Monday, April 28, 2014
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
In Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914? David Frumkin attempts to answer who started World War One.
He comes to a novel conclusion. Austria-Hungary started the war, but they did not mean to start the war that the German Empire had in mind. Germany wanted to start a world war because of it perceived that it was losing an arms race against Russia, and, to a lesser extent, France.
Friday, April 18, 2014
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Monday, April 14, 2014
The Garden of Paradox: The Essential Non Dual Kabbalah, does just what sets out to do.
Rabbi DovBer lays out a program of non-dual mystical Judaism, easy to understand and concise.
It is easy to understand, but not easy to conceptualize! One of the primary paradoxes of the Kabbalah, and mystical non-duality in general, is that if everything is One, if all things are connected into some greater whole, why do we seemingly perceive a world of vast diversity and even strife?
And to further compound the problem, the Kabbalah’s primary epistemology, the sefirot, are ten 'divisions' of the entity we call God, or HaShem, who is really one.
That is the essential paradox in the title: how to live with seeming diversity in the midst of unity. How to understand what is the primary ground of Being, and what is merely a temporary mask of that being?
This book takes the plunge into this difficult topic, and provides some provocative answers.
Friday, April 11, 2014
As I have reviewed before here, Likutey Mohran, the collected writings and teaching of Rebbe Nacham, published by the Breslov Research Institute, is an invaluable series of books for an understanding of Rebbe Nachman’s special take of Yiddishkeit.
These volumes are not for the rank beginner. Despite the notes, and the lucid English translation alongside the Hebrew original, these are not beginners Bratslav texts. But not to worry, these exist in abundance.
So, if you want to get into Rebbe’s teaching, this is the book for you. Sure, it passed through a few hands, has been redacted and edited, but that is the way with all early Chasidic masters. This was still primarily an oral culture, and often the best material was presented at a Sabbath tish, when taking notes is prohibited.
So what you get is a fractured text. Not so much as by design, as by circumstance.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Monday, April 7, 2014
Well, Tevye the Milkman and the Rail Road Stories are classics, and rightfully so. Not only are Sholem Aleichem's stories first rate, world class literature, something that someone from any culture can read in translation and understand, but this work also captures a particular time and place for Yiddish speaking Jews.
The fact that Tevye and the other stories are secular tales written in Yiddish already signals that great changes occurred in the ranks of eastern European Jews. At the turn of the twentieth century they had a secular literature in a language used primarily at home. In Teyve, Sholom Aleichem uses the Jewish vernacular as a fitting vehicle to show the stresses, strains and changes occurring in Yiddish speaking communities during his time.
As such, the stories strike a rare note in the history of literature; his work is at once universal, and very particular.
Friday, April 4, 2014
Lansky’s account of rescuing the literature of a quickly dying language has both sad and triumphant overtones. As he first starts collecting Yiddish books, many Yiddish writers and readers are alive, if not old, and Lansky gets to see glimpses of their world. As an American Jew, Lansky knows what he has missed: the world of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Yiddish, working together to form a seamless world.
Through Herculean effort, Lanksy and others eventually create the Yiddish Book Center, a home to a million and a half Yiddish books. Yet that world is gone, and after the Center is built, Lansky has some interesting and sad things to say about Jewish continuity, or the lack thereof.
All in all, this is a fascinating book that documents the steady decline of a civilization and in relatively short space of time, and a group of people’s determination to save a piece of it.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Tuesday, April 1, 2014