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Not in Our Store

Bli Neder, I will have my own copy of Malka Puterkovsky’s new book (see here) on halakhah in a few weeks, but in the meantime one chain of Judaica stores associated with the national-religious community in Israel has found a non-creative way of addressing the issues that the book raises, not selling it. The chain of store Divrei Shir is refusing (Hebrew) to sell Puterkovsky’s book. This news item actually began as a post in the important Facebook group Halakhic Feminists and from there it seems to have migrated to an internet news site for the national-religious community.

Every book store can choose which books to sell and which not to sell, and those looking for the book it is apparently available in many of the general bookstores such as Steimatzky and Tzomet Sefarim.

Anyone interested in the book should also read Tomer Persico’s comments (Hebrew) about it.

Rockefeller Museum Collection Online


The Israel Antiquities Authority, as part of its attempt to upload digital images of objects held under its auspices, has began to post digital images of the archaeology collection found at the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum. The collection can be found online here. HT to Dr. Lea Mazor.

The Heart and Soul of Judaism

Anyone interested in Talmud must watch this video of a discussion about the study and love of Talmud with Prof. Christine Hayes and Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer. HT to the Talmud Blog on Twitter.

In her opening remarks Hayes called Talmud the “Heart and Soul of Judaism.”

Is She an Eishet Halakhah

In a few weeks, the small number of halakhic works that have been written by women will be increased by one when a new book on halakhah by Malka Puterkovsky will be published.

Mehalehet bedarka

During the past few weeks an interesting discussion has been going on about what title should be used for Puterkovsky. Is she a rabbanit? An eishet halakhah? The discussion surrounding how she should be described on her Wikipedia page has left the confines of Wikipedia. There has been discussion on social networks, an article (Hebrew) on a popular Israeli Internet site for the religious public, and now there has been a discussion about it on Israel Radio. The radio spot can be listened to below: (Hebrew)

In addition, last year Puterkovsky was interviewed on a popular Israeli radio program and that interesting interview (Hebrew) can be found below:

I have addressed the issue of titles used for women in the Israeli Orthodox community here, and it will be interesting to see how this discussion continues.

Update: Here is a picture from the book launch via Facebook.


Reconstructing the Talmud Available for Purchase

The new book Reconstructing the Talmud is now available for order from Mechon Hadar. Below is the table of contents.


Responsa Radio from Mechon Hadar

From Mechon Hadar:

Responsa Radio Episode 1

Night Owls, De Tocqueville, Dishes from Sears, and Theater!
Mechon Hadar is happy to introduce this new joint project with Open Quorum and the Center for Jewish Law and Values: Responsa Radio.

Ever wanted to know the answer to some deep and challenging questions in halakhah (Jewish law)? Join R. Avi Killip interviewing R. Ethan Tucker with questions sent in by Yeshivat Hadar alumni on all sorts of details of Jewish law. In this episode:

1. For someone who works night-shifts, how should they go about doing the morning prayers? Should they aim to get up in the middle of their sleep even if it is unhealthy? Or is there flexibility in doing the morning prayer at another time, or somehow catching up on what was missed?

2. There is a halakhic concept known as karov l’malkhut, giving dispensation for some Jews to avoid some of the classic restrictions of making Jews distinct from non-Jews. How does this still apply in the modern day? Does this concept even apply in democratic and multi-cultural America?

3. There is a mitzvah of tevilat keilim (the immersing of utensils in the mikveh / ritual bath) for bowls and such bought from non-Jews. But now, when most if not all of our utensils are mass-produced and bought from corporations, does this miztvah even apply?

4. Is it permissable to perform a show on shabbat assuming that there are no direct violations of shabbat for that person? How do factors such as who is coming?, are the audience paying?, are the actors being paid? fit into thinking about this question? Does it matter which profession is being pursued?

The first podcast can be listened to here.

Two Interviews with Hamas Expert Shlomi Eldar

This summer I am in Israel, so the current situation is occupying me quite a lot recently. If you are interested in reading more politically oriented commentary of mine, you can follow me on Twitter. That being said, I decided that politics had to make an appearance on this blog at the present time.

There are few people in the world who have devoted so much time to researching and getting to know Hamas than the Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar. He has probably spent more time with Hamas leaders than any other journalist and has authored one of the most important books on the history and politics of Hamas, להכיר את חמאס. The book is available for purchase in America here and in Israel here. Since last summer Eldar has been a visiting scholar at the Wilson Center, so you may be able to see him being interviewed on American TV. He is also a columnist at Al-Monitor, and you can find his recent columns here.

I highly recommend Eldar’s analysis for two reasons: 1. Very few people know as much about Hamas as he does; 2. He has been critical of Israel in the past and has written about mistakes that he thinks Israel has made; 3. Anyone familiar with his work would have difficulty saying that he does not care about the Palestinians living in Gaza.

That being said, below are two interviews that he recently gave to the Israeli radio station Galei Tzahal. In both of them Eldar claims that while different options may have been available in the past, at present, the best course of action for Israel is to hit Hamas hard enough militarily that it will be unable to continue to rule in Gaza. He is aware of all of the counter arguments and the tragic human cost of the continued fighting, but he feels that given the current reality on the ground, this is Israel’s best option. The interviews are in Hebrew, but his ideas can be found in English in these columns.

