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Toward a Reconstruction of American-Jewish Life
Judaism as a Civilization is widely considered the genesis of the Reconstructionist Movement, representing a watershed moment in modern Judaism. In this classic book, Mordecai Kaplan introduced a new way of looking at Judaism: as an evolving religious civilization. His approach required innovation in liturgy and ritual, elimination of obsolete customs, and adjustment in light of prevailing social, political, and cultural conditions. Kaplan felt that all Jews—traditional and liberal, religious and secular—could play a part in this “reconstruction.” Judaism as a Civilization, first published in 1934, remains one of the most original and thought-provoking contributions to modern Jewish thought.
The Origins of the Jewish Nation
We all know about King David and King Solomon, but what about the kings Omri and Uzziah? Of the more than fifty monarchs who sat on the throne of the Jews for over 1000 years, most of us can recall only a few. What we do remember about them has been colored by legend and embellishment. In Kings of the Jews, Norman Gelb tells us the real stories of them all. And in doing so, he reveals how a remarkably resilient people survived divisions, discord, and conquest to forge a vibrant identity that has lasted to the present day. Kings of the Jews explores some of the most dramatic periods in Jewish history: those of the united Israelite kingdom under David and Solomon, the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the Babylonian exile, and the destruction of the Second Temple and the Roman conquest of Jerusalem. With illustrations, maps, chronologies, and index.
To this day Legends of the Jews remains a most remarkable and comprehensive compilation of stories connected to the Hebrew Bible. It is an indispensable reference on that body of literature known as Midrash, the imaginative retelling and elaboration on Bible stories in which mythological tales about demons and magic co-exist with moralistic stories about the piety of the patriarchs. Legends is the first book to which one turns to learn about the postbiblical understanding of a biblical episode, or to discover the source for biblical legends that cannot be traced directly to the Bible. It is also the first place to find the answers to such questions as: on what day was Abraham born; what was Moses' physical appearance, or what was the name of Potiphar's wife. Launched in 1901 by The Jewish Publication Society, the original project began as a single volume of 1,000 pages but grew much larger by 1938, when the seventh volume containing the indexes was finally published. Louis Ginzberg was 28 years old when Henrietta Szold, secretary of the Society, prepared the contract for what was conceived as a small, popular volume on Jewish legends. As the scion of two distinguished rabbinical families, Ginzberg studied in the great Lithuanian yeshivot of Telz and Slobodka. Later he received his secular education at Strassburg and Heidelberg universities. This combination of religious and secular learning enabled him to pursue with great passion the wide-ranging roots of Jewish legend. Ginzberg believed that Jewish legend was both earlier and greater than what was represented in the Talmud and midrashic collections--the primary Rabbinic sources. And so he scoured Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Oriental sources to rediscover the fine threads of Jewish legend. The result was a masterpiece: a single, coherent collection of legends that follows the biblical narrative, accompanied by detailed notes that reveal a complex subtext of often intersecting and multi-layered levels of influence, borrowed notions, and interpretive commentaries. Four new indexes and a new introduction by David Stern, Professor of Postbiblical and Medieval Hebrew Literature, and Director of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, complete the reissue of one of the greatest classics of modern Jewish literature.
Glückel of Hameln’s memoir is widely viewed as one of the earliest major works written by a Jewish woman and has become a classic. Glückel’s aim, she writes at the beginning of her memoir, was to while away the long and melancholy nights that tormented her after her husband’s death, and to inform her 12 children about their family and its history. But her book is not just an account of her life; it is also a fascinating depiction of 17th century Germany and its Jewish community. The Life of Glückel of Hameln is the only English translation of Glückel’s story from the original Yiddish and is widely considered the most accurate and complete translation available. It was out of print for many years until this JPS edition. The volume also includes an introduction by Beth-Zion Abrahams that fills in the background of Glückel’s life and tells how she came to write her memoir. With this reissue, JPS invites a wide audience to read this important record of Jewish, European, and women’s history.
Finding Leah in the Bible and Midrash
The Lost Matriarch offers a unique response to the sparse and puzzling biblical treatment of the matriarch Leah. Although Leah is a major figure in the book of Genesis, the biblical text allows her only a single word of physical description and two lines of direct dialogue. The Bible tells us little about the effects of her lifelong struggles in an apparently loveless marriage to Jacob, the husband she shares with three other wives, including her beautiful younger sister, Rachel. Fortunately, two thousand years of traditional and modern commentators have produced many fascinating interpretations (midrash) that reveal the far richer story of Leah hidden within the text.
