Event: Maimonides Cure of Souls: Medieval Precursor of Psychoanalysis

The Jewish Health Alliance & ISRAEL’S Judaica

A presentation by Dr. David S. Weiss

Date: Monday, May3, 2010
Time: 8:00pm
Place: 1035 Eglinton Ave. West
Cost: $10 includes refreshments
Directions( Three blocks east of Eglinton West subway station at Westover Hill Road). Street parking is available.

What are the characteristics of the soul? What are diseases of the soul? How can we cure our souls? The great Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, believe that “the improvement of moral qualities is brought about by the healing of the soul and its activities.” Exploring essential insights from the psychological works of Maimonides will enlighten your understanding of the soul, its diseases and its cure. Dr. Weiss will also discuss some parallels between Maimonides and Freud, noting that may distinctive features of the Maimonides cure of souls are shared by Freud’s original formulation of psychoanalysis. Indeed, the major points of convergence suggest Freud’s direct or indirect contact with Maimonides psychological legacy.

Dr. David Weiss is the president and CEO of Weiss International Ltd. He also is an affiliate professor of the Rotman School of Management and a Senior Research Fellow of Queen’s University. He has a ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, Rabbinical Ordination from Yeshiva University, and Masters degrees in Jesih Philosophy from Yeshiva University and Counseling Psychology from Columbia University.

www.israelsjudaica.com

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All Other Nights

All Other Nights, by Dara Horn

All Other Nights, by Dara Horn, W.W. Norton & Co.; 1 edition (April 2, 2009), 384 pp.

On the eve of Passover 1862, Jacob Rappaport travels to New Orleans on his first major mission for the US army: to kill his uncle. So begins Dara Horn’s electrifying new novel, All Other Nights set during the American Civil War.

As a young adult, Jacob escapes from his affluent Jewish family’s obligations and enlists in the army. At the height of its war with the confederates, Jacob is sent down South to encounter and poison his uncle, who is intending to kill President Lincoln. There, he encounters Judah Benjamin, the Jewish Secretary of State for the Confederacy. Based on the real character of Benjamin, Horn brings to life this fascinating figure and brings a rich depiction of a notable figure in US and Jewish history.

For his next mission, Jacob is ordered to marry the beautiful daughter of his father’s former business associate, who is spying for the Confederacy with her 3 other sisters. Of course, the love between them becomes real, and the complications begin.

 Horn unfolds the plot quickly, but with enough subtlety. We’re taken with Jacob and his terrible deeds, yet sympathetic and truly cheering him on. Though fictional characters, Horn had help creating these characters and their spy techniques from real spy accounts. There are no depictions of field battles, only the brief recollections of Jacob’s first brushes with the dead and of the sad depiction of war-wounded men. The darkness of the time and the anemic backdrop of the ravaged South are well-illustrated.

 The Jewish content is rich, but not overly so, and Horn never crosses the line into mawkishness.  The conscience of the book is alive, as it takes on the plight of Jews in the Diaspora, the slave trade and the injustice of war and politics. The compelling force at work here is the growth of the character Jacob, from coddled accountant to full-blown spy and liar.  The love story propels us at breakneck speed through the terrible landscape that the wars have created. Horn maps the war for us through Jacob, strategizing and eventually illustrating the war’s end.

For those with no prior knowledge of US politics and history, this is an engrossing journey with the introduction of new characters. Accurately recreating the state of Jewish culture and religion during the time, Horn has creating a truly memorable piece of historical fiction and romance. Engrossing, magical and thrilling, this is a fantastic summer read!

Reviewed by Atarah

DOING JEWISH: GIFT IDEAS FOR TEACHERS & GRADUATES

Pocket Edition, now $39.99
Pocket Edition, now $39.99

Wondering what to give a teacher or a graduate this year. Israel’s has great specials on the following:

  • From The Ends of the Earth: From $40.00: Now $19.99
  • The Book of Our Heritage, Eliahu Kitov
  • The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
  • A Coat of Many Colours by Irving Abella
  • Artscroll 5 Megillos

Many more titles available, please contact us to place an order or visit us online.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: KOREN SAKS CANADIAN BILINGUAL SIDDUR

SPECIAL: $29.99
SPECIAL: $29.99

Regular List price is Canadian $39.95.

The Koren Sacks Siddur is an inspiring new Hebrew/English prayer book that enriches the tefila experience. An intuitive design in the renowned tradition of Koren Publishers Jerusalem helps reveal the traditional text’s inner meanings. A beautiful translation, eloquent introduction and insightful commentary by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks deepen understanding of the purpose and possibility of prayer. Tefillot for Israel and America, and Halakhic guides based on outstanding rabbinic scholarship reiforce the Siddur’s contemporary relevance.

Engage both your mind and heart in a new tefilla experience with the Koren Sacks Siddur.