If you are having trouble with the embedded audio, they can be listened to here and here.

Update: Here is another interview with Eldar from Israel Radio-Reshet Bet.

Exhibition of Rare Hebrew MSS and Books at Chabad Library

Visit Jewish.TV for more Jewish videos.

The Chabad-Lubavitch Library in Brooklyn has opened an exhibition of rare Hebrew manuscripts and books, Ginzei Seforim. Among the gems that are on display are the following pages from Rashi on the Torah and an edition of the Talmud that were printed in Spain before the expulsion.



Information about the exhibition and visiting hours can be found here. This exhibition has some very rare items that should not be missed.

Book Launch: Reconstructing the Talmud

The book Reconstructing the Talmud is a wonderful introduction to the modern study of Talmud. It includes analyses of Talmudic sugyot, showing how the use of modern critical tools helps us to better understand the Talmudic text. It will be available on Amazon very soon.


Review: Steinsaltz Reference Guide to the Talmud Revised Edition


Koren Publishers was kind enough to send me a review copy of the revised edition of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s Reference Guide to the Talmud. Below are my impressions of this important book.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s Reference Guide to the Talmud is based upon his Hebrew volume מדריך לתלמוד that was first published in 1984, and was later published in an English edition in 1989 by Random House. The preface to this revised edition summarizes the differences between this edition and the earlier one.

There are several innovations in this revised edition designed to render the Reference Guide more accessible to those not conversant in Hebrew or Aramaic. The sections Mishnaic Methodology, Principles of Talmudic Hermeneutics, and Halakhic Concepts and Terms, which appeared in the previous edition in Hebrew alphabetical order, appear in this volume in topical order. An index of Hebrew terms appears at the end of this volume to enable one seeking a Hebrew term to locate the relevant entry.

I think that this difference is best illustrated by looking at the chapter Halakhic Concepts and Terms. While in the previous edition the terms are listed according to their Hebrew entry, in this edition the terms are first divided by seder (order) of the Mishnah, then divided further by topic, and after that they are listed by their English translation.

For example, the first topic of concepts and terms listed in Seder Zeraim is “Prayer.” Under this category, are listed: Prayer (תפילה), Ritual washing of the hands (נטילת ידים), the Amidah prayer (שמונה עשרה), Patriarchs (אבות), etc. The next category is “Prayer-Related Matters,” containing terms such as Intent (כוונה) and Diversion of attention (היסח הדעת). The Hebrew is included after the appropriate English translation. As was stated in the preface, if know the Hebrew term you can look in a general index and then find out on which page it is listed. This newer way of listing the terms emphasizes the relationship between different terms that are associated with the same or similar topics.

This topical division is also used in the chapter “Principles of Talmudic Hermeneutics.” Instead of presenting all of the terms in alphabetical order according to the Hebrew of Aramaic, the terms are divided into the following categories: Rabbi Yishmael’s Thirteen Hermeneutical Princples, Rabbi Akiva’s Hermeneutical Principles, Other Hermeneutical Principles. In my opinion this division give the reader a truer perspective of the different origins of these principles.

The chapter on Talmudic Terminology keeps the alphabetical listing according to the Hebrew or Aramaic that was found in the first edition.

This revised edition also contains numerous changes in the English text itself. Below is one example.

First edition: ולא?-And is it not so? Sometimes, when the Gemara reaches a negative answer to a question or problem raised, it refers, as it were in astonishment, to the answer just given and asks: ולא?-“Is this really not so?”-It then continues by attacking the negative answer. (See Bava Metzia 114a.)
See also סלקא דעתך; (ו)תסברא; האי מאי, איני [In the original edition these words are actually in the opposite order but I was unable to format the Hebrew in such a manner.-MM]

Revised edition: ולא-And is it not so? Sometimes, after the Gemara offers a negative answer to a question or problem that was raised, it reacts with astonishment to the answer just given and asks: And is it not so? The Gemara then proceeds to reject the negative response (see Bava Metzia 114b).
See also סלקא דעתך; (ו)תסברא; האי מאי, איני [In the original edition these words are actually in the opposite order but I was unable to format the Hebrew in such a manner.-MM]

Note the changes to the English, but also the absence of “ולא” in the middle of the definition in the revised edition.

The absence of Hebrew/Aramaic from the body of definitions or explanations is probably my only complaint with the revised edition. For example, in the chapter on “Mishnaic Methodology,” for the definition of “Incident-מעשה,” in the first edition the following was written:

…The significance of such incidents is very great, bearing in mind the general principle מעשה רב-“A practical incident teaches us a precedent.”

In the revised edition:

…The significance of these incidents is great, bearing in mind the general principle: Great is the proof cited from an incident.

Lastly, while contained the same amount of material, the revised edition has a smaller footprint, although more pages. The first edition was 9 1/4″ x 11 1/2″ (323 pages), while the revised edition is 6 1/2″ x 9 1/4″ (549 pages).

Despite my one criticism, the revised edition of the Reference Guide to the Talmud is a very important work which should be in the library of most people who study or have an interest in Rabbinic or Halakhic literature. I am glad that the time was taken to revise and reprint this very important work.




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