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When first published in 1987, The American Synagogue quickly established itself as the standard work on the subject. The strength of the book lies in its combination of broad overviews of denominational differentiation that took place and case studies drawing from many geographical regions and emphasizing themes ranging from effects of immigration on synagogue life to changing roles of women. The book has become an important comparative resource for students of American religious life, particularly in its examination of how religious communities change over time.
After One-Hundred-and-Twenty provides a richly nuanced and deeply personal look at Jewish attitudes and practices regarding death, mourning, and the afterlife as they have existed and evolved from biblical times to today. Taking its title from the Hebrew and Yiddish blessing to live to a ripe old age--Moses is said to have been 120 years old when he died--the book explores how the Bible's original reticence about an afterlife gave way to views about personal judgment and reward after death, the resurrection of the body, and even reincarnation. It examines Talmudic perspectives on grief, burial, and the afterlife, shows how Jewish approaches to death changed in the Middle Ages with thinkers like Maimonides and in the mystical writings of the Zohar, and delves into such things as the origins of the custom of reciting Kaddish for the deceased and beliefs about encountering the dead in visions and dreams. After One-Hundred-and-Twenty is also Hillel Halkin's eloquent and disarmingly candid reflection on his own mortality, the deaths of those he has known and loved, and the comfort he has and has not derived from Jewish tradition.
In this historical and theological study, John G. Gager undermines the myth of the Apostle Paul's rejection of Judaism, conversion to Christianity, and founding of Christian anti-Judaism. He finds that the rise of Christianity occurred well after Paul's death and attributes the distortion of the Apostle's views to early and later Christians. Though Christian clerical elites ascribed a rejection-replacement theology to Paul's legend, Gager shows that the Apostle was considered a loyal Jew by many of his Jesus-believing contemporaries and that later Jewish and Muslim thinkers held the same view. He holds that one of the earliest misinterpretations of Paul was to name him the founder of Christianity, and in recent times numerous Jewish and Christian readers of Paul have moved beyond this understanding. Gager also finds that Judaism did not fade away after Paul's death but continued to appeal to both Christians and pagans for centuries. Jewish synagogues remained important religious and social institutions throughout the Mediterranean world. Making use of all possible literary and archaeological sources, including Muslim texts, Gager helps recover the long pre-history of a Jewish Paul, obscured by recent, negative portrayals of the Apostle, and recognizes the enduring bond between Jews and Christians that has influenced all aspects of Christianity.
Born in Slutzk, Russia, in 1805, Elijah Zvi Soloveitchik is a largely forgotten member of the prestigious Soloveitchik rabbinic dynasty. Before Hayyim Soloveitchik developed the standard Brisker method of Talmudic study, or Joseph Dov Soloveitchik helped to found American Modern Orthodox Judaism, Elijah Soloveitchik wrote Qol Qore, a rabbinic commentary on the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Qol Qore drew on classic rabbinic literature, and particularly on the works of Moses Maimonides, to argue for the compatibility of Christianity with Judaism. To this day, it remains the only rabbinic work to embrace the compatibility of Orthodox Judaism and the Christian Bible. In The Bible, the Talmud, and the New Testament, Shaul Magid presents the first-ever English translation of Qol Qore. In his contextualizing introduction, Magid explains that Qol Qore offers a window onto the turbulent historical context of nineteenth-century European Jewry. With violent anti-Semitic activity on the rise in Europe, Elijah Soloveitchik was unique in believing that the roots of anti-Semitism were theological, based on a misunderstanding of the New Testament by both Jews and Christians. His hope was that the Qol Qore, written in Hebrew and translated into French, German, and Polish, would reach Jewish and Christian audiences, urging each to consider the validity of the other's religious principles. In an era characterized by fractious debates between Jewish communities, Elijah Soloveitchik represents a voice that called for radical unity amongst Jews and Christians alike.
The recovery of 800 documents in the eleven caves on the northwest shores of the Dead Sea is one of the most sensational archeological discoveries in the Holy Land to date. These three volumes, the very best of critical scholarship, demonstrate in detail how the scrolls have revolutionized our knowledge of the text of the Bible, the character of Second Temple Judaism, and the Jewish beginnings of Christianity.
Throughout the Hebrew Bible, strangers are indispensable to the formation of a collective Israelite identity. Encounters between the Israelites and their neighbors are among the most urgent matters explored in biblical narratives, yet relatively little scholarly attention has been paid to them. This book corrects that imbalance by carrying out close readings of the accounts of Israel's myriad interactions with the surrounding nations. The book follows the people of Israel after they leave Egypt, as they wander in the wilderness, cross over into the land, become a unified people Israel and face explusion from that land. The introduction lays the groundwork for a literary reading. Each chapter that follows highlights a distinct people and the issues that they create. For example, Jethro, father-in-law of Moses and a Midian priest, provides a model of collaboration, while Samson's behavior triggers a cycle of violent retribution. These engaging stories illustrate the perceived dangers of idolatry and military oppression, but also convey lessons in governance, cultural innovation and the building of alliances. This book is vital reading for Biblical scholars and interested readers who want to deepen their understanding of the Israelites' relationship with neighboring peoples. It will also be of keen interest to academics who work in ancient history and culture.
