I love Jewish books and have reviewed over 100 books of Jewish interest in recent years. Below are some of my favourite book reviews which I hope you find of interest. If you are interested in me reviewing your book, please contact me at ravjsolomon@gmail.com

Living in the Presence: A Jewish Mindfulness Guide for Everyday Life

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to talk with Rabbi Dr. Benjy Epstein about his wonderful book ‘Living in the Presence: A Jewish Mindfulness Guide for Everyday Life’. In our wide-ranging conversation we explored the concept of ‘Yishuv Hada’at’ (Jewish Mindfulness), the importance of living a life that reflects the totality of who we are, […]

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The Narrow Halakhic Bridge: A vision of Jewish Law in the Post-Modern Age

Today I had the privilege of interviewing Rav Ronen Neuwirth about his fascinating new book ‘The Narrow Halakhic Bridge: A vision of Jewish Law in the Post-Modern Age’ (which also exists in hebrew as גשר ההלכה: פסיקת הלכה בדור פוסטמודרני). In ‘The Narrow Halakhic Bridge’, Rav Ronen provides an easy-to-read yet nuanced presentation about the […]

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Sichot al Ahava v’pachad

(‘Conversations on Love and Fear’) by Sharon Shalom. (Yediot Acharonot, 2018) Imagine a book, written by a wise, insightful and emotionally intelligent Jewish philosopher with a flair for poetic language, that explores the richness and complexity of Jewish identity, heritage and observance in the modern state of Israel. Imagine that instead of avoiding some of the […]

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Faith and freedom Haggadah

FAITH AND FREEDOM PASSOVER HAGGADAH with commentary from the writings of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits, compiled and edited by Reuven Mohl. (Urim Publications, 2019) A few weeks ago I received a copy of ‘Faith and Freedom’, which is a Haggadah with a commentary collated by Reuven Mohl from the various writings of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits and […]

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A Theology of Holiness

‘A Theology of Holiness’ by Alec Goldstein, Kodesh Press 2018 The Jewish people are called upon to be a holy people and to perform holy acts, including specific rituals on holy days, while remaining cognizant that the ultimate setting to serve God and realise their mission as a holy nation is in the holy land. […]

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Review Essay: And Beit Hillel Says (U’Beit Hillel Omrim)

And Beit Hillel Says (U’Beit Hillel Omrim): Halakhic Rulings of the Rabbis and Rabbaniot of Beit Hillel (Yedioth Ahronoth/Chemed Books, 2018) Introduction December 2018 saw the launch of U’Beit Hillel Omrim (literally ‘And Beit Hillel Says’), which is a collection of halakhic rulings generated by members of the Beit Hillel organisation. Beit Hillel is an organisation […]

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Minchat Asher: Klalei Hamitzvot

MINCHAT ASHER: KLALEI HAMITZVOT by Rabbi Asher Weiss Machon Minchat Asher, Ellul 5778 The study of the Talmud is a magnetizing process that draws a learner into debates of the past while urging them to consider how the laws and values emerging from those debates can be applied in the present and the future. This […]

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Was Yosef on the spectrum?

WAS YOSEF ON THE SPECTRUM? Understanding Joseph through Torah, Midrash and Classical Jewish Sources by Samuel J. Levine (Urim 2019). In general, I am not drawn to Torah commentaries that seek to frame biblical personalities in the language of today, at the cost of understanding their words and actions as expressed by the language of […]

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Search engine- Finding meaning in Jewish texts, volume 1: Jewish life

SEARCH ENGINE – FINDING MEANING IN JEWISH TEXTS, VOLUME 1: JEWISH LIFE By Rabbi Gil Student (Kodesh Press, 2018) INTRODUCTION Imagine you asked me for a book recommendation – specifically, a book that discussed Jewish law, but somehow not just Jewish law. A book that addressed technological developments and social trends through the halachic lens, […]

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Jewish law as a journey – finding meaning in daily Jewish practice

JEWISH LAW AS A JOURNEY: FINDING MEANING IN DAILY JEWISH PRACTICE by Rabbi David Silverstein, Menorah Books (2017) Over the past three years I have reviewed over 100 Jewish books and I can say with absolute honesty that I have drawn wisdom and understanding from them all. However, I must admit that I do not […]

