We’re just past mid-summer here in Israel and the days are long and slow. It’s a good time to relax in the shade with a good book and a glass of something cold. Here are some recommendations from around the Jewish blogosphere.
Three times a day, we Jews praise God for “reviving the dead”. Some, following the prophet Ezekiel, like to think of this in metaphorical terms—the resurrection of Jewish national life out of the ashes of the past. Others see it in more literal terms. Dan Sofer presents an altogether different—and delightful—view of the rabbinical traditions surrounding the resurrection.
What does it mean when we say that human beings were created “in the image of God”. While some of the foremost Jewish philosophers, in particular the Rambam, saw Tselem Elohim as referring to the human capacity of reason, Michael Wyschogrod disagrees. His ideas tally in surprising ways with modern neuroscience.
Among the books I’ll be using for the discussions in Havrutah with a One-Eyed Cat is Martin Buber’s The Prophetic Faith. Buber speaks of the relationship between prophecy and free choice. As he makes clear, individuals, civilizations, and species all hang by the thread of a decision by one person. And that one person is all of us.
As I make my way through the stack of books that will go into the writing of my next book, probably the one that I return to most is Eliezer Berkovits’ classic Not in Heaven. Rabbi Berkovits argues for the application of human reason in deciding Halakhah, but not for the reasons commonly believed!
Letters to Josep is a delightfully fresh overview of what it means to be Jewish in Israel today. Written as a series of letters from a young woman in Israel to a Catholic penpal in Spain, the book covers just about every aspect of Judaism, from Shabbat observance and kashrut to dealing with childbirth and life-cycle events.
In the course of my research for Havruta with a One-Eyed Cat, I’ll be reading a variety of books on topics ranging from Talmud to mathematical logic. Here are some musings on this week’s book: Devora Steinmetz’s Freedom & Punishment, a veritable treasure of Halakhic insight.
In the Shadow of God* is a collection of poems reflecting a daughter’s need, first to shake off and later embrace, her parent’s experience. Rosen explores what she sees as the “silent sounds and shadows”—a legacy inherited by children of the post Holocaust era.
The Moon Taker takes us out of the sitting room and into the lives of some of Libi Astaire’s more colorful characters. The book’s narrator is a young pickpocket known to his friends and accomplices as General Well’ngone, the right-hand man of the self-styled Earl of Gravel Lane. When a Jewish con man is murdered in their neighborhood, the Earl sees it as a personal mission to solve the mystery.
The Disappearance of God details the gradual decrease of the divine presence in the Biblical writings—from the unquestioned companion and teacher of the Patriarchs, to the distant but still present redeemer in Exodus, to the absent Deity of Esther. Each stage of the withdrawal of the perceived Divine presence is another stage of human development. But how is it, asks Friedman, that the numerous biblical authors, in the complete absence of any coordination between them, managed to tell the same story of gradual Divine withdrawal from human history?