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106 SHOFAR two of them even Orthodox. Judaism was created, clearly, in more than one setting, and so it was maintained. The study is rich enough to stand on its own, without extravagant claims for the importance of its particular focus in making Jews Jewish. Enough that Prell has described convincingly how, as one minyan member put it, "we in the Minyan are like a tribe trying to get back its traditional way of existence. We've lost the magic formulas and we're trying to come up with them ourselves." Arnold Eisen Dept. of Religion Stanford University What You Thought You Knew About Judaism, by Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1989. 436 pp. $30.00. This is not a book for experts. Neither is it a book for those who wish to become experts. On the other hand, it is also not suitable for those who have no knowledge at all about Jewish life, history, laws, or customs. After all, how can you have a misconception unless you already know something about a topic? It is, however, well suited for the rest of us. Those with a typical "Sunday School" or bar/bat mitzvah background should find it fascinating. The book considers 341 common misconceptions about Jewish life.. People with even a rudimentary day-school background should recognize most of them. For example, "If there is no wine, one cannot recite the kid- . dush" (wine is preferable, but bread suffices). "For each child, one must add one more candle for kindling the Shabbat lights" (it is a nice custom, but hardly a law). "The Shiva period lasts for seven days" (yes and no: the first and last days are highly abbreviated). . Some, however, are trickier: "In Jewish law, the majority rules." This has never been the case in general. Just because most of the population does not keep kosher has never meant that this law can be abrogated. Even in matters that came before a Jewish court of law it sometimes took more than a simple majority to rule against the plaintiff. In a capital case not only did it take at least a majority of two (out of 23) to convict, but if the vote to convict was unanimous, the prisoner went free since such unanimity obviously meant that they were not paying close attention to the evidence! Another: "The belief in evil spirits or demons is an irrational superstition ." The author notes: "What in modern terminology has been branded as psychosis or depression bears a similarity to what was referred to as an evil spirit or demon in other eras. The terminologies are different, but the ideas Volume 9, No.1 Fall1990 107 are the same." With a little allowance for poetic license, evil spirits become less farfetched than they appear at first glance. Since Rabbi Bulka is a psychologist as well as a practicing rabbi, his views on such topics deserve careful consideration. Although the book is not intended as a reference work, there is an extensive index. Not only will it help the reader recall the location of something already read, but on occasion it will permit him to answer a specific question as well. The format of the book makes it suitable for browsing as well as serious reading. Everyone should find it enjoyable. Those who know will feel confirmed in their knowledge; those who don't will be pleased to learn. A fine gift for the barlbat mitzvah child and hislher family! Edward Simon Dept. of Biological Sciences Purdue University The Great Torah Commentators, by Avraham Yaakov Finkel. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1990. 264 pp. $40.00. This interesting book contains mini-biographies of 80 great rabbis cov~ ering the last 1800 years. There are nearly 100 other "micro-biographies" as well. The mini-biographies include brief excerpts from each rabbi's writings that give a feel for his style and his interests. The book has been divided into seven main areas of rabbinic literature -Torah, Talmud, Halachah, Mussar, Chasidism, Philosophy, and Kabbalah . This permits the reader to obtain a feel for what these familiar terms really mean and to compare one to the other in a convenient, accessible format...


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