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The beginnings: Kabbalistic history of civilization by Rabbi Yaacov Haber

BEGINNINGS: THE KABBALISTIC HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION by Rabbi Yaacov Haber (Mosaica Press, 2018) Many years ago I read a fascinating article written by Alfred Jospe in 1965 exploring why Jews in general, and specifically college aged Jews, seem to disconnect from their heritage. As he explains, it is at that age that the sophistication of […]

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Airport Lights

By Yaacov David Shulman CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017 126 pages (nb. This review was featured in Jewish Action Fall 2018 and can be read here). Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook (1865-1935), best known as the first chief rabbi of pre-state Israel, was a truly unique Talmudist, halachist, mystic, poet and Jewish thinker. As chief rabbi, […]

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Jewish guide to practical medical decision making

JEWISH GUIDE TO PRACTICAL MEDICAL DECISION-MAKING by Rabbi Jason Weiner  (Urim, 2017) It takes considerable skill to write a book about modern medicine, and even greater skill to explain how halakha (Jewish law) responds to the dilemmas generated by modern medicine. Still, even those with the requisite knowledge of medicine and Jewish law may struggle to […]

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Sefer Nishmat habayit

I. Introduction Over many years I have developed a great passion towards the study of contemporary halakhah – and specifically – towards contemporary She’elot U’Teshuvot (responsa literature). This is due to the fact that while codified halakhah is often recorded by the author ‘after examining the halakhic materials from a theoretical point of view’[1], responsa […]

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Sh’ut Yishrei lev

SH’UT YISHREI LEV by HaRav Yonatan (Yoni) Rosensweig Introduction Responsa – or in hebrew, She’elot U’Teshuvot – are unique texts whose questions, no less than their answers, shine a light on halakhic trends and challenges in the Jewish world. As David Ellenson observes, they are ‘the crossroads where text and context meet in the ongoing […]

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Faith without fear

FAITH WITHOUT FEAR: UNRESOLVED ISSUES IN MODERN ORTHODOXY by Michael J. Harris (Vallentine Mitchell, 2016) Rabbi Dr Michael Harris, whom I have the privilege of knowing, is a Modern Orthodox ‘academically-informed rabbi’ who has recently written a compelling, scholarly, yet lucid presentation exploring some of the most important issues facing Modern Orthodoxy today. In Faith […]

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FALSE FACTS AND TRUE RUMORS

FALSE FACTS AND TRUE RUMORS: LASHON HARA IN CONTEMPORARY CULTURE by Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman Maggid Books/Michael Scharf Publication Trust of Yeshiva University Press, 2015  Very rarely is a book published that addresses an already familiar subject and revolutionises the way we understand it. Yet this is precisely what Rabbi Daniel Feldman has done in […]

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Michtav Shlomo: Hilchot Geirim Hamevuar

MICHTAV SHLOMO: HILCHOT GEIRIM HAMEVUAR by Rabbi Shlomo Krispin Or Etzion, 2015 Since the establishment of the State of Israel, there has been a steady influx of Jews from the four corners of the globe that have chosen to make Israel their home. While the great majority of these immigrants have been halakhically Jewish (ie. […]

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Aggadah: Sages, stories & secrets

AGGADAH: SAGES, STORIES & SECRETS There are very few books that I wish to re-read the moment I finish them, but Rabbi Immanuel Bernstein’s ‘Aggadah: Sages, Stories & Secrets’, published by Mosaica Press,  is one of them. Like Aggadah itself, this beautifully designed book is multileveled; yet in contrast to the cryptic style of Aggadah, […]

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Conversion, intermarriage and Jewish identity

In March 2012, seventy-seven leading scholars gathered to discuss the topic of “Conversion, Intermarriage, and Jewish Identity”, and earlier this year, fifteen of the papers delivered at that conference were published in what is now the twenty-third volume of The Orthodox Forum Series. The papers contained in ‘Conversion, Intermarriage, and Jewish Identity’ (ed. A. Mintz […]

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Changing the immutable

CHANGING THE IMMUTABLE: HOW ORTHODOX JUDAISM REWRITES ITS HISTORY by Marc B. Shapiro In this long-awaiting book, Marc Shapiro offers hundreds of examples where students, family members or printers have chosen to rewrite the past ‘by covering up and literally cutting out that which does not fit their own world-view’. In ‘Changing the Immutable’ we […]

