Books Received XXXIII

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I don’t always have the chance to review each book, so I’ll list the books that I receive. Some of them will be quoted or reviewed in future posts. Here are the books I’ve received recently:

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student has served two terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. If you read Avraham’s Journey, which was published by MeOtzar HaRav and R D Holzer’s book, you will see how these two books compliment each other and provide a great insight into RYBS’s views on Parshanut and the critical role of Sefer Breishis in the forging of the Bris Avos.

  2. The book about the Rav and Bereishis has a powerful footnote on page 173-175 which basically accuses the Journal “Tradition” of publishing heretical views about the Chumash.
    (Strongly reminiscent of my blog but he should have used much more direct sources like the Moreh Book III chapter 50.)

    He claims R’ Herschel Schachter approved of this footnote.
    I would like to hear further comment about it.

  3. Huh?

  4. lawrence ka[plan

    Rabbi Holzer’s rather crude accusations of heresy are based on a gross misunderstanding of the views expressed by the Rav in a personal interview with him. rabbi Schachter must share equal responsibility for this misunderstnding. I will elaborate later.

  5. Could someone please tell us what this footnote says so we can all participate in this discussion.

  6. Larry Kaplan-Why is assuming that Moshe is a true Navi and his Torah ( or as the popular Nigun-Moshe Emes vToraso Emes) is true a “crude accusation of heresy” and a “gross misunderstanding”, especially when in Abraham’s Journey, at Page 17, RYBS stated that “when we study the Bible. We must be concerned about two things.We must understand the semantics of the word, and we must understand the spiritual message of the Bible.” Perhaps, as R G Rothstein pointed out recently in a different context, too many people who may be Orthodox in practice simply deny the existence of God, the concept of Nevuah , Torah SheBaal Peh, any form of Hashgacha Pratis and the Yetzias Mitzrayim and view Moshe Emes UToraso Emes in the same vein. How such individuals can recite brachos and tefilos which refer to the above Yesodei HaDaas with any conviction has always struck me as bizarre,and warranting an explanation as to their intellectual honesty. The assumption that R Holzer and RHS “must share equal responsibililty” is correct if one assumes that many within the MO world simply lack clarity on these issues.

    RYBS pointedly rejects Biblical criticism and criticizes it because “it completely misses the spiritual message” and because it does not “understand that the Bible is not a book of stories but a book of a great spiritual message and way of life-a new code.” RYBS added that “[w]herever they see contradictions, I see harmony. And wherever they see conflict between two views , I see uniformity.”

    See also RYBS’s letter dated 8.11.53 in Community, Covenant and Committment at Pages 110-111 ( edited by R N Helfgott,2005), where RYBS pointedly rejects participation by the RCA in the JPS translation of the Bible because the same was either a “translation in full accord with, or at least influenced by, higher Biblical criticism, and I cannot see how we, representatives of Torah she-be-al peh, can lend our name to such an undertaking” . RYBS stated that he was “not ready to swallow the ideas of the modern expert and scholar on our Tanach” , and that the RCA should not participate in such a venture without the power to “veto anything wwhich it would consider contrary to our tradition”, which RYBS viewed as an arrangent that it was “highly improbable” that the JPS would agree to in any event.

    R D Holzer’s transcript of a conversation with RYBS underscores all of the above and clearly posits that what is clearly one of the Ikarei Daas that we must believe that :
    1)the entire Torah as we have it today was written by Moshe Rabbeinu,
    2) the discussions and events described in the Torah are true and accurate,
    3) only when Chazal or the Rishonim explain that a certain event is to be understood in a non-literal sense are we allowed to understand it in that way,
    4) even if a Rishon appears to imply that an event in the Torah did not actually occur, one should still give the benefit of the doubt and assume that it did occur, unless a Rishon explicitly states that the event did not occur.

    Thus, when Rambam’s views on such events as Sarah preparing loaves, Avraham Avinu roasting the meat and Sarah denying that she laughed, occured, even according to the Rambam, as understood by RYBS, but on a different level of reality.

    Please explain why the references in the footnotes to Perush HaMishnayos Sanhedrin 10:1 and Hilcos AZ 2:3 have no bearing on the discussion. WADR, why is comparing Parshas Noach to the Gilgamesh Epic as stated in the excerpt from the article in Tradition not violative of the above cited views of the Rambam?

  7. lawrence ka[plan

    Steve: Give me a chance. But, in brief, Rabbi Holzer grossly misunderstands the Rav on the three malachim. Re the aritcle on Noah, see Guide 1:26 on Dibrah Torah: “the Torah speaks according to the imginnation of the multitude.”

    Joseph: I hope to write a brief essay about it.

  8. Dr. Kaplan: It’s odd because R. Holzer’s preface to that chapter does not follow at all from what the Rav said. I assumed that he was simply asserting it as a halakhic fact and not deriving it from the Rav’s words.

  9. lawrence ka[plan

    Gil: To the ocntrary, RDH seeks to enlist the Rav’s support for his positon based on a gross misunderstanding on his part of a view of the Rav expressed in an interview between the Rav and RDH. The Rav in that interview defended the view of the RMBM that the entire story of the malakhim visiting Abraham took place in a mareh nevuah, i.e., its reality was spiritual, NOT physical. RDH misunderstood the Rav to mean that it took place in physical reality, but Abraham, unlike Sarah, understood its higher significance. This was the basis for his enlisting the Rav to attack Dr. Wolowelsky.

    It is insulting to the Rav to assume he would say such nonsense. Since Rabbi Schachter gave his haskamah to this section he must bear equal resposibilty for this (to be sure inadvertant) gross misreprresentation of the Rav’s view.

  10. Let’s not be hasty and assume that R. Hershel Schachter approved this passage. I’ll ask him next time I see him. It could have been a misunderstanding.

  11. Please explain why the references in the footnotes to Perush HaMishnayos Sanhedrin 10:1 and Hilcos AZ 2:3 have no bearing on the discussion. WADR, why is comparing Parshas Noach to the Gilgamesh Epic as stated in the excerpt from the article in Tradition not violative of the above cited views of the Rambam?

    The 8th ikkar of Pirush Hamishnayos is not violated if you kvetch that an oral version of the Epic was already in circulation before the Torah, and that Moshe was given this re-action myth to the Epic Myth straight by Hashem at Sinai.

    The problem of Toras Moshe containing myths as a re-action to contemporaneous myths is still deeply problematic, and the Rambam in Moreh III chap. 50 deals with that.

  12. Larry Kaplan-thanks for your heads up. Aside from the MN’s view on the flood, I look forward to your addressing the specific issues that I raised in my post of last night.

  13. Lawrence Kaplan

    Don’t worry, Steve. I will.

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