covers the subjects of the role of women in Judaism, private and communal prayer, Torah study, Torah readings, as well as other issues surrounding prayer. As one explores these topics, one carries the fundamental ideas of the previous chapter through to the next, thus enabling the reader to develop a deeper understanding of the complex ideas. Weiss' sources range from as early as the Talmud, to Rambam and Rashi; expanding to the Shulchan Aruch and Mishnah Berurah and as late as Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik and Rav Avraham Yitzhak ha-Cohen Kook. Each page provides a clear argument and is usually footnoted with essential details, either expounding on the main idea, citing sources or referring the reader to other literature to read on related topics. This indicates a thoroughly researched project. Its transliterated and translated Hebrew makes for 'user-friendly' reading. One would be hard pressed to find many apologetics in his sources. On the contrary, he often brings down opinions that would make any liberal choke on. For example , he brings a Talmudic source to the discussion about women and Torah study from Sotah 20a, in which Rabbi Eliezer says "whoever teaches his daughter Torah teaches her tifilut [sometimes translated as 'obscenity']." Weiss does bring other sources to try counter and explain Rabbi Eliezer's statement. The fact that he does not exclude such extreme opinions (some of which can not be explained away) adds an air of intellectual honesty that is refreshing when discussing women's issues. It is obvious that this is an empowering device that is essential reading for any woman who is planning to create or is already participating in a women's prayer group. I do, however, recommend that it is necessary reading for all the men out there as it discusses issues dealing with women and Judaism that are contentious and controversial in most communities ,as it will serve to make you a more tolerant and literate Jew. But most importantly as Weiss says in his introduction that " this study will place the issue on the halakhic agenda as one that should be seriously discussed and debated in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding."


Fall 2001. Jewish Lights Publishing. There is something unusual about the psalms and that special power is the reason people have turned to them for thousands of years. What's more, the power of the psalms hasn't diminished over time. It remains for us today a resource we can use if only we can learn how to open it. In this practical, spiritual new look at the psalms, the most beloved (and yet least understood) of the books in the Bible comes alive for us. Polish invites us into the beauty and meaning of these ancient "prayer poems" which show that we are not alone in our problems, and help us find comfort in God

[book] The Dance of the Dolphin :
Finding Prayer, Perspective and Meaning in the Stories of Our Lives
by Karyn Kedar

Fall 2001. Jewish Lights. Like the dolphin who exists in both water and air, so must we learn to live and thrive in two conflicting worlds--the rational, material, everyday craziness of life versus the still, spiritual, soulfulness of our deepest selves. Balancing the two--difficult as it often can be--is the key to our spiritual survival. Through poignant stories, spiritual teaching and insights, Karyn Kedar shares with us the ways we can integrate the everyday--family, work, personal challenges--with our quest for deeper spiritual understanding. She helps us to decode the three "languages" we must learn to weave the seemingly ordinary and extraordinary together: Prayer--The path through which our souls connect with the Divine Perspective--How we define life's twists and turns, and how our words and actions define the quality of our lives Meaning--The quest to understand and make sense of all that seems incompatible In graceful ways, Kedar shows us that by realizing the connection between the ordinary and the awe-inspiring, we can synchronize our hearts with the ways of the world and live with joy, a sense of calm and greater purpose.

[book cover] Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge: Conversations with the Torah
by Michael Rosenak

Fall 2001. What is worth knowing? How do we distinguish what is worth knowing from what is not? In Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge: Conversations with the Torah, Michael Rosenak applies the discipline of Torah study to the philosophy of education more generally. Although the book is a bit too scholarly to reach the parents and teachers to whom it is directed, it is also provocative, drawing on Torah commentators such as Hillel and Rashi and addressing important issues in Jewish education.

by J. R. PORTER, professor emeritus, Univ of Exeter

September 2001. Univ of Chicago Press. A Collection of writings that did not make it into the biblical canon for Jews or Christians, which can be viewed as legends, writings, minority views, and "missing" parts. Chapters One Through Five include the Second Book of Enoch, which may have been sacred to a Jewish sect in Egypt which tells the story of creation, mixing Egyptian, Iranian and Greek mythology into the creation story and discusses the roles of angels; The Book of Jubilees, which mirrors genesis and includes a differing family tree for Adam and Eve than does Genesis; The Testament of Avraham from the Greek (2nd Cent CE); The Ladder of Jacob (probably from the Greek); the various Testaments of Isaac and the sons of Jacob (Judah, Issachar, etc); Joseph and Aseneth (from the Greek, 150 CE); the Testament of Solomon (Greek, prior to 3rd Cent CE); the Apocalypse of Elijah; The Apocalypse of Zephania; the Martyrdom of Isaiah; The Books of Baruch; missing psalms, laments, and odes; pseudo phocylides; the Wsidom of Ahiqar, the Third of Fourth Books of the Maccabees; and other writings. Part Two, Chapters One Through Six is filled with writings that didn't make it into the Christian Bibles.