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Mesilot bilvavam

MESILOT BILVAVAM BY RABBI NAHUM RABINOVITCH Earlier this year Rabbi Nahum Eliezer Rabinovitch, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Birkat Moshe, published ‘Mesilot Bilvavam’ (literally, ‘pathways [to God] in their hearts’), whose title was chosen to reiterate the need for an emotionally intelligent approach to Judaism. Mesilot Bilvavam (ed. Rabbi Eli Reiff) contains 20 essays written by […]

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Rabbinic authority vol. 2

RABBINIC AUTHORITY: THE VISION AND THE REALITY – Beit Din Decisions in English (Vol. 2) by Rabbi A. Yehuda (Ronnie) Warburg (Urim Publications, 2016) The process of interpreting Jewish legal texts and applying Jewish legal precedents is highly complex especially when dealing with Jewish civil law, and in almost all cases, the textual sources being […]

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Take your soul to work

TAKE YOUR SOUL TO WORK: 365 MEDITATIONS ON EVERY DAY LEADERSHIP by Erica Brown (Simon & Schuster, 2015) According to Dr. Erica Brown, ‘when you lead from the inside out, you realize the best in yourself and others’, and it is for this reason why she has written ‘Take Your Soul to Work’ which is […]

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Seeking his presence

SEEKING HIS PRESENCE: CONVERSATIONS WITH RABBI AHARON LICHTENSTEIN by Haim Sabato Yedioth Ahronoth/Chemed Books, 2016 In August 2011, Yedioth Ahronoth/Chemed Books published Mevakshei Paneicha (literally, ‘Seeking Your Presence’) which, despite its complex subject matter as a book of Jewish thought and philosophy, was sold out before its release date. Mevakshei Paneicha is the title of a […]

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Becoming a soulful educator

BECOMING A SOULFUL EDUCATOR: How to Bring Jewish Learning from Our Minds, to Our Hearts, to Our Soul – and into Our Lives by Aryeh Ben David (Jewish Lights, 2016) It has often been said that ‘teaching is a work of heart’, and teachers – and especially teachers of Judaic Studies – are renowned for […]

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Teshuvah

TESHUVAH: A Guide for the Mind and Heart during Elul, Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur by Rabbi Immanuel Bernstein (Mosaica Press, 2016) If you walk into a superstore that serves the Jewish community around this time of year you won’t need to look far to find where the stocks of honey can be purchased. As […]

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Moadei Harav

MOADEI HARAV: Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik by Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick (Urim Publications, 2016) Over the past decade there has been an explosion of both Hebrew and English language books containing and explaining the teachings of the great Jewish thinker and Talmudist Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. However, while many […]

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Halichot Hashulchan Aruch Hachamishi

HALICHOT HASHULCHAN ARUCH HACHAMISHI by Rabbi Ari Avraham Samge, 2016 While the Shulchan Aruch is only divided into four sections, there is an oft-quoted concept that there is an additional (unwritten) fifth section of the Shulchan Aruch. For some, this mythical tome represents a variety of halachic requirements which are not explicitly listed in the […]

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Sh’ut Minchat Asher (vol. 3)

SH’UT MINCHAT ASHER (VOL. 3) by Rabbi Asher Weiss, 2016 Rabbi Asher Weiss is widely known Torah scholar and posek (halakhic decisor) whose depth of knowledge and clarity of presentation makes his shiurim a pleasure to hear and his sefarim a pleasure to learn. He is a prolific writer and he has published a Torah […]

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Parenting in perspective

PARENTING IN PERSPECTIVE: TIMELESS WISDOM, MODERN APPLICATIONS by Barry Kislowicz Maggid Books, 2016 Jewish parents want their children to be happy, healthy, successful and committed to both the ethical and religious dimensions of Judaism. But while some parents seem to intuitively know what to do as Jewish parents, raising children that behave and interact in […]

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From Sinai to Ethiopia

FROM SINAI TO ETHIOPIA: THE HALAKHIC AND CONCEPTUAL WORLD OF ETHIOPIAN JEWRY, INCLUDING SHULHAN HA-ORIT – A HALAKHIC GUIDE FOR THE BETA ISRAEL COMMUNITY by Rabbi Dr. Sharon Shalom (Gefen Books, 2016) Once in a while I get to meet special people in whom I see a special divine spark; people that blend warmth, wit, […]