The Koren Sacks Siddur has been designed to provide traditional Jews with a new tefilla experience that engages both the mind and the heart. The Siddur includes weekday, Shabbat, holiday and life cycle event tefillot and Torah and Haftara readings. Unique features include:

Accessible Language that provides new ways to approach the Hebrew text. A Precise, contemporary English translation and Modern Hebrew transliterations.

Inspiring Commentary that stimulates the intellect and stirs the spirit. Includes Eloquent introduction and Insightful explanations.

Sophisticated Design that illuminates the text’s inner meanings. Includes Line-by-line graphic layout with Hebrew and English text alignment and Specially-designed fonts.

Meaningful Tefillot that reinforce the Siddur’s contemporary relevance. Includes prayers for Israel’s government, soldiers and national holidays. Also prayers for women after childbirth and on the birth of a daughter.

Halakhic Guides that deepen understanding of Jewish practice. Insights for the Jewish year, for daily, Shabbat and holiday prayer and for visitors to Israel.

Koren Publishers Jerusalem was established in 1961 by master typographer Eliyahu Koren, who set out to publish the first Tanakh (Bible) edited, designed, printed and bound by Jews in nearly 500 years. The Koren Bible, published in 1962, quickly became recognized the world over for its textual accuracy and innovative graphic layout. In 1981, Koren Publishers Jerusalem introduced The Koren Siddur, which similarly received widespread acclaim. Since then, it has published various editions of the Tanakh, the Siddur, and other religious texts in Hebrew, English and other languages.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is one of the most original thinkers and articulate writers in the Jewish world today. Educated at Cambridge University and Jews College London, he has been Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth since 1991. Rabbi Sacks is the author of many books of Jewish thought.

Authorized KOREN Bookseller
Authorized KOREN Bookseller
ISBN: 9789653012196
Siddur available online at
Israel’s The Judaica Centre and our stores.

Wildflowers At My Doorstep, by Marni Norwich

wildflowersReview by Hilary Jacob

When a friend recently selected Wildflowers at my doorstep as a book club selection, I approached the task of reading the collection with two parts intrigue and one part trepidation. I was pleased to learn of a new female literary talent, but the title conjured up earnest verses penned in praise of majestic Canadian landscapes authored by nice (of course), patriotic folk. While I have nothing against praising our sublime landscape, I feared such verse might prove a bit, well, boring. If I commit to carving out sufficient time in a busy week to attend to an entire collection of poetry, I want the experience to be unique, memorable and moving. I crave challenging ideas and subject matter, innovative, impressive and surprising use of language; I want to feel drawn in as I would to any good book, to become engrossed in the world created by the author and to enjoy having visited this place. I was quite certain Wildflowers would not satisfy this lengthy list of requirements. In short, I was mistaken.

In her first published book, Marni Norwich keeps her writing spare and tight, the language pared down to pierce each target with the finest precision possible. The collection of 45 poems juxtaposes light and dark subjects, drawing the reader in expertly with wit and humour then turning sharply to address serious subjects. It is an impressive and delicate balance the artist maintains, a testament to her technical skills and sensitivity in employing her craft; she weaves light and soft textures of irreverence, wit and humour, alternating with weightier, coarser yarns and darker hues as she illustrates subjects including injustice, death, loneliness and loss. The result is a tapestry in which the light and the dark become blended and inseparable. One moment we are laughing, when suddenly the mood becomes serious. I found myself reading and rereading poems, not wanting to miss the subtleties, the nuances and the humour.

We are first led into the “fallen” world by Adam, in “The truth about banishment: His”. The tone of this poem is light and fun and Adam is portrayed as more optimistic than we would conventionally presume. Adam is a colloquial-speaking, modern-sounding, irreverent personality who wants you to know that he’s not a “smartass”. In reference to the infamous apple-eating-debacle, he informs us “the truth about banishment is it opened doors for us”.

Having been turned out of the Garden of Eden in the opening poem, it is fitting that we find ourselves in an uncertain place (We do not arrive). In the poem by the same name, the speaker laments “We are always saying Life is like this, but what do we know? After tens of thousands of years, we are still wondering who we are”. The poems in this grouping ruminate on a variety of difficult, eternally puzzling subjects such as the meaning of life, one’s state upon death and the burden of ego. The opening poem, This poem is a self-conscious and stilted spike of a work, each line kept to a mere few words in length. The tone is ironic and mocking as the speaker makes hyperbolic claims: among the amazing restorative abilities of “this poem” it boasts itself a cure for “loneliness, faithlessness and apathy”, “a magic elixir for a broken heart” and “a tonic for existential angst”. The closing lines ring serious and weighty, however. Conjuring Ulysses and his Odyssey, we are told “This poem is…your compass. Read it carefully and it will guide you home”. The reader must make a choice. Do we choose skepticism and scorn for artistic pretention, or is there a hidden meaning here, only accessible through faith and optimism?

