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Koren Publications has sent me a new book of theirs, Norman Lamm's Derashot Ledorot - A Commentary for the Ages on Genesis. I enjoyed it very much.

This book is a collection of divrei Torah (sermons) that Rabbi Lamm gave in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s when he was a pulpit rabbi. (For those who don't know the name, Rabbi Lamm is now the chancellor of Yeshiva University.) There are three sermons on each of the weekly parshiyot.

These sermons are very much a product of their time. The Jewish experience in mid-20th-centruy America was one full of tensions. There was the pull of assimilation; there was the struggle among the Conservative, Reform, and Orthodox communities to define what American Judaism would look like. There was the fight for civil rights in the South. You cannot read these without being strongly reminded of the upheaval the world was undergoing during those decade.

At the same time, these sermons are timeless. Rabbi Lamm writes well and powerfully. His topics are not fleeting; the details of the issues he grapples with may have changed, but fundamental human needs and Judaism's perspective on them haven't.

To his credit, the editor of this volume, Stuart Halpern, has not tried to modernize the sermons in any way. Rabbi Lamm's voice comes through, authentic and unfiltered. I am looking forward to the remaining volumes in the series.
rhu: (torah)
As I had hoped, here's a followup on my earlier review of the Koren/Steinsaltz Talmud Bavli now that I've been learning from it for a few weeks.

Cut for length )
rhu: (torah)
As I had hoped, here's a followup on my earlier review of the Koren/Steinsaltz Talmud Bavli now that I've been learning from it for a few weeks.

Cut for length )
rhu: (torah)
As we approach the beginning of the thirteenth cycle of the Daf Yomi, the "page-a-day" study program that covers the entire Babylonian Talmud in seven-and-a-half years, a bunch of new resources are becoming available. A few months ago, I breathlessly praised Koren Publications' new translation of Rabbi Steinsaltz's explication of the Talmud.

Today, I have the pleasure to review "Relics for the Present: Contemporary Reflections on the Talmud" by Rabbi Levi Cooper, which is published by Koren's Maggid imprint in conjunction with the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. (Obligatory disclaimer: Koren sent me a review copy of this book.)

Cut for length )
rhu: (torah)
As we approach the beginning of the thirteenth cycle of the Daf Yomi, the "page-a-day" study program that covers the entire Babylonian Talmud in seven-and-a-half years, a bunch of new resources are becoming available. A few months ago, I breathlessly praised Koren Publications' new translation of Rabbi Steinsaltz's explication of the Talmud.

Today, I have the pleasure to review "Relics for the Present: Contemporary Reflections on the Talmud" by Rabbi Levi Cooper, which is published by Koren's Maggid imprint in conjunction with the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. (Obligatory disclaimer: Koren sent me a review copy of this book.)

Cut for length )
rhu: (Default)
H and I went to see The Pirates of Penzance last night. This is a one-weekend limited-run at the ART's Club Oberon in Harvard Square; the production is by a Chicago group called The Hypocrites. We had a blast, and highly recommend it, although only if you already know Pirates.

Lengthy review behind cut )

This never quite slid into parody, although it was firmly in the camp camp. I laughed very hard, and was thoroughly entertained. I don't know if tickets are still available for the rest of this run, but if you get a chance to see this, and if you're already a G and S fan, I recommend it.
rhu: (Default)
H and I went to see The Pirates of Penzance last night. This is a one-weekend limited-run at the ART's Club Oberon in Harvard Square; the production is by a Chicago group called The Hypocrites. We had a blast, and highly recommend it, although only if you already know Pirates.

Lengthy review behind cut )

This never quite slid into parody, although it was firmly in the camp camp. I laughed very hard, and was thoroughly entertained. I don't know if tickets are still available for the rest of this run, but if you get a chance to see this, and if you're already a G and S fan, I recommend it.
rhu: (xword)
My friend Eric Berlin's third YA novel in his series "The Puzzling World of Winston Breen," The Puzzler's Mansion, came out last week. As with the other books in the series, Eric has written a YA mystery whose plot revolves around Winston having to solve puzzles, with additional incidental puzzles dropped in for those who like that sort of thing.

The story was enjoyable, the writing crisp. And Winston is growing up; it's great to see that the Winston of this book has matured compared to when we first met him. He's still friends with Mal and Jake, but their friendship is evolving as well. This not only keeps the narrative fresh, but it help to make Winston believable as a human being.