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The Kippah

THE KIPPAH: ALL ABOUT YARMULKES, JUDAISM & LIFE by Rabbi Moshe Becker Mosaica Press, 2016 Wearing a Kippah seems to be something that many Jewish men do without having a clear grasp of the origins of this practice, or necessarily, what it is intended to achieve.In terms of origins, some claim that Kippah wearing began […]

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With might and strength

WITH MIGHT AND STRENGTH: THE RABBI SHLOMO GOREN AUTOBIOGRAPHY Edited by Avi Rath & translated by Miryam Blum (Maggid Books, 2016) I have long been fascinated by the personality and psakim (halakhic rulings) of Rabbi Shlomo Goren (1917-1994) whose life story is, as Avi Rath remarks in his preface, ‘in essence, the story of the […]

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Psakim u’teshuvot

PSAKIM U’TESHUVOT by Rabbi Aharon Arieh Katz Jerusalem, 5777 If you walk into any Beit Midrash you are likely to find a set of Piskei Teshuvot written by Rabbi Simcha Rabinovitch, and if you are someone who enjoys researching halakhic issues, you may well have a set of Piskei Teshuvot on your shelves at home […]

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Yemima Mizrachi speaks

YEMIMA MIZRACHI SPEAKS by Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, adapted by Shiffy Friedman Artscroll Mesorah Publications, 2016 I have long admired Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi. She teaches Torah with passion and she shares and develops insights that speak directly to her audience. Her Torah is not theoretical, not pilpul. Instead, it is Torat Chessed, a Torah that is deeply […]

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Maimonides: between philosophy and Halacha

MAIMONIDES: BETWEEN PHILOSOPHY AND HALAKHAH – RABBI JOSEPH B. SOLOVEITCHIK’S LECTURES ON THE ‘GUIDE OF THE PERPLEXED’ (Edited by Lawrence J. Kaplan) Ktav/Urim, 2016 ‘In 1950-1951, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, better known to all his students and admirers as “the Rav”, gave a year’s course on Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed at Yeshiva University’s Bernard […]

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Illuminations of the Maggid

lLLUMINATIONS OF THE MAGGID by Rabbi Paysach Krohn, Mesorah Publications, 2016 One of the first Jewish books that I ever received was Rabbi Paysach Krohn’s ‘The Maggid Speaks’ which was first published in 1987. Since then, a further 10 volumes have been published in the Maggid Series, and over this period of time, Rabbi Krohn has […]

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Responsa Hashem roi

RESPONSA HASHEM ROI by R’ Uriel Sfez (2nd edition). Kochav Yaakov, 5777 One of the many reasons I love living in Israel is the opportunity to find Jewish books from Israeli Rabbanim who are less well-known, and occasionally not known at all in communities outside of Israel. As case in point is the recently published second […]

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Ohr hamizrachi: contemporary Halachic responsa

OHR HAMIZRACH: CONTEMPORARY HALAKHIC RESPONSA by Rabbi Dr. Shlomo E. Glicksberg Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Glicksberg, who was recently appointed as a Dayan on the South African Beth Din, is the Senior Rabbi of the Mizrachi community and Rosh Kollel of the Bet Mordechai Campus Bet Midrash. Prior to arriving in South Africa, Rabbi Dr. Glicksberg […]

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Contemporary Halachic problems vol. 7

CONTEMPORARY HALAKHIC PROBLEMS VOL. VII by Rabbi J. David Bleich (Maggid Books, 2016) While many people write books, few can claim to have created a new genre of book. However, since the publication of his first volume of Contemporary Halakhic Problems in 1977 this is exactly what Rabbi J. David Bleich has done. In general, […]

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Hagedolim (The Gedolim)

THE GEDOLIM: LEADERS WHO SHAPED THE ISRAELI HAREDI JEWRY (ED. B. BROWN & N. LEON) [HEBREW] Magnes/Van Leer, 2017 There are many wonderful things about life in Israel, and one of them is the interface between religion and academia which – often but not always – enables religious issues and personalities to be examined with […]

