Judaism book reviews

Review: Naming God

By Simon Rocker, August 26, 2015

Avinu Malkeinu - "Our Father, Our King" –- is one of the seminal prayers of the High Holy Days, its final verse sung to a plaintive melody that captures the essence of the Days of Awe (a few years ago the Scottish band Mogwai even produced a rock version).


An Orthodox view of other faiths

By Rabbi Harvey Belovski, July 6, 2015

Judaism and Other Religions: Models of Understanding
Alan Brill, Palgrave Macmillan, £21


David - The Divided Heart

By Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild, May 28, 2015

Wolpe has tried hard to synthesise the different traits of the biblical David by looking at the texts through a number of lenses: David as young man, as lover and husband, as king, as sinner, fugitive, father.


Leviticus: the call of love

By Simon Rocker, April 23, 2015

Leviticus: The Code of Holiness
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Maggid, £15.99


How barmitzvahs boomed

By Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild, January 1, 2015

Barmitzvah has a fascinating history and Michael Hilton traces the texts showing how it grew from a French folk custom into the global and powerful ceremony of today.


Reading up on the rebbe

June 26, 2014

Joseph Telushkin
Harper Wave, £20

My Rebbe
Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz
Maggid, £18.99

Two new books have been released to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


A Beacon of Light

By Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild, June 6, 2014

When the Reverend D W Marks spoke at the consecration of the West London Synagogue in 1842, he hoped it would become "a beacon of light and a secure haven to the sons of Israel". Philippa Bernard meticulously traces its subsequent history within three buildings, with a wealth of detail from minute books and other documents.


Holy smokers - Chasidim and Tobacco

By Simon Rocker, May 4, 2014

One of the complaints made against the Chasidim by their opponents, the Mitnagdim, was that they smoked too much. The movement’s founder, the Baal Shem Tov, reputedly puffed on a lulke, a long pipe, to help his spiritual ruminations. Others made use of “incense of the nose” — snuff.


Life and times of Rav Kook

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 31, 2014

Yehudah Mirsky’s superb new biography of the great 20th-century Jewish philosopher and mystic is a huge achievement. He gives a gripping, panoramic narrative of the arc of Rav Kook’s life, from childhood in a small White Russian village to becoming the first Chief Rabbi of Mandate Palestine, against a vividly rendered backdrop of the tumultuous history of Kook’s times.


The book they couldn't suppress

By Rabbi Harvey Belovski, March 2, 2014

In this intriguing work, Harry Freedman, former chief executive of Masorti Judaism, offers a two-part approach to understanding the development and impact of the Talmud. The first considers the Talmud as a developing text, exploring its origins in the post-destruction Roman Empire.