Kosher Bookworm

Books for your summer reading pleasure


With the month of June now upon us, it is time to present my choices of high quality books for your summer reading pleasure.

First on my list is a revised edition of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s “The Lonely Man of Faith” by Rabbi Reuven Ziegler. In a previous essay on this precious work, Rabbi Dr. Israel Drazin notes the following:

“The book is not an easy essay to read. Rabbi Soloveitchik refers often to ideas presented by others without stating what they said. He writes in long sentences with thoughts within thoughts. Yet, this is a classic that people refer to frequently. Thus, despite these difficulties, and even if readers disagree with the Rav about the importance of faith, or how he defines it, it is well worth one’s time to read this book. The basic idea about the uniqueness of people who go beyond the thinking of the general population and the tensions they feel is correct.”

Rabbi Ziegler concludes:

“Thus, in applying Rabbi Soloveitchik’s thought, one must reassess which side of the dialectic he posits requires strengthening today. It may turn out that it is the same element Rabbi Soloveitchik felt the need to highlight in his time and place, or it may turn out that it is the opposing element; in either case, the dialectical whole, and the value system it expresses, retains its cogency and significance.”

Rabbi Ziegler provides the reader with a valuable reading guide to assist in following two outlines of this work, one that briefly traces its overall structure and the other that details the content of each chapter.

A related new work, also recommended, is “Scholarly Man of Faith,” edited by Rabbi Ephraim Kanarfogel, editor-in-chief of the international journal, Jewish History, and Rabbi Dov Schwartz, editor of Da’at, a leading journal of Jewish thought.

This volume addresses a series of fascinating yet until now less-explored teachings of the Rav. And them are the Rav’s take on major personalities in the Tanach, in light of his views on emotion, intellect and the interrelationship of these facets in the Rav’s teachings.

Among those whose essays are featured are Rabbi Dr. David Shatz, editor of the MeOtzar HaRav series and the Torah u-Maddah Journal; Rabbi Shalom Carmy, editor of Tradition magazine of the RCA; and Dr. Shira Weiss, author of the recently published, “Ethical Ambiguity in the Hebrew Bible.

And last but not least for this week’s listing is “Jewish Law As Rebellion: A Plea For Religious Authenticity and Halachic Courage,” by Rabbi Dr. Nathan lopes Cardozo, founder and dean of the David Cardoza Academy in Jerusalem and author of the weekly column, “Thoughts to Ponder.”

In his review of Rabbi Cardozo’s work Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes: “Agree or disagree, you will find yourself thinking hard and deep about the current state of Jewish law and life, and that makes it a well worth reading — a new chapter in one of the great Jewish traditions: dignity and dissent.”

To this observation I say, I agree. Go and enjoy the challenge.