All the books reviewed in this supplement can serve as great gifts; the books reviewed briefly below do as well.
Rabbinical Authority: The Vision and the Reality (by Rabbi Dr. A. Yehuda Warburg; Urim Publications; 341 pages; $28.95) is a smart addition to the literature on beit din – how they operate in theory and in practice.
In this work, Rabbi Warburg, a veteran dayan, presents ten rulings in cases of Jewish family law and civil law which he handed down as a member of a beit din panel. In each decision, the author offers a rendition of the facts of the case, followed by claims of the toveah (plaintiff), the reply of the nitvah (defendant) and any counterclaims. Subsequently, there is a discussion of the halachic issues emerging from the parties’ respective claims and counterclaims, followed by a decision rendered by the beit din panel.
As Rabbi Chaim Jachter puts it, “The publication of ten of Rav Warburg’s decisions is a major step in the direction of realizing the vision articulated by Rav Uzziel of the enhancement of the prestige of Torah litigation.”
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For more than five years, the saga of Gilad Shalit’s captivity captured international headlines and the hearts of every Jewish household around the globe. Now Gershon Baskin, who served as the unofficial secret back channel between Hamas and the Israeli government, has revealed the untold details of the negotiations that led to Shalit’s release. With photos, timeline of events, never-before-seen correspondence, The Negotiator (Toby Press; 305 pages; $24.95) sheds light on the circumstances and factors behind the tenacious negotiations, and reveals who stood in their way. A must-read for anyone interested in diplomacy, international relations, hostage crises and conflict resolution.
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In Her Voice: Illuminated Book of Prayers for Jewish Women (Koren; 76 pages; $39.95) is a beautiful keepsake featuring 28 ornamented prayers recited by women throughout history. In addition to the blessings of the three mitzvot specifically for women, Israeli artist Enya Tamar Keshet features prayers in Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino, and their English translations. Together, these prayers relate to the entire life cycle, including the birth of a daughter, becoming a bat mitzvah, the day of her wedding, pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, parenting, and more.
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Addressing everything the new oleh ever wanted to know about finances in Israel but could not find an English-speaking CPA to ask, A Financial Guide to Aliyah and Life in Israel (by Baruch Labinsky; Mosaica Press; $19.99; 201 pages) is remarkably complete.
A sample of some chapter headings should give you an idea: “Should you sell your home?” “Updating insurance policies” “Asset management in Israel” “Retirement and estate planning in Israel” “Understanding the Israeli banking system” There’s even a chapter that helps the reader navigate living on an Israeli salary.
If you plan to make aliyah soon or have recently made aliyah or know someone who has, pick up this very handy guide.
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The Tefillah Revolution (by Chaya Sara Lefkowitz; Menucha Publishers; 184 pages; $17.99) contains handy inspiration to help focus and improve your prayers. Lefkowitz’s goal is that the reader should learn to appreciate his davening, so it becomes a valuable opportunity to beseech and connect to Hashem, instead of a force of habit.
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The title A Minute Vort, 2 (by Rabbi Eli Scheller; Menucha Publishers; 104 pages; $9.99) speaks for itself. The vorteluch are indeed short and frequently sweet – with some knowing cheesiness.
In fact, I picked up a gem, after flipping to the vort on Parshat Masei, that answers this question: After someone kills unintentionally, he may run to an ir miklat (city of refuge) to avoid being killed by an avenging relative of the dead. He must stay there until the kohen gadol dies. Some people confined to the ir miklat would pray for his death to hasten their own freedom. So the custom developed that the mothers of the kohanim gedolim would give these accidental murderers food to make them happy with their lot.
The question Rabbi Scheller asks is, Why should the mothers care about the prayers of these individuals? They’re murderers (albeit unintentionally)! The answer he gives is concise, logical and original – with a lesson for us non-killing Jews.
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What’s in a name? It’s an age-old question, we know. And we know that the midrashim pay special attention to the names found in the Torah. Using many sayings of Chazal, Chaim Stepelman, in his new book Blueprint of Breishis (Mosaica Press; 222 pages; 24.99) weaves intriguing thoughts about the people – both significant and unremarkable – occupying the pasukim of first book of the Chumash.
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The Easy-Shmeezy Guide to Yiddish (by Moshe Sherizen; Menucha Publishers; 174 pages; $9.99) is cute and fun. Does it work? I’d say it would be hard for me to gauge. I would love to learn Yiddish, but I’d also love to write more, listen to more classical music, attend more shiurim, read more fiction – oh and spend more time with my wife and children and finish Shas. I’ve spent some time with the Easy-Shmeezy Guide but not enough to judge. I will say that Sherizen has certainly created a very enjoyable book, and if learning is enhanced by enjoying, this small, easy-shmeezy-on-eyes primer is sure to become a practical hit.
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The Koren Talmud Bavli (Koren; various prices and page lengths) offers an eye-opening experience for all those who wish to encounter Talmud study. The color photos, illustrations, maps, and supplementary notes by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz provide a treasure chest of information that makes the sugyot in Shas come alive. The ninth volume, Tractate Yoma is now available.
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The Prime Ministers (The Toby Press; 715 pages; $29.95) packs a wallop – an enthralling political memoir by Ambassador Yehuda Avner who served as advisor and English speechwriter to Israeli Prime Ministers Rabin, Begin, Meir and Eshkol. This best seller weaves a rich tapestry of history and personal memoir from the founding of the Jewish state until the present-day. A National Jewish Book Award finalist, The Prime Ministers was recently released as a documentary shown in theaters across the United States.
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When the international community formally acknowledged the rights of the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland after the First World War, it was implicitly understood that this connection emanated from nearly 3,000 years of Jewish law and tradition. Rabbi Cardozo, in For the Love of Israel and the Jewish People (Urim Publications; 327 pages: $26.95), eloquently reminds his readers of that very fundamental truth in a period when many in the world have unfortunately forgotten it
-Dore Gold, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the UN
A fascinating journey into previously unexplored terrain, Chana Weisberg’s beautifully written book, Expecting Miracles: Finding Meaning and Spirituality in Pregnancy Through Judaism (Urim Publications; 352 pages; $27.95), explores the little known world of Orthodox Jewish women in various stages of pregnancy: their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their beliefs as they integrate the marvels, the mysteries, the magic, and ultimately, the miracle of childbirth and mothering. This is an important, erudite and valuable contribution, and offers fresh insights and intimate glimpses into the psychological and spiritual world of the Orthodox woman, a world where religion, above all, predominates.
-Yitta Halberstam, best-selling author of Small MiraclesShlomo Greenwald
About the Author: Shlomo Greenwald is associate editor of The Jewish Press.
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