“Hillel: if not now, when” by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Shocken, 2010
Can a book about the life and teachings of Hillel, now having his 2000th yahrzteit commemorated, be subversive, bitterly critical, and even fiercely polemical? Hillel, the mild-tempered and patient teacher whose students and progeny (a whole lot of the Talmudic leaders) lead the debates in the Talmud? The man who was the inspiration for some of the best teachings of Jesus?
You better believe it! Not so very hidden in this book is quite an attack on some of today’s practices.
Every educated Jew can recite the striking aphorisms Hillel offered – he is quoted the most in Pirke Avot – and all know the stories about how he summarized Jewish thought while standing on one foot. Rabbi Telushkin does an admirable job of taking the bits known or rumoured about Hillel and creating a picture of a living person. Interestingly, he is at pains to show that Shammai was not an irrelevant “straw man” and foil the wiser HIllel nor that Hillel was always the “good guy” and liberal in his teachings.
Yet the most profound value of this short, well-written book lies in contrasting the world-views of Hillel with the constipated and ill-liberal practices of today. No where are these practices more deficient than in our closedness to promoting membership in the Jewish faith. Today, we are exactly at the opposite pole from the welcoming attitude that House of Hillel – and Jewish practice world-wide in the Roman Empire – espoused and we are so much the worse for it.
Let me end by mentioning a simple “proof” of our present departure from earlier rabbinic thought that Rabbi Telushkin poses. When someone is asked, “Is David religious?” – what do we mean? Do we mean is he a decent person who treats others well and is honest in business and careful in personal relations? As Rabbi Telushkin points out, we really mean nothing other than “Does he practice the rituals of Judaism?”.
Rosh Hashanah is right around the corner. No sooner than we drop off the kids at the school door, The High Holy Days are upon us. Rosh Hashanah is early this year, September 8th. That’s when we’ll be sitting around the table with family and friends, enjoying a great meal and welcoming the Sweet New Year with freshly picked Ontario apples and honey from the Jerusalem Mountains.
The Jewish New Year ushers in a time of reflection and meditation. No dance parties to ring out the old and bring in the new. The majority of us will be standing in shuls across the world listening to the shofar and in our minds wondering what Hashem has in store for us.
As we usher in the New Year someone very dear to us at Israel’s Judaica is missing . He was a tireless worker for Israel and was a kind soul and inspiration to all of us. He was known to all of us both near and far as Izzy Kaplan Z”L. We’re thankful that he passed this way.
To all our customers, readers, authors, book publishers and friends:
Sweet New Year. Shanah Tovah. May you be inscribed for a good life for another year.
Take a step beyond the traditional.
Give your family the gift of Asian cuisine.
In this first of its kind cookbook, Asian cooking goes kosher–in a marvelously simple way! Featuring a spectacular showcase of delectable dishes from a variety of Asian countries, including China, Japan, India, Thailand, and the Philippines, this beautifully designed collection shows how all-time Asian favorites can be transformed into easy-to-make household foods, from the spicy to the subtle, the savory to the sweet.
The Complete Asian Kosher Cookbook brings you:
• Authentic, mouthwatering dishes for every day, holidays, and special occasions
• A wide selection of user-friendly recipes
• Exotic choices to spice up your menus
• Ingredients you can find at your supermarket
• Stunning, full-color photos on every spread
Author: Shifrah Devorah Witt and Zipporah Malka Heller
Sima’s Undergarments for Women, by Ilana Stanger-Ross, The Overlook Press, 2009, 320 pp., provides wonderful sight and insight into the lives of women and families, who happen in this book to live in the traditional Jewish neighbourhood of Borough Park, Brooklyn. Stanger-Ross examines in-depth the life, friendships, and potential for growth of Sima, proprietor of the home-based business of the title.
The action starts with the unexpected arrival of Timna, a lovely young Sabra, who begins as Sima’s assistant. While about as old a novelist’s ploy as any in the world, it works gently and well to unfold the narrative of Sima’s life and to provide entry to sub-plots. Although not handled chronologically as a narrative, we ultimately come to the question of her own sadly decayed marriage.
Two things may provide springboards to your own exploration of your marriage. These are the way Stanger-Ross treats Sima’s dog-eared marriage and the sadness your might feel on hearing familiar-sounding but truly unendearing kitchen conversations unfold. These may be more helpful to the multitude of readers in likewise dog-eared marriages than a garage-full of self-help books. My internet dictionary says dog-eared means “made worn or shabby from use.”
This may sound odd to say, but you can also enjoy the book as an exploration of contemporary novel writing, the sort of thing that James Wood of the New Yorker Magazine explores in “How Fiction Works.” Perhaps the reader can see perhaps one too many summer workshops hidden in the text, but that’s an interesting aspect of the book and not really a detractor. Of course, when you read that Sima’s guests are making wine toasts just before the Seder, you start to wonder why Stanger-Ross wrote such an odd thing and what novelist purpose did it serve?
Highly recommended for men and women… but greatest benefit to those married and over 35.
Israel is dying. And those responsible are not just the terrorists plotting its destruction, but also the political elites within its borders. Drawing on in-the-field reporting and research that has brought him to the front lines of the Middle East news cycle, acclaimed journalist Aaron Klein spells out the shocking truth.
In this groundbreaking work, Klein will show how Israel is often its own worst enemy. And how Hamas, Iran and Palestinian terrorists are poised to end the democracy once and for all. Unless these perils are countered soon, warns Klein, the only remnant of the Jewish country may soon be an epitaph: “The Late, Great State of Israel.”
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>
A Treatise on Jewish Sovereignty over the Land of Israel
Author: Howard Grief
This book is a comprehensive and systematic legal study and exposition of Jewish national and political rights to all of the Land of Israel under international law. The book is designed not merely for jurists and lawyers, but for anyone wishing to gain a clear understanding of the true facts and background that led up to the re-birth of the Jewish State of Israel in 1948.
Grief’s book is comprised of five mutually independent sections as well as five interesting appendices. Section I discusses the Origin of the Jewish Legal Title over Palestine and the Land of Israel . Section II deals with the Continuation of Jewish Legal Rights and Title of Sovereignty upon the termination of the Mandate for Palestine . Section III answers the question of how Jewish legal rights and title of sovereignty in regard to Palestine became obscured and forgotten after they were first recognized in international law. Section IV is devoted to the Switch in National Identities and Names, featuring a discussion of Palestinian Nationality and the Arab Appropriation of the name “Palestinians” that originally referred principally to the Jews of Palestine. Section V, the concluding part of the book, details the remedial steps that should be taken to preserve Jewish legal rights and title of sovereignty over the Land of Israel in the face of persistent Arab attempts to usurp them as their own.
Grief’s book is a convincing presentation of Israel ’s legal case to the land known throughout history by various names: Canaan, the Land of Israel , Judah or Judea, the Land of Zion , Palestine , the Holy Land or the Promised Land. It provides incontrovertible evidence and an in-depth analysis in support of Israel ’s position, while at the same time, the book exposes the falsity of the Arab “Palestinian” claim to the land.
No person seeking to be conversant with or knowledgeable about the ongoing conflict in the Middle East involving Israel and the Arab-Muslim world can afford not to read this well-documented and exceptionally well-written book that is magisterial in sweep and content.
About the author
The author is veteran Attorney Howard Grief, a member of the Bars of Israel and Quebec , who served as legal adviser on the Land of Israel to Professor Yuval Ne’eman, when he served as Israeli Minister of Energy and Infrastructure. To learn more visit