Through Jerry Rabow’s weaving of biblical text and midrash, readers learn the lessons of the remarkable Leah, who triumphed over adversity and hardship by living a life of moral heroism. The Lost Matriarch reveals Leah’s full story and invites readers into the delightful, provocative world of creative rabbinic and literary commentary. By experiencing these midrashic insights and techniques for reading “between the lines,” readers are introduced to what for many will be an exciting new method of personal Bible interpretation.
A Jewish Approach to Modern Personal Ethics
In this topically relevant book on modern ethical issues, Dorff focuses on personal ethics, Judaism's distinctive way of understanding human nature, our role in life, and what we should strive to be, both as individuals and as members of a community. Dorff addresses specific moral issues that affect our personal lives: privacy, particularly at work as it is affected by the Internet and other modern technologies; sex in and outside of marriage; family matters, such as adoption, surrogate motherhood, stepfamilies, divorce, parenting, and family violence; homosexuality; justice, mercy, and forgiveness; and charitable acts and social action.
Secrets of The Guide for the Perplexed
A publishing sensation long at the top of the best-seller lists in Israel, the original Hebrew edition of Maimonides and the Book That Changed Judaism has been called the most successful book ever published in Israel on the preeminent medieval Jewish thinker Moses Maimonides. The works of Maimonides, particularly The Guide for the Perplexed, are reckoned among the fundamental texts that influenced all subsequent Jewish philosophy and also proved to be highly influential in Christian and Islamic thought.
Spanning subjects ranging from God, prophecy, miracles, revelation, and evil, to politics, messianism, reason in religion, and the therapeutic role of doubt, Maimonides and the Book That Changed Judaism elucidates the complex ideas of The Guide in remarkably clear and engaging prose.
Drawing on his own experience as a central figure in the current Israeli renaissance of Jewish culture and spirituality, Micah Goodman brings Maimonides’s masterwork into dialogue with the intellectual and spiritual worlds of twenty-first-century readers. Goodman contends that in Maimonides’s view, the Torah’s purpose is not to bring clarity about God but rather to make us realize that we do not understand God at all; not to resolve inscrutable religious issues but to give us insight into the true nature and purpose of our lives.
Torah and Philosophic Quest (Expanded Edition)
In his 1976 Maimonides: Torah and Philosophical Quest, David Hartman departs from traditional scholarly views about Maimonides by offering a new way of understanding the great man and his work. This expanded edition contains Hartman’s new postscript. A 12th-century rabbi, scholar, physician, and philosopher, Moses Maimonides is best known for his two great works on Judaism: Mishneh Torah and Guide to the Perplexed. They have often been viewed by scholars as having different audiences and different messages, together reflecting the two sides of the author himself: Maimonides the halakhist, who focused on piety through obedience to Jewish law; and Maimonides the philosopher, who advocated closeness with God through reflection and knowledge of nature. Hartman argues that while many scholars look at one aspect of Maimonides to the exclusion or dismissal of the other, the way to really understand him is to see both adherence to the law and philosophical pursuits as two essential aspects of Judaism. Hartman’s 2009 postscript sheds new light on his argument and indeed on Judaism as Maimonides interpreted it. In it Hartman explains that while Maimonides never envisioned the integration of halakhah with philosophy, he did view them as existing in a symbiotic relationship. While the focus of the Mishneh Torah was halakha and obedience to Jewish law, Guide to the Perplexed spoke to individuals whose love of God grew through their passion, devotion and yearning to understand God’s wisdom and power in nature. Both modes of spiritual orientation lived in the thought of Maimonides.
Selections from 2000 Years of Jewish Creativity
Masterpieces of Hebrew Literature is a true masterpiece of its own--one of the few collections in which readers can find important works of Jewish tradition and culture by such authors as Rashi, Maimonides, Judah Halevi, and Joseph Caro, all in one place. Curt Leviant includes literature that spans many genres, from fiction and poetry to legal, ethical, and midrashic works; from responsa and Biblical commentary to histories and letters. His brief introductions place the works and their authors in historical perspective.