by Carol Ochs (HUC-JIR)

March 2001. Jossey Bass (another in their growing line of Judaica). Who Am I? What Do I Know? What Can I Know? What can I hope for? Can I learn from love? From suffering? Is suffering good? Ochs, an educator at Hebrew Union College, shows the reader hoe to use his or her own life stories in creating meaningful personal Torahs, creating and discovering your own THEOLOGY, or life system or methodology for making decisions

[book] WHAT DID THE Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know it? What archeaology and the Bible Can Tell Us About Ancient Israel
by William G Dever

Eerdmans, March 2001. Dever is a Professor of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Arizona. This book explores ancient Israel during the Iron Age.

March 2001. Jewish Lights. This audacious exploration of the Jewish concept of God squarely faces many contradictions and conundrums. Gillman, a professor of Jewish philosophy at Jewish Theological Seminary, begins by asking how humans can describe God if He is ultimately unknowable. Our common conception of God in human terms is metaphorical thinking, according to Gillman; when it comes to actual knowledge, "we are all agnostics. We know nothing." His examination of texts brings him to accept inconsistencies and to highlight discrepancies between popular images of God and God's portrayal in classical Jewish sources. Gillman has made a significant contribution.

A Journey Through the Five Books of Moses
by Bruce Feiler

Morrow. April 2001.
The Five Books of Bruce?
Feiler, 36, has a habit of delving into a subject full force and writing about it. A Southerner (growing up Jewish in the South) and Yale Grad (Southerner at a Northern University), he wrote Learning To Bow (a year teaching in Japan) at age 24, Looking for Class (British Universities, hanging in Cambridge), and Under the Bigtop (a high school juggler and mime, he runs away and joins the circus), embarks on a journey through the Middle East. He interviews residents and others of various religious beliefs. Feiler was not a religious person, but felt spiritual. He left his Chelsea Manhattan apartment to connect with his religion, embarking on a journey and quest to the places we read about in the Bible (but we are a wandering people, a people of the book, a people of god-seekers, not a people of the place, but I digress). Sometimes it's easier to fly away than to connect with people down the block. Segmented into an intro and five book sections (just like the 5 Books of Moses).
Feiler's Bar Mitzvah parshat in Savannah Georgia was Lech Lecha, in which Abram leaves Haran for Canaan. So it is fitting that the intro opens with Feiler (along with Avner Goren, one of Israel's top archeologists) in Dogubayazit in Eastern Turkey, at the foot of Mount Ararat (Agri Dagi), the highest mountain in the Middle East. It is a sunrise, and a start to a journey (that will end at Mount Nebo). He is on his way to Haran, where in Genesis 12, Abram went forth to set up a nation, a nation not fed by rivers, like the Euphrates, but fed by monotheism. From here, Feiler takes the reader on an adventure as he travels the modern day lands of the bible. Along the way we meet monks, tourists, Jews, Christians, Turks, Moslems, Nile boatmen, as well as the places in the Bible where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac, Joseph was sold in to slavery, etc.

