June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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If you have a little time on your hands and are looking for some new reading material, here are a few excellent options.

Rabbi Natan Slifkin, also known as the “zoo rabbi,” is a well-known and sometimes controversial author of numerous books dealing with the intersection of science and Torah. In “Sacred Monsters,” he utilizes his expertise in zoology and cryptozoology to investigate a wide variety of mythic creatures in Jewish and secular tradition. Using his knowledge of biology in conjunction with historical and Jewish sources like the Talmud and even Tanach, he explores the different depictions of creatures such as mermaids, dragons, dwarves and unicorns. Without presenting a conclusion as to whether these animals really existed at any point in time, Rabbi Slifkin presents multiple rational perspectives that showcase the thorough research that went into the production of this fascinating read.

Voted the best intelligence book of 2017 by the American Association of Former Intelligence Officers, “The Angel” is a must-read for those who are interested in the complexities of Israeli intelligence. The book centers on the complicated life and subsequent mysterious death of Ashraf Marwan, the son-in-law of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nassar, and a senior Egyptian official with a deadly secret: He was a spy for the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. During his tenure as a traitor to his country, he provided crucial information about Egypt’s impending attack on Israel, which saved Israel from a disastrous defeat in the Yom Kippur War. Chock-full of intrigue, politics and, of course, espionage, Bar-Joseph sheds new light on an often convoluted period of history, as well as the possible motivations for Marwan’s puzzling death in 2007.

“My Mother’s Sabbath Days” is a work of autobiographical fiction by one of the greatest Yiddish writers of the 20th century, Chaim Grade. The memoir explores the life of Grade as the only remaining child of a widowed mother, living in the back room of a smithy in Vilna as she struggles to make ends meet by becoming a fruit peddler. Through his stories, he develops a rich illustration of the religious life of the Polish Jew prior to World War II—and after he escapes into Russia, he meets an engaging array of characters from a variety of backgrounds that give him the strength to survive after discovering that every Jew in his city had been sent to their deaths while he was gone. Through this poignant account of his life, Grade gives the reader a deeper look at the world that the Nazis so callously destroyed.

Since the very beginning of time, the book of Genesis has had a central role in the ongoing debate over creationism. As an expert in bioethics and biochemistry, Dr. Leon Kass adds an invaluable interpretation of the timeless first book of the Torah through “The Beginning of Wisdom.” Kass uses stories like those of Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark to tell an overarching story of human self-discovery and explore the conflicts we face as inherently moral beings. Even though not all readers will agree with his bold philosophical analysis of Genesis, it is a compelling read for Jews of all backgrounds and affiliations.

Amira Isenberg is a Ma’ayanot graduate who is currently studying at MMY in Israel.

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