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Forgotten giants

FORGOTTEN GIANTS: Sephardic Rabbis before and after the Expulsion from Spain by Rabbi Yosef Bitton Gefen Publishing, 2016 For a variety of reasons, some of the greatest rabbinic scholars of our history are unknown to the majority of Jews today. In fact, even those Jews who would regard themselves as being knowledgeable are often only […]

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Techumin vol. 37

Tzomet Institute, 5777 Techumin – which is actually an acronym for Torah Hevrah uMedINa (literally, ‘Torah, Society and State’) – is a Hebrew-language annual journal of articles about Jewish law and Modernity that is published by the Tzomet Institute in Israel. Just over a year ago I reviewed Vol. 36, and for the past few weeks […]

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Shulchan Ha’ari

by Rabbi Ari Enkin (2017). The recently published Shulchan Ha’ari is the ninth volume in Rabbi Ari Enkin’s Dalet Amot Halacha series. In each of these volumes Rabbi Enkin offers ‘short entries on halachic issues of contemporary relevance and interest’ which can be appreciated by scholars and laypeople alike. In Shulchan Ha’ari there are 103 […]

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Tiferet Yisrael: translation and commentar

by Rabbi Ramon Widmonte Urim Publications, 2016 In many ways, a Torah teacher functions as a doctor for the Jewish heart, mind and soul, with responsibility for sharing Torah lessons and values that bring spiritual and intellectual clarity to those who seek their guidance. On occasion, such teachers may encourage their students to reflect upon […]

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What will they say about you when you are gone?

by Rabbi Daniel Cohen (Health Communications Inc., 2016) Just over two years ago I watched an incredibly inspiring TED-like talk by Rabbi Daniel Cohen which I have since watched and shown on numerous occasions. Rabbi Cohen’s talk, titled ‘Living a Life of Legacy – Discovering Your Elijah Moment’, reflected on the legacy that we leave when we die, as well as our […]

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Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen: between war & peace

by Yechiel Frish & Yedidya HaCohen. Translated by Dr. Irene Lancaster Urim Publications, 2017 Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen (1927-2016) was one of the most remarkable religious leaders of the past century. He was a man of action, principle, wisdom and grace, and as a Torah leader he combined depth, clarity, humanity and spirituality. In his youth Rabbi Cohen was […]

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Faith shattered and restored: Judaism in the postmodern age

by Rabbi Shimon Gershon Rosenberg (Shagar) Maggid Books, 2017 Rabbi Shimon Gershon Rosenberg (1949-2007), or more popularly known by his acronym Shagar, was an inspired Torah teacher and a brilliant Torah thinker who fused his deep commitment to Jewish law, Jewish study and Jewish spirituality with philosophical inquiry and a deep awareness of social and intellectual developments in […]

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The Rabbinate in stormy days

The Life and Teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Halevi Herzog, The First Chief Rabbi of Israel by Shaul Mayzlish. Translation by Tanhum Yoreh Gefen, 2017 In 1991, Shaul Mayzlish published his brilliant biography of Chief Rabbi Herzog titled ‘Rabbanut B’Sa’arat HaYamim’, and with much thanks to Gefen Books and specifically to MK Isaac Herzog – the grandson and namesake of Chief Rabbi […]

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The skeptic and the Rabbi: falling in love with faith – a memoir

by Judy Gruen She Writes Press, 2017 If you ever go to a large bookstore you will find that one of the most popular sections is travel writing. Such books describe the challenges inherent in moving from place to place while also speaking about the beauty of seeing and experiencing places of beauty and wonder. […]

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Two volumes on the writings of Rav Moshe

Over the past year or so, two sefarim have been published that – in very different ways – offer further insights and perspectives on the halakhic rulings penned by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein as found in his Iggrot Moshe. The first, published in late 5776, is volume 2 of She’elot UTeshuvot VeDibarta Bam which is a set of responsa written by Rabbi Boruch […]

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Avo Bitekha: Marriage and family law responsa

by Rabbis David and Avraham Star (Maggid, 2017) One of the most fascinating developments over the last twenty years has been the shift in the types of questions that some Rabbis have been prepared to address in their responsa. Primarily prompted by increased access to rabbis through technology, along with the proliferation of numerous ask-the-rabbi websites […]

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