[book] The Five Books of Moses: A New Translation With Introductions, Commentary, and Notes Edited by Everett Fox.
($60 less 30%) Hardcover - 1056 pages illustrate edition (November 1997) Schocken Books. After 25 years of work, Professor Fox has published a translation of the Torah that re-creates the full force of the Bible's original rhetoric and poetry-its rhythms, nuances, echoes, allusions, alliterations, word-plays, and stylistic devices--allowing the English reader to experience the spiritual and aesthetic power of the Bible's own voice while recovering layers of meaning that are missed entirely in conventional translations. I use it along with the Stone and other penteteuchs on Shabbat morning to compare the translations and glean more from the weekly parshat.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Sanhedrin, Part 5, Volume 19 by Rabbi Steinsaltz (Editor)
November 1999. Continues the discussion of the courts of law.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Sanhedrin, Part 6, Volume 20 by Rabbi Steinsaltz (Editor)
November 1999. Discusses Capital Punishment .
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Sanhedrin, Part 7, Volume 21 by Rabbi Steinsaltz (Editor)
November 1999. Discusses false prophecies, morality, and the preparations for the coming of the Messiah.
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[book] The Bible As It Was, by James Kugel.
List Price: $35 before discount. Hardcover - 800 pages (November 1997) Kugel, the Star Professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard University, shows that what Scripture began, its readers continued. His main purpose is to provide a detailed look at how the Torah, the first five books, was interpreted in antiquity, most particularly from the third century BCE through the first century CE
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[book] Traditions of the Bible : A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era by James Kugel.
Discounted Price: around $75. Hardcover - 1344 pages (January 1999) Harvard University Press. An amazing work that discusses what Jews thought about the Bible in the year zero CE, prior to the Second Temple's destruction, prior to the Rabbinic period, Rashi, Maimonides, et. al.
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[book] The Classic Midrash : Tannaitic Commentaries on the Bible (Classics of Western Spirituality) by Reuven Hammer (Designer) and Professor Judah Goldin.
Discounted Price: around $20. Paperback - 528 pages (March 1995). The Paulist Press. Another is the Paulist Press' fabulous books. Reuven Hammer brings a selection of these "God-intoxicated texts" of the early rabbinic masters, the Tannaim, to a wider public and accompanies them with explanations and commentary on their theological, literary, and historical importance
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[book] The Greatest Poems of the Bible. Translated by James Kugel
224 pages. The Free Press. September 1999.
A reader's companion to some of the poems of the Bible, with Kugel's insights into their hidden beauties of deeper meanings. What do the Psalms tell us about the nature of the soul? What do the shirim/songs and proverbs tell us about monotheism and the afterlife? Kugel is a Professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard, and a Professor at Bar Ilan University. He is also the former poetry editor of Harper's Magazine. The book includes new translations for Psalms 104, 42, 29, 51, 23, 137 and 119; Deborah's Song from Judges 5; Job 28; Samuel 2's David's Lament (How The Mighty Have Fallen); as well as poems from Jeremiah, Isaiah, Song of Songs; Micah, Ecclesiastes and others. An example of Kugel's illumination is a chapter on Amos' prophecy on "But Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters / And righteousness Like a Mighty Stream." In addition to bringing the poem's language to greater life, Kugel explains the nature of prophecy in ancient Israel, Amos' background, and the hidden reason for calling Amaziah's Beth-El a "Beth-Sorrow." Kugel continues by discussing the use of two sentence structure in Hebrew prophecy, as in the sentence, "An ox knows its owner, and an ass it's master's trough." From structure, Kugel moves to word choice. For example, why use ox? An animal that is dull witted but readily plows with a yoke. Why use an 'ass', which is a smart animal, but cannot be controlled? The word 'knows' also means 'devoted to' and 'obeys', while the word 'master' also means 'Creator' or is it an allusion to a Canaanite Storm deity? All this illumination, and just on one sentence. I had the privilege of sitting in on some of his lectures in NYC, and can attest to his teaching skill, so buy the book for his commentaries, and go and learn.
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Click here to purchase Kugel's PAPER BACK edition of THE BIBLE AS IT WAS by James L. Kugel (November 1999)

[book] The Five Books of Miriam: A Woman's Commentary on the Torah by Ellen Frankel
Paperback - 384 pages (January 1998) Harper San Francisco. A summary of the weekly Torah reading (parshat) with a commentary written from the female perspective and told through the voices of biblical women. Note to file; Did you ever consider that Moses and Aaron hit the rock, but Miriam nurtured it so that it brought forth water. This book is essential to get one to start to look at Torah from another POV.
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[book] Tanakh : A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text
Paperback - 1624 pages 1st Special edition (November 1985) Jewish Publication Society. Includes an English translation for the Five Book of Moses, Judges, Joshua, Prophets, and the Writings and Scrolls, plus a guide to the weekly and festival Torah and Haftorah portions.
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[book] My People's Prayer Book, Vol. 5 :
Birkhot Hashachar (Morning Blessings)
Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries
by Rabbi Lawrence H Hoffman

