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.