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Jewish Publication Society

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Jonah and the Meaning of Our Lives

A Verse-by-Verse Contemporary Commentary

Steven Bob

The Book of Jonah stands unique among the biblical books of the prophets because it is almost entirely narrative. And, in contrast to all the other prophets portrayed as admirable individuals who bravely speak God’s word, Jonah stands out as flawed and fleeing from God. We are drawn to Jonah because God gives him an opportunity to redeem himself. His experience inspires us to find our own second chances—and our own paths to meaningful growth.


Jonah and the Meaning of Our Lives draws on commentaries of Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Kimchi, Abarbanel, and the Malbim, as well as contemporary culture and personal experiences to reveal the hidden meanings of this perplexing biblical story. In so doing, it explores many of the larger questions and topics we face, including human nature, our relationship with God, and how we understand ourselves and lead our lives. Rabbi Steven Bob’s verse-by-verse commentary intimately connects the ancient wisdom of the text with the reality of our own lives, providing us with inspiration and guidance.
 
              

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Joseph

Portraits through the Ages

Alan T. Levenson

The complex and dramatic story of Joseph is the most sustained narrative in Genesis. Many call it a literary masterpiece and a story of great depth that can be read on many levels. In a lucid and engaging style, Alan T. Levenson brings the voices of Philo, Josephus, Midrash, and medieval commentators, as well as a wide range of modern scholars, into dialogue about this complex biblical figure.

Levenson explores such questions as: Why did Joseph’s brothers hate him so? What is achieved by Joseph’s ups and downs on the path to extraordinary success? Why didn’t Joseph tell his father he was alive and ruling Egypt? What was Joseph like as a husband and father? Was Joseph just or cruel in testing his brothers’ characters?

Levenson deftly shows how an unbroken chain of interpretive traditions, mainly literary but also artistic, have added to the depth of this fascinating and unique character.

 

 

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JPS B'nai Mitzvah Torah Commentary

Jeffrey K. Salkin

For too many Jewish young people, bar/bat mitzvah has been the beginning of the end of their Jewish journeys. When students perceive the Torah as incomprehensible or irrelevant, many form the false impression that Judaism has nothing to say to them.

Enter the game-changer: the JPS B’nai Mitzvah Torah Commentary shows teens in their own language how Torah addresses the issues in their world. The conversational tone is inviting and dignified, concise and substantial, direct and informative. The narrative summaries, “big” ideas, model divrei Torah, haftarot commentaries, and discussion questions will engage teens in studying the Torah and haftarot, in writing divrei Torah, and in continuing to learn Torah throughout their lives—making it the book every rabbi, cantor, parent, and tutor will also want to have.

Jewish learning—for young people and adults—will never be the same. 
 

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The JPS Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes

Authored by Michael V. Fox PhD

The Book of Ecclesiastes is part of the "wisdom literature" of the Bible. It concerns itself with universal philosophical questions, rather than events in the history of Israel and in the Hebrews' covenant with God. Koheleth, the speaker in this book, ruminates on what -- if anything -- has lasting value, and how -- if at all -- God interacts with humankind. Koheleth expresses bewilderment and frustration at life's absurdities and injustices. He grapples with the inequities that pervade the world and the frailty and limitations of human wisdom and righteousness. His awareness of these discomfiting facts coexists with a firm believe in God's rule and God's fundamental justice, and he looks for ways to define a meaningful life in a world where so much is senseless. Ecclesiastes is traditionally read on the Jewish holiday Sukkot, the harvest festival.

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The JPS Bible Commentary

Haftarot

Authored by Michael Fishbane, Ph.D.

The haftarot are an ancient part of Hebrew liturgy. These supplemental readings are excerpted from the Prophets (Nevi'im) and accompany each weekly Sabbath reading from the Torah as well as readings for special Sabbaths and festivals. Noted Bible scholar Michael Fishbane introduces each haftarah with an outline and discussion of how that passage conveys its meaning, and he follows it with observations on how it relates to the Torah portion or special occasion. Individual comments, citing classical rabbinic as well as modern commentators, highlight ambiguities and difficulties in the Hebrew text, which appears in concert with the JPS translation. The haftarot are also put into biblical context by a separate overview of all prophetic books (except Jonah) that are excerpted in the haftarah cycle.

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The JPS Commentary on the Haggadah

Historical Introduction, Translation, and Commentary

Authored by Joseph Tabory PhD

The Passover haggadah enjoys an unrivaled place in Jewish culture, both religious and secular. And of all the classic Jewish books, the haggadah is the one most "alive" today. Jews continue to rewrite, revise, and add to its text, recasting it so that it remains relevant to their lives. In this new volume in the JPS Commentary collection, Joseph Tabory, one of the world's leading authorities on the history of the haggadah, traces the development of the seder and the haggadah through the ages. The book features an extended introduction by Tabory, the classic Hebrew haggadah text side by side with its English translation, and Tabory's clear and insightful critical-historical commentary.

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The JPS Guide to Jewish Women

600 B.C.E.–1900 C.E.

Authored by Sondra Henry, Emily Taitz Ph.D., and Cheryl Tallan

This is an indispensable resource about the role of Jewish women from post-biblical times to the twentieth century. Unique in its approach, it is structured so that each chapter, which is divided into three parts, covers a specific period and geographical area. The first section of the book contains an overview, explaining how historical events affected Jews in general and Jewish women in particular. This is followed by a section of biographical entries of women of the period whose lives are set in their economic, familial, and cultural backgrounds. The third and last part of each chapter, "The World of Jewish Women," is organized by topic and covers women's activities and interests and how Jewish laws concerning women developed and changed. This comprehensive work is an easy-to-use sourcebook, synopsizing rich and diverse resources. By examining history and analyzing the dynamics of Jewish law and custom, it illuminates the circumstances of Jewish women's lives and traces the changes that have occurred throughout the centuries. It casts a new and clear light on Jewish women as individuals and sets women firmly within the context of their own cultural and historical periods. The book contains illustrations, boxed text, extensive endnotes, and indices that list each woman by name. It is ideal for women's groups and study groups as well as students and scholars.

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The JPS Rashi Discussion Torah Commentary

Sarah Levy

Rashi, the medieval French rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040–1105), authored monumental commentaries on the Hebrew Bible and the Babylonian Talmud. With The JPS Rashi Discussion Torah Commentary, his commentary on the Torah—regarded as the most authoritative of all Torah commentaries—is finally accessible to the entire Jewish community.


Steven and Sarah Levy quote from the biblical text in both Hebrew and English, highlight Rashi’s comments relating to the parashah, and delve into his perceptive moral messages in the context of twenty-first-century dilemmas. Each portion features three essays with analysis and discussion questions that draw on universal human experiences, enabling families and Shabbat study groups to deepen their understanding of Rashi and the portion over the three Sabbath meals.


Readers with little or no knowledge of Hebrew, the Torah, or Jewish practice will feel comfortable diving into this discussion commentary. All Hebrew terms are defined, quoted verses contextualized, and less familiar Jewish concepts explained.
 

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Judaism as a Civilization

Toward a Reconstruction of American-Jewish Life

Authored by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan

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.

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Judaism's Great Debates

Timeless Controversies from Abraham to Herzl

Barry L. Schwartz

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