The second grouping in the collection, Inheritance, is arguably the most affecting of the sections. The writer points to strong women of personal significance (for example, her grandmother), of historical significance (Anne Frank) and modern day activists (Betty Krawczak and Renee Boje) and highlights the optimism, faith and tenacity these women displayed in the face of incredible adversity. In Inheritance the speaker reminds herself “You think you are the first to experience displacement… Your great-grandmother crossed an ocean with little more than hope in her bags”. In Green Jade Necklace, of her grandmother the writer says “she knew how to spring hope from asphalt like wildflowers”. In the poignant poem Dear Anne Frank, the writer speaks directly to Anne, as to a sister or close friend, grieving for her “losses” and describing simple pleasures she wishes she had the possibility to show and to share. There is something almost childish in the tone of the poem and in the childishness, hopeful, that the actual act of writing such a letter might be useful, could actually alleviate suffering.

The third grouping I have been trying to read you this poem focuses on the act of writing and the need for connections through this traditionally solitary artistic process. Says the speaker in the poem of the same name, “I can’t do this on my own. I just need you to reach forward with the tentacles of your mind, touch these words and lead me home”. Themes of loss and dislocation are repeated in this section, as the author pays tribute to Po Seng, a Chinese immigrant and doctor turned poet, and Marcel, a 75 year old Flamenco teacher who arrived in Canada at 15, having lost his parents, siblings and other relatives in the death camps. Says the speaker: “Marcel, we’ve only just met, but I think I know you, an Ashkenazic Jew… igniting a stage”.

While poems in the previous sections generally allude to ethereal forces, energies and spirituality and prodded the reader to reevaluate archetypal human problems, the poems in the final 2 groupings, This body and All the crazy boys are more obvious, more corporal and generally lighter. The topics explored include the frustration of insomnia, scoliosis, recollections of an argument at the age of 5 and ex-boyfriends. However, the author shows respect for the body and the mysteries it holds. The body, referred to previously in Listen as a “misunderstood ally” “could teach me a thing or two” and “Would tell me a lot if only I would listen”. In Despite everything, especially my vegetarianism, we pinpoint what may be the most succinct example of the message in the Wildflowers collection. In reflecting on an egregious act of inconsideration by a former boyfriend, the speaker notes that through the eyes of the poet, she can appreciate the inconsiderate act for its artistic merit “the way I savour incongruity and the improbable contrast of many things”. The over-arching message in the collection appears to be that if we develop the skills and discipline to view the world with optimism and faith, to recognize our connectedness to each other and to utilize the poet’s technique of “savouring incongruity” we will be able to flourish despite life’s hard truths and adversity.

The closing poem, The truth about banishment: Hers gives Eve the last word. At first we laugh as Eve tells us in her rough way that it was “sass”, not temptation that motivated her to eat of the apple and further: “…the point being, I don’t like to feel I’m being messed with”. Having thus shrugged off the significance of her actions, in the closing lines, however, Eve becomes serious and admits that the apple, when held, seemed to hold “gravity” and actually gave her power to see the future and feel the “yearning love” of future generations. Thus the reader is given a choice: do we despair at the prospect of this perpetual cycle of life and death or are we filled with hope and optimism that the cycle of life and death is fuelled by love.

Throughout the collection, the author directs our attention to themes and motifs repeatedly, and eventually a pattern emerges for the reader. The poet guides our attention to a few seemingly random wildflowers at our doorstep; if we look further we realize identical flowers blanket the landscape. Experiences that befall each of us may seem intensely personal, but if we look further we might recognize, and find solace in, the inter-connectedness between ourselves, the world and unseen natural forces.

Wildflowers at my Doorstep is available at Israel’s Judaica.

The Accidental Zionist: What A Priest, A Pornographer and A Wrestler Named Chainsaw Taught Me

By Brandon Lablong

I wake up in the middle of the night; sweat running down my brow, screaming, “Where does it go? Biography, Israel, Jewish thought? I just can’t decide!” The Accidental Zionist by Rabbi Ian Pear is as easy to classify, as a falafel is easy to manage with one hand. This enlightening read, focusing on monotheism as the “message”, and the Jewish people as the “messenger”, is a great way to dip your toe in the ocean of Jewish thought. Put in a clear and systematic order, this piece of literature makes it easy to follow along. Divided into two parts, the first focused on the purpose of a Jew and the second focused on our homeland of Israel, it becomes an enjoyable way to learn more about the role we play on this planet. That aside, the way the author chronicles his life, makes it quite entertaining, to a point where you might be forced to let out a chuckle or two.

Unfortunately, just as the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover, or in this case the title. I opened this book hoping for a light insight into Israel’s past but found too little too late. The first chapter was a bit deceiving, informing me about some seemingly obvious discrepancies in Jewish law regarding Israel. The answers were nowhere to be found until later in the second part of the book. Overall, a good read, albeit not so much for the Israel enthusiast, but definitely for the Jewish minded. Home>