The context this time is that Winston has been invited to a weekend of puzzle-solving, but someone starts stealing the prizes. It reminded me in a few spots of Dorothy Sayers's Peter Wimsey short story, "The Necklace of Pearls" (which is a good thing). More than that I won't say here.

The first couple of chapters felt a little slow, but once the main event got underway, the pages flew by, and I was sad to reach the end. The puzzles were fun, as one expects from Eric (not just in his books, but in the NYTimes and for the National Puzzlers' League conventions); as in the previous books, though, if solving puzzles isn't your thing, you can just read the book and let Winston solve them for you.

Congratulations to Eric on another fine story. As I said at the top of this review, Eric is a friend of mine, but even if he weren't, I'd highly recommend this book for anyone who is or ever has been a young adult.
rhu: (xword)
My friend Eric Berlin's third YA novel in his series "The Puzzling World of Winston Breen," The Puzzler's Mansion, came out last week. As with the other books in the series, Eric has written a YA mystery whose plot revolves around Winston having to solve puzzles, with additional incidental puzzles dropped in for those who like that sort of thing.

The story was enjoyable, the writing crisp. And Winston is growing up; it's great to see that the Winston of this book has matured compared to when we first met him. He's still friends with Mal and Jake, but their friendship is evolving as well. This not only keeps the narrative fresh, but it help to make Winston believable as a human being.

The context this time is that Winston has been invited to a weekend of puzzle-solving, but someone starts stealing the prizes. It reminded me in a few spots of Dorothy Sayers's Peter Wimsey short story, "The Necklace of Pearls" (which is a good thing). More than that I won't say here.

The first couple of chapters felt a little slow, but once the main event got underway, the pages flew by, and I was sad to reach the end. The puzzles were fun, as one expects from Eric (not just in his books, but in the NYTimes and for the National Puzzlers' League conventions); as in the previous books, though, if solving puzzles isn't your thing, you can just read the book and let Winston solve them for you.

Congratulations to Eric on another fine story. As I said at the top of this review, Eric is a friend of mine, but even if he weren't, I'd highly recommend this book for anyone who is or ever has been a young adult.
rhu: (Default)
We're catching up on the current Doctor Who season, and last night we watched The Girl Who Waited. I have two issues, behind the cut because they involve spoilers!

The cut )
rhu: (Default)
We're catching up on the current Doctor Who season, and last night we watched The Girl Who Waited. I have two issues, behind the cut because they involve spoilers!

The cut )
rhu: (Default)
"Doc" by Mary Doria Russell is a fictionalized account of the time spent by Doc Holliday in Dodge City, where he first met and befriended Wyatt Earp. I found this book deeply disappointing.

Long review behind the cut. )

Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reader copy provided gratis by Random House through LibraryThing's "Early Reviewers" program.
rhu: (Default)
"Doc" by Mary Doria Russell is a fictionalized account of the time spent by Doc Holliday in Dodge City, where he first met and befriended Wyatt Earp. I found this book deeply disappointing.

Long review behind the cut. )

Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reader copy provided gratis by Random House through LibraryThing's "Early Reviewers" program.
rhu: (torah)
I got my hands on a copy of the new Maxwell House Haggdah. I am very impressed. While it evokes the "classic", they've fixed lots of things that were problematic with the old one.

First and most importantly, the translation is no longer in that stilted English meant to evoke the King James bible. God is now "You" instead of "Thou", "God" (on second reference) instead of "He", and "Monarch" instead of "King" of the Universe. (We still have "The Eternal", though, which I like.) I will admit to missing "viz." as the translation of "v'eilu heim," but then I fell in love with the word videlicit at my aunt and uncle's seder table.

The layout is also vastly improved. I like their font choices (especially the comma in the Hebrew), and the instructions are nice and clear. While they've changed the layout so that the Hebrew and English each get a full page, the use of color is similar enough to the old ones that it still feels connected.

I'm not the target audience for this Haggadah. I collect haggadot, and at our seder no two people use the same one. (That makes for an exciting exchange of ideas.) The target audience for the Maxwell House haggadah has always been the Jew who wants to have a seder but doesn't have the desire to invest the time and money in an extensive collection of commentary-laden books. And unfortunately, the "classic" MH Haggadah couldn't help but be a turn-off. It was everything that a fossilized artifact of a dying religion ought to be -- sexist, hard to read, incomprehensible, but impressive-sounding.