Hardcover - 240 pages (October 2001) Jewish Lights Pub. The Fifth volume in the series of My People's Prayer Book.
This stunning work, an empowering entryway to the spiritual revival of our times, enables all of us to claim our connection to the heritage of the traditional Jewish prayer book. It helps rejuvenate Jewish worship in today's world, and makes its power accessible to all. Vol. 5-Birkhot Hashachar (Morning Blessings) features the authentic Hebrew text with a new translation designed to let people know exactly what the prayers say. Introductions tell the reader what to look for in the prayer service, as well as how to truly use the commentaries, to search for-and find-meaning in the prayer book. Framed with beautifully designed Talmud-style pages, commentaries from many of today's most respected Jewish scholars from all movements of Judaism examine Birkhot Hashachar from the perspectives of ancient Rabbis and modern theologians, as well as feminist, halakhic, Talmudic, linguistic, biblical, Chasidic, mystical, and historical perspectives. Authors/Topics include: Marc Brettler/Our Biblical Heritage; Elliot N. Dorff/Theological Reflections; David Ellenson/How the Modern Prayer Book Evolved; Ellen Frankel/A Woman's Voice; Joel M. Hoffman/What the Prayers Really Say; Lawrence A. Hoffman/History of the Liturgy; Yoel H. Kahn/Ancient and Modern Variations; Lawrence Kushner and Nehemia Polen/Chasidic and Mystical Perspectives; Daniel Landes/The Halakhah of Prayer

Click here for: My People's Prayer Book, Vol. 4: The Shabbat Torah Service. by Rabbi Lawrence H Hoffman
Click here for: My People's Prayer Book, Vol. 3: The Morning Psalms. by Rabbi Lawrence H Hoffman
Click here for: My People's Prayer Book, Vol. 2: The Amidah. by Rabbi Lawrence H Hoffman
Click here for: My People's Prayer Book, Vol. 1: The Shma and It's Blessings. by Rabbi Lawrence H Hoffman
[book] My People's Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries : The Sh'ma and Its Blessings by Lawrence A. Hoffman (Editor)
Price before discount: $20. Hardcover - 168 pages Vol 1 (November 1997) Jewish Lights Pub. So many of us stand and pray the Shema each day, yet why do we say it, how did it become a central prayer? What are we praying for? Why are the Ayin and Daled so large? Why do people annunciate the final Daled in EchaD? This is volume 1 of a 7 volume series explaining the prayers we recite. It is indespensible. Need I say more? Click below to read reviews.
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[book] The Amidah : Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries (My People's Prayer Book) by Lawrence A. Hoffman (Editor), Marc Brettler (Contributor)
Price before discount: $22. Hardcover - 200 pages Vol 002 (November 1998) Jewish Lights Pub. So many of us stand and pray the Amidah each day, yet we are baffled by its many paragraphs. Why do we recite it, what are we praying for? When were paragraphs added? This is volume 2 of a 7 volume series explaining the prayers we recite. It is indespensible. Need I say more? Click below to read reviews.
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[book] My People's Prayer Book, Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries: P'Sukei D'Zimrah, Morning Psalms by Lawrence A. Hoffman (Editor)
Price before discount: $22. Hardcover - 200 pages Vol 3 (December 1998) Jewish Lights Pub. Why do we recite it, what are we praying for? When were paragraphs added? This is volume 3 of a 7 volume series explaining the morning psalms we recite.
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[book] The Greatest Poems of the Bible. Translated by James Kugel
$22 before our discount. The Free Press. Not til September 1999. A readers companion to the poems of the Bible, with Kugel's insights into their hidden beauties of deeper meanings. What do the psalms tell us about the nature of the soul? What do the shirim/songs and proverbs tell us about monotheism and the afterlife? Kugel is a Professor of Hebrew Lit at Harvard, and a Prof at Bar Ilan. I had the privilege of sitting in on some of his lectures in NYC, and he is a great teacher and writer, so buy the book and go and learn.
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Click here to purchase Kugel's January 1999 book titled, Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era by James L. Kugel

