8/14/18

The Classic Book Rabbi Joshua Trachtenberg's "Jewish Magic" - My wonderful edition for Kindle - Purchase Now

Please take extra special note and purchase my revised edition for Kindle of the great classic book Rabbi Joshua Trachtenberg's "Jewish Magic."



This book is a comprehensive review of Jewish magic from the 10th to the 15th century. This book explains well-known Jewish traditions, such as why a glass is broken at a wedding, and how the expression mazal tov is related to a belief in astrology. Rabbi Trachtenberg dealt with Golems, Succubi, the Lillim, (from Lilith, Adam’s first wife), and other magical creatures, some well-known such as werewolves, and others not so well, such as estrie, mare and broxa. He presented detailed descriptions of talismans, amulets, charms, and other magical objects. His chapters dealt with dream interpretation, medical beliefs, necromancy, and other forms of divination. Rabbi Trachtenberg’s appreciation of the role of magic in Jewish culture was significant for the study of Judaism, and for the knowledge of modern beliefs and practices in religions in general.

My New Title for the Book

The original title of this book in 1939 was Jewish Magic and Superstition. For this Kindle edition in 2016, I removed the tendentious terms superstition and superstitious from this otherwise excellent book and from its title, and I substituted where needed throughout the text of the book, either the words religious or magical to lend the discussion greater consistency and to remove the distracting and negative polemical aspect of those terms from this pivotal study.

Commonly the word superstition is used to refer to aspects of religion that are not practiced by the majority of a culture. It has had a pejorative connotation since the days of Plato and Aristotle. Wikipedia (s.v. Superstition) informs us that:
In the classical era, the existence of gods was actively debated both among philosophers and theologians, and opposition to superstition arose consequently. The poem De rerum natura, written by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius further developed the opposition to superstition.
Cicero’s work De natura deorum also had a great influence on the development of the modern concept of superstition as well as the word itself. Where Cicero distinguished superstitio and religio, Lucretius used only the term religio. Cicero, for whom superstitio meant “excessive fear of the gods” wrote that “superstitio, non religio, tollenda est,” which means that only superstition, and not religion, should be abolished… The term superstitio, or superstitio vana “vain superstition,” was applied in the first century to those religious cults in the Roman Empire which were officially outlawed.
 The Teaneck New Jersey Author

The author of this book, Rabbi Joshua Trachtenberg (b. 1904, d. 1959) was a reform rabbi at Temple Emeth in Teaneck, New Jersey. This book is an expansion of his Columbia University Ph.D. thesis.

Thanks go out to my valued collaborator, Reuven Brauner for his work improving the editing and formatting of this book for this Kindle eBook publication.



8/3/18

Is the Film "The Endless Summer" Jewish?

My favorite movie is Bruce Brown's, The Endless Summer. No, it wasn't Jewish at all that is, until I made it into a metaphor for my quest for perfect Jewish spirituality and the inspiration for my book cover (see below). I haven't found any other Jewish connections to the film or the poster.

Vanity Fair has a story about the famous iconic Endless Summer movie poster. "One Summer, Forever: The Endless Summer poster is 50 years old, and it hasn't aged a minute. Kitchen-table project turned pop-culture phenomenon, the Day-Glo movie promo created by John Van Hamersveld for his friend Bruce Brown’s 1964 documentary is still selling the dream—on T-shirts, TV shows, beer bottles, and dorm walls. Lili Anolik looks back at the moment an iconic image was born, the social upheaval it presaged, and the surfer-dude-slash-designer whose life it changed."

In 1966 I saw a film that documented two boys seeking simple perfection in a quasi-mystical sport. IMDB sums up, "Brown follows two young surfers around the world in search of the perfect wave, and ends up finding quite a few in addition to some colorful local characters."

The film spoke to me, as it did to many