The new MH haggadah, on the other hand, is warm, inviting, and easy to understand (because they translated it well, not because they simplified it or left stuff out). If your family still uses the Maxwell House Haggadah, I urge you to buy some coffee and get your free copies of this year's revised edition. You will find new beauty and meaning in our people's most ancient ritual. (And even though I don't usually drink Maxwell House coffee, I intend to buy some for this year's Pesach as a gesture of gratitude and support for their contribution to our culture.)
rhu: (torah)
I got my hands on a copy of the new Maxwell House Haggdah. I am very impressed. While it evokes the "classic", they've fixed lots of things that were problematic with the old one.

First and most importantly, the translation is no longer in that stilted English meant to evoke the King James bible. God is now "You" instead of "Thou", "God" (on second reference) instead of "He", and "Monarch" instead of "King" of the Universe. (We still have "The Eternal", though, which I like.) I will admit to missing "viz." as the translation of "v'eilu heim," but then I fell in love with the word videlicit at my aunt and uncle's seder table.

The layout is also vastly improved. I like their font choices (especially the comma in the Hebrew), and the instructions are nice and clear. While they've changed the layout so that the Hebrew and English each get a full page, the use of color is similar enough to the old ones that it still feels connected.

I'm not the target audience for this Haggadah. I collect haggadot, and at our seder no two people use the same one. (That makes for an exciting exchange of ideas.) The target audience for the Maxwell House haggadah has always been the Jew who wants to have a seder but doesn't have the desire to invest the time and money in an extensive collection of commentary-laden books. And unfortunately, the "classic" MH Haggadah couldn't help but be a turn-off. It was everything that a fossilized artifact of a dying religion ought to be -- sexist, hard to read, incomprehensible, but impressive-sounding.

The new MH haggadah, on the other hand, is warm, inviting, and easy to understand (because they translated it well, not because they simplified it or left stuff out). If your family still uses the Maxwell House Haggadah, I urge you to buy some coffee and get your free copies of this year's revised edition. You will find new beauty and meaning in our people's most ancient ritual. (And even though I don't usually drink Maxwell House coffee, I intend to buy some for this year's Pesach as a gesture of gratitude and support for their contribution to our culture.)
rhu: (Default)
Thanks to jadelennox's recommendation, I took "Hush" out of the library and read it this past week.

"Hush" is a fictionalized narrative based on the horrific reality of child rape among Chassidim, and the cultural insistence that "such things don't happen here" and the ostracization of those who break the black-hat line of silence. Those who read the Failed Messiah blog will be sadly aware that such things happen. So for the author to write such a book, even under a pseudonym, is itself an amazing act of courage.

Cut for length )

This is a must-read for many of the people who follow my blog. It is a powerful picture of certain segments of Chassidus and their worldview (completely aside from the subject of abuse). It is a damning indictment of the silence that has enabled rapists and abusers to get away with it. And it is a well-written book. (Obviously, given the subject matter, this may be "triggery" for some readers; I'm not qualified to provide any additional guidance on that point.)
rhu: (Default)
Thanks to jadelennox's recommendation, I took "Hush" out of the library and read it this past week.

"Hush" is a fictionalized narrative based on the horrific reality of child rape among Chassidim, and the cultural insistence that "such things don't happen here" and the ostracization of those who break the black-hat line of silence. Those who read the Failed Messiah blog will be sadly aware that such things happen. So for the author to write such a book, even under a pseudonym, is itself an amazing act of courage.

Cut for length )

This is a must-read for many of the people who follow my blog. It is a powerful picture of certain segments of Chassidus and their worldview (completely aside from the subject of abuse). It is a damning indictment of the silence that has enabled rapists and abusers to get away with it. And it is a well-written book. (Obviously, given the subject matter, this may be "triggery" for some readers; I'm not qualified to provide any additional guidance on that point.)
rhu: (Default)
Library Thing sent me a copy of Leon Fleisher's new memoir, "My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music" (Doubleday, 2010) as part of their Early Reviewers program. Herewith, my review. Cut for length )

This is a fine book with many things to recommend it. If you're looking for Fleisher's life story, this is probably as good as any place to start. If you're looking for Fleisher's musicianship, you will be well rewarded for the time you spend with this book.

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Andrew M. Greene

January 2013

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