[book] Give Us a King! Samuel, Saul, and David. A New Translation of Samuel I and II. by Everett Fox (Editor).
Hardcover (November 1999) Schocken Books. Fox's translation of the Torah is so useful and now indispensable, how can you do without this latest volume? This is a masterful translation of the story of King David. Samuel I and II contain some of the best known bible stories, such as Samuel rise to prophecy, the tragedy of Saul, the rise of David, the love affairs of David, Bathsheba, the birth of Solomon. This new translation recapture the poetics of the Hebrew original. Illustrated by the Israeli artist, Schwebel.
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[book] The Stone Edition Tanach - Black : The Torah - Prophets - Writings : The Twenty-Four Books of the Bible Newly Translated & Annotated (The Artscroll series) Edited by Nosson Scherman
Our Discount Price: $60. Hardcover - 2200 pages (April 1998) Mesorah Publications Ltd.
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[book] The Stone Edition of the Chumash : The Torah, Haftaros, and Five Megillos With a Commentary Anthologized from the Rabbinic Writings. Edited by Nosson Scherman
Our Discount Price: $60. Hardcover (April 1994) Mesorah Publications Ltd.
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[book] Jps Torah Commentary Set by Nahum M. Sarna (Editor), Chaim Potok (Editor)
List Price: $275.00 Our Price: $192.50 You Save: $82.50 (30%) Hardcover 5 book set edition (May 1996) Jewish Publication Society
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[book] Genesis : The Traditional Hebrew Text With the New Jps Translation by Nahum M. Sarna (Editor)
List Price: $60 before discount. Hardcover - 446 pages (May 1996) Jewish Publication Society.
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[book] Exodus; Shemot: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation by Nahum M. Sarna
List Price: $60 before discount. Hardcover - 278 pages (May 1996) Jewish Publication Society.
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[book] Leviticus : The Traditional Hebrew Text With the New Jps Translation (The JPS Torah Commentary) by Baruch A. Levine
List Price: $60 before discount. Hardcover - 284 pages (May 1996) Jewish Publication Society.
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[book] Numbers : The Traditional Hebrew Text With the New Jps Translation (JPS Torah Commentary) by Jacob Milgrom
List Price: $60 before discount. Hardcover - 520 pages (May 1996). Jewish Pub. Society.
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[book] The JPS Torah Commentary : Deuteronomy The Traditional Hebrew Text With the New Jps Translation (Jps Torah Commentary) by Jeffrey H. Tigay
List Price: $60 before discount. Hardcover - 520 pages (June 1996) Jewish Publication Society. This long-awaited commentary on the fifth and final book of the Torah marks the brilliant completion to the highly acclaimed series. The JPS Torah Commentary is known as one of the most authoritative and respected commentaries on the Bible and is widely used in Jewish and Christian seminaries.
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[book] The JPS Book of Psalms. The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Masoretic Text
List Price: $9 before discount. Paperback Rev edition (October 1997) Jewish Publication Society
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[book] Five Megilloth and Jonah : A New Translation by Ismar David (Illustrator), H. L. Ginsberg (Translator)
List Price: $13 before discount. Hardcover - 136 pages (December 1994) Jewish Publication Society
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[book] The Book of Jewish Wisdom : The Talmud of the Well-Considered Life by Jacob Neusner (Editor)
List Price: $25 before discount. Hardcover (June 1996) Continuum Pub Group
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[book] Everyman's Talmud: The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages by Abraham Cohen, Jacob Neusner
Hardcover (June 1996) Continuum Pub Group Paperback - 405 pages (February 1995) Schocken Books.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Bava Metzia, Part I by Adin Steinsaltz (Editor), Leonard Baskin (Illustrator)
List Price: $50 before discount. Hardcover - Vol I (December 1989) Random House. A stunning popular success, this translation of the Talmud has had combined sales of nearly 100,000 copies for Volumes I, II, III, and the Reference Guide. Contains Tractate Bava Metzia, Part One, a portion of the Talmud relating to civil law, specifically business relationships and other aspects of commercial life.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Bava Metzia, Part II by Adin, Rabbi Steinsaltz (Compiler))
List Price: $50 before discount. Hardcover - Vol II (December 1990) Random House. Volume II includes some of the most frequently studied pages in the entire Talmud, deals with questions of ownership and responsibility for other people's property.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition: Tractate Bava Metzia, Part III by Adin, Rabbi Steinsaltz (Compiler))
List Price: $45 before discount. Hardcover - Vol III (December 1990) Random House. Volume III examines the realm of business ethics and personal morality and discusses a wide range of commercial transactions and practices.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition: Tractate Bava Metzia, Part IV by Adin, Rabbi Steinsaltz (Compiler))