Song of Songs is a wondrous collection of love lyrics nestled in the heart of the Hebrew Bible-songs of passion and praise between a young maiden and her beloved. It is religious lyric par excellence. But what is its true meaning? Is it an expression of human love and passion, pure and simple? A celebration of the covenant between God and Israel? Or something else? The latest volume in the Jewish Publication Society's highly acclaimed Bible Commentary series, Song of Songs provides a line-by-line commentary of the original Hebrew Bible text, complete with vocalization and cantillation marks, alongside the JPS English translation. Unique to this volume are four layers of commentary: the traditional PaRDeS of peshat (literal meaning), derash (midrashic and religious-traditional sense), remez (allegorical level), and sod (mystical and spiritual intimations). Michael Fishbane skillfully draws from them all to reveal the extraordinary range of interpretations and ideas perceived in this beloved biblical book. A comprehensive introduction, extensive endnotes, a full bibliography (traditional and modern), and additional explanatory materials are included to enhance the reader's appreciation of the work. This original, comprehensive commentary on the Song of Songs interprets historical, critical, and traditional sources drawn from the ancient Near East, the entire spectrum of Jewish sources and commentaries, and modern critical studies.
Jewish and Islamic histories have long been interrelated. Both traditions emerged from ancient cultures born in the Middle East and both are rooted in texts and traditions that have often excluded women. At the same time, both groups have recently seen a resurgence in religious orthodoxy among women, as well as growing feminist movements that challenge traditional religious structures. In the United States, Jews and Muslims operate as minority cultures, carving out a place for religious and ethnic distinctiveness. The time is ripe for a volume that explores the relationship between these two religions through the prism of gender. Gender in Judaism and Islam brings together scholars working in the fields of Judaism and Islam to address a diverse range of topics, including gendered readings of texts, legal issues in marriage and divorce, ritual practices, and women's literary expressions and historical experiences, along with feminist influences within the Muslim and Jewish communities and issues affecting Jewish and Muslim women in contemporary society. Carefully crafted, including section introductions by the editors to highlight big picture insights offered by the contributors, the volume focuses attention on the theoretical innovations that gender scholarship has brought to the study of Muslim and Jewish experiences. At a time when Judaism and Islam are often discussed as though they were inherently at odds, this book offers a much-needed reconsideration of the connections and commonalties between these two traditions. It offers new insights into each of these cultures and invites comparative perspectives that deepen our understanding of both Islam and Judaism.
2006 National Jewish Book Award, Modern Jewish Thought
Long the object of curiosity, admiration, and gossip, rabbis' wives have rarely been viewed seriously as American Jewish religious and communal leaders. We know a great deal about the important role played by rabbis in building American Jewish life in this country, but not much about the role that their wives played. The Rabbi's Wife redresses that imbalance by highlighting the unique contributions of "rebbetzins" to the development of American Jewry.
Tracing the careers of "rebbetzins" from the beginning of the twentieth century until the present, Shuly Rubin Schwartz chronicles the evolution of the role from a few individual rabbis' wives who emerged as leaders to a cohort who worked together on behalf of American Judaism. The Rabbi's Wife reveals the ways these women succeeded in both building crucial leadership roles for themselves and becoming an important force in shaping Jewish life in America.
Jews have been a religious and cultural presence in America since the colonial era, and the community of Jews in the United States today -- some six million people -- continues to make a significant contribution to the American religious landscape. Emphasizing developments in American Judaism in the last quarter century among active participants in Jewish worship, this book provides both a look back into the 350-year history of Judaic life and a well-crafted portrait of a multifaceted tradition today. Combining extensive research into synagogue archival records and secondary sources as well as interviews and observations of worship services at more than a hundred Jewish congregations across the country, Raphael's study distinguishes itself as both a history of the Judaic tradition and a witness to the vitality and variety of contemporary American Judaic life. Beginning with a chapter on beliefs, festivals, and life-cycle events, both traditional and non-traditional, and an explanation of the enormous variation in practice, Raphael then explores Jewish history in America, from the arrival of the first Jews to the present, highlighting the emergence and development of the four branches: Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform. After documenting the considerable variety among the branches, the book addresses issues of some controversy, notably spirituality, conversion, homosexuality, Jewish education, synagogue architecture, and the relationship to Israel. Raphael turns next to a discussion of eight American Jews whose thoughts and/or activities made a huge impact on American Judaism. The final chapter focuses on the return to tradition in every branch of Judaism and examines prospects for the future.
Martin Buber presents the essential teachings of Hasidism, the mystical Jewish movement which swept Eastern Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Told through stories of imagination and spirit, together with his own unique insights, Buber offers us a way of understanding ourselves and our place in a spiritual world, and challenges us to recognize our own potential and to reach our true goal.
Stuart Miller examines the hermeneutical challenges posed by the material and literary evidence pertaining to ritual purity practices in Graeco-Roman Palestine and, especially, the Galilee. He contends that "stepped pools", which we now know were in use well beyond the Destruction of the Temple, and, as indicated by the large collection on the western acropolis of Sepphoris and elsewhere, into the Middle and Late Roman/Byzantine eras,must be understood in light of biblical and popular perspectives on ritual purity. The interpretation of the finds is too frequently forced to conform to rabbinic prescriptions, which oftentimes were the result of the sages unique and creative, nominalist approach to ritual purity. Special attention is given to the role ritual purity continued to play in the lives of ordinary Jews despite (or because of) the loss of the Temple. Miller argues against the prevailing tendency to type material finds -- and Jewish society -- according to known groups (pre-70 C.E.: Pharisaic, Sadducaic, Essenic; post 70 C.E.: rabbinic, priestly, etc.). He further counters the perception that ritual purity practices were largely the interest of priests and argues against the recent suggestion that the kohanim resurfaced as an influential group in Late Antiquity. Building upon his earlier work on "sages and commoners," Miller claims that the rabbis emerged out of a context in which a biblically derived "complex common Judaism" thrived. Stepped pools, stone vessels, and other material finds are realia belonging to this "complex common Judaism". A careful reading of the rabbis indicates that they were acutely aware of the extent to which ritual purity rites pertaining to home and family life had "spread," which undoubtedly contributed to their intense interest in regulating them.
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