List Price: $45 before discount. Hardcover - Vol IV (November 1991) Random House. Volume 4 of this monumental publishing venture continues Tractate Bava Metzia offers ethical guidelines for employer-employee relations and various commercial transactions.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition: Tractate Bava Metzia, Part 5 by Adin, Rabbi Steinsaltz (Compiler))
List Price: $45 before discount. Hardcover - Vol 5 (October 1992) Random House. Volume 5 of Talmud deals offers ethical guidelines for various commercial transactions, with a special focus on employer-employee relations
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition: Tractate Bava Metzia, Part 6 by Adin, Rabbi Steinsaltz (Compiler))
List Price: $50 before discount. Hardcover - Vol 6 (November 1993) Random House. Volume 6 of Talmud Bava Metzia continues a discussion of business ethics
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Ketubot, Part I by Rabbi Steinsaltz (Editor)
List Price: $45 before discount Hardcover Vol VII (November 1991) Random House. discusses the wedding: what day should it be held on, elements of the ceremony, including the wording. Also, the text discusses the KETUBAH, the sum of money the marriage contract stipulates a woman.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Ketubot, Part I by Rabbi Steinsaltz (Editor)
List Price: $45 before discount Hardcover Vol VII (November 1991) Random House. discusses the wedding: what day should it be held on, elements of the ceremony, including the wording. Also, the text discusses the KETUBAH, the sum of money the marriage contract stipulates a woman.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Ketubot, Part II by Adin Steinsaltz (Editor)
List Price: $45 before discount Hardcover Vol VIII (December 1992) Random House. In this volume, the second part of the Tractate Ketubot, sage advice is provided on marriage and family life, with an emphasis on legal and financial issues.
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[book] The Talmud: The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Ketubot, Part III by Adin Steinsaltz (editor)
Price: $50. Hardcover Vol IX (November 1993) Random House. Volume Nine of this outstanding reference continues the Tractate Ketubot's discussion of marriage and the family.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Ketubot, Part 4 by Adin Steinsaltz (editor)
Price before discount: $45. Hardcover Vol X (November 1994) Random House. Volume X focuses attention on parenting, particularly with respect to daughters.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Ketubot, Part 5 by Adin Steinsaltz (editor)
Price before discount: $50 Hardcover Vol XI (November 1996) Random House.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Ketubot, Part 6 by Adin Steinsaltz (editor)
Price before discount: $60 Hardcover - 320 pages Vol XII (December 1997) Random House.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Ta'Anit Part 1 by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (editor)
Price before discount: $45. Hardcover Vol 13 (May 1995) Random House
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Ta'Anit Part 2 by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (editor)
Price before discount: $50. Hardcover - 14 pages Vol 14 (November 1996) Random House
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Sanhedrin, Part 1 by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (editor)
Price before discount: $50. Hardcover Vol 15 (November 1996) Random House.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Sanhedrin, Part 2 by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (editor)
Price before discount: $50. Hardcover - 256 pages Vol 16 (December 1997) Random House
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Sanhedrin Part 3 by Adin Steinsaltz
Price before discount: $60. Hardcover - 224 pages. Vol 17 (October 1998) Random House. Tractate Sanhedrin, Part III, covers chapters four through six of the tractate, and continues the discussion of judicial procedures in civil and criminal cases. It addresses the rules governing the cross-examination of witnesses and explores cases in which witnesses contradict one another. Also addressed are cases in which one may act in self-defense. It examines instances in which a judge must compensate a claimant for his own mistakes, and describes the seating arrangement of the Sanhedrin. Several well-known and beloved aggadic passages also appear in this section.
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[book] The Talmud : The Steinsaltz Edition : Tractate Sanhedrin, Part 4 by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (editor)
Price before discount: $65. Hardcover - 224 pages Vol 18 (October 1998) Random House. Tractate Sanhedrin, Part IV, covers chapter seven of the tractate and continues the discussion of judicial procedures in criminal cases. It outlines four modes of execution, followed by a fascinating discussion of the seven commandments given to Noah, known as the Noahide commandments. In Jewish theology, only Jews are bound by the commandments set forth in the Torah. Non-Jews are bidden to observe the seven commandments given to Noah and his children after the Flood. These include the injunction to believe in one God and to establish a court system, as well as prohibitions against incest, murder, and cruelty to animals. In contemporary terms, the Noah-ide code forms the basis for discussions about the existence of "natural law" and whether society can establish a universal standard of morality.
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Volumes 1-6 of Tractate Bava Metzia, concerning business ethics and how to balance work (commercial) and personal life

Volumes 7-14 of Tractate Ketubot on marriage and the rights of women

Volumes 15-21 of Tractate Sanhedrin on crime and punishment and the courts of law

[book] Jewish Liturgy : A Comprehensive History by Ismar Elbogen, Raymond P. Scheindlin (Translator)
Price before our discount: $55. Hardcover - 500 pages (September 1993) Jewish Publication Society.
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[book] Women in the Hebrew Bible : A Reader by Alice Bach (Editor)
Paperback - 608 pages (November 1998) Feminist analysis of the Bible offers clues to the beginnings of gender bias in Western culture. In this book, the essays range from feminist strategies for understanding the social world of the time of the production of the Hebrew Bible to interpretations of key female literary figures such as Ruth, Sarah, Judith, Esther, Rachel, and Leah.
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[book] The Holy Beggars' Banquet : Traditional Jewish Tales and Teachings of the Late, Great Reb Shlomo Carlebach and Others in the Spirit of the 1960S, the by late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and Kalman Serkez
Price before our discount: $40. Hardcover - 336 pages Reprint edition (May 1998) Aronson.
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[book] The Legends of the Jews: All the Volumes by Louis Ginzberg
Price before our discount: About $16 each. Paperback, about 500 pages each. Translated from the German by Henrietta Szold (no slouch herself, the founder of Hadassah) (Henrietta, in her 40's, by the way loved Louis, 13 years younger, and was shocked when he returned to Europe to marry a 21 year old woman.)
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[book] Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period by Neusner, Jacob Neusner (Editor), William S. Green (Editor)
Discount Price: $270. Hardcover - 693 pages (December 1995) MacMillan Library Reference. 3,300 cross-referenced alphabetical entries define terms and concepts that are relevant to the era during which the sacred writings of both Judaism and Christianity were formulated and canonized.
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let's take a look at the timeline for perspective...

Year Male Personality in the Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, Writings)
1 Adam and Eve
235 Enosh
325 Kaynon
395 Mahalal El
460 Yered
622 Chanoch
687 M'TooShelach (Methuselah)
874 Lemech
1056 Noach
1558 Shem
1658 Arpach shad
1693 Shelach
1723 Ever
1757 Peleg
1787 R'u
1819 Serug
1849 Nachor
1878 Terach
1948 Avram / Avraham 1958 Sarai / Sarah (and Hagar and Keturah)
2048 Yitzchak Rivka
2108 Yaakov Leah and Rachel (and Bilhah and Zilpah)

Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Yisaschar, and Zevulun were born of Leah
Yosef and Binyameen were born of Rachel
Dan and Naftali were born of Bilhah
Gad and Asher were born of Zilpah

Levi and Adina bore Kehat who bore Amram/Yocheved who bore Miriam, Aaron and
2368 Moshe

Moshe married Tzipora, the daughter of Yithro (descendent of Keturah?)

2448 Revelation at Sinai
Yehuda bore Peretz, who bore Chetzron who bore Ram, who bore Aminadav, who bore Nachshon, who bore Salma, who bore Boaz (who married Ruth), who bore Oved, who bore Yeeshiy, who bore David (who became king).

After the Exodus and Moses' death, Joshua ruled the Israelites. Joshua was followed by the period of Zekeynim (the Elders) and Judges (about 250 years). The Judges included Osniel, Eyhud, Shamgar, Devorah/Deborah, Barak, Gidon, Avimelech, Tola, and Yair.

After Yair, Amon conquered Israel and ruled for 18 years. In the Hebrew year of 2781, another period of seven judges began, represented by Yiftach, Boaz, Eylon, Avdon, Samson, Eli the Priest, and Samuel the Prophet.

In 2882, Saul is annointed King by Samuel. Saul was followed by David and then Solomon.
Shlomo, or Solomon, ruled from 2924 to 2964.
When Solomon died, the Kingdom was divided into Judah and Israel.

There were 20 kings in Judah until the year 3338, when the Babylonians conquered Judea.

There were 19 kings in Israel at the same time, until the year 3205, when the remaining tribes were exiled.

Hebrew Year Event
3350 to 3450 - about 100 Years of the Great Assembly
3500 to 3750 - about 250 years of Sages, including Hillel and Shammai

3450 to 4000 - about 550 years of the Tannaim, the Sages of the Second Temple period, and the Sanhedrin. Tanna means 'to teach' in Aramaic. It is during this period that the Oral Law, and the Mishna is completed and taught. Some of the famous names during this period are Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, who was head of the Sanhedrin; Rabbi Gamliel Hasheyni of Yavneh (also head of the Sanhedrin); Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel (head of the Sanhedrin); Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi (sanhedrin head); and Rabbis Chanina ben Dosa, Eliezer ben Hurkonus, Elazar ben Azarya Hakohen; Pinhas; Tarfon; Akiva ben Yosef; Unkelos Hager; Shimon ben Zoma; and Shimon ben Azai.

Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi is credited with codifying the Mishna around the Hebrew Year 4000. The Mishna contains six sections of the Oral Law. Each section is divided into tractates, which contains mishnayos. There are 63 tractates.

If the Tannaim 'taught', the Amoraim 'spoke.' The Amoraim followed the Tannaim, and spoke the teaching of their ancestors. The period of the Amoraim began in about the Year 4000, and lasted about 150 years in Israel and 260 years in Babylonia (or Bavel).

The Jerusalem Talmud was completed in 4128 by Rabi Yochanan after about five generations of Amoriam sages. The Jerusalem talmud deals with 39 of the 63 tractates of the Mishnah. The Talmud is also called the Gemarra

The Babylonian Talmud was completed in 4260 by Ravina and Rav Ashi after about seven generation of Amoraim sages. The Babylonian Talmud deals with 37 of the 63 tractates of The Mishnah. The Talmud is also called The Gemarrah.

After 4260, in Babylonia, the Savoraim (Explainers), explained the Talmud for five generations until 4450.
After 4450, the great scholars of the academies were called Geonim. The period of the Geonim continued for 350 until 4800.

For 400 years after the year 4800, there were Rishonim, or head teachers in Spain, Provence, France, Italy, and Germany. These Rishonim included the Rambam (who wrote the Mishnah Torah, which is divided into 14 sections), Ramban, HaRashba, and HaRitva in Spain; Rashi and the Rashbam in France; the Ralbag in Provence; Maharam in germany; and the HaRikanti in Italy to name a very few.

The Code of Jewish Law, or the Shulchan Aruch, was written by Rabbi Yosef Karo and Rabbi Moshe Isserles about 500 years ago.

Switching to the secular calendar for a second....

Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo ben-Yitzhak) lived in Troyes (Champagne) in Northern France from 1040 - 1105. He set up a yeshiva that complemented those in Mainz and Worms (which were attacked during the crusades of 1096).

The Rambam (Moses ben Maimon, Maimonides) lived 1135-1204. Born in Cordoba, he was the son of the dayan of Cordoba. When the Almohads too over the governance of Cordoba, his family fled to other parts of Spain, Fez, Acre, Alexandria, and Cairo. Author of the Mishne Torah and Guide for the Perplexed. The Rambam synthesized Jewish and Arabic-Greek Aristotelian philosophy, which some Jews, such as the upper classes of Provence and Spain, used to justify their hedonism. tHe Dominicans burned some works of the Rambam.

The Ramban (Moses ben Nahman or Nahmanides) lived 1194-1270 in Gerona and Catalonia Spain. He included the popular mystical strains of Judaism in his commentaries and commentary to Sefer Yetzira and the 10 sefirot. He helped mediate between the Maimonides supporters and anti-Maimonides scholars. He also was drawn into a Barcelona disputation with the former Jew Pablo Christiani. Although he won, he was forced by the Dominicans to leave Spain in 1267 for the Holy Land.

Immanuel Ben-Solomon of Rome lived in...Rome.... 1261-1328. He is the father of secular Jewish poetry of Italy, fusing Spanish maqama forms with Italian forms. He published the Mahbarot. He was a contemporary of Dante, and influenced Boccaccio. His wife influenced to delve into his Jewish subjects in his writings.

(Don) Isaac Ben Yehudah Abrabanel (1437-1508) was born in Lisbon to a prominent Jewish family. His father was the treasurer to King Alfonso V. Isaac succeeded his father as treasurer. He published a commentary on the Torah, Kings, Joshua, Judges, and Samuel. Abrabanel and Abraham Senior pleaded with Ferdinand not to expel the Jews on March 31, 1492. He also pleaded before Isabella. He fled to Naples in 1492. He died in Venice in 1508.

(Dona) Gracia of the House of Nasi (1510 - 1569) used her wealth to help Marranos and Jews. Born in Portugal, her family was forced to convert to Catholicism. At 18, she married the financier, Francisco Mendes. His financial network in Europe became the underground railway for Jews. Dona Gracia fled to Antwerp in 1536, where she became a business partner with her brother-in-law Diogo. When Diogo died, she had to flee to Venice. Her sister denounced her as a Judaizer (probably resentful of resent of her success). She was jailed but freed by the Sultan of Turkey. She moved to Turkey and became a powerful leader, nearly succeeding at a Jewish boycott of the port of Ancona in reaction to Pope Paul IV's arrest and murder of conversos. She resurrected the town of Tiberias, but died in 1569 prior to her trip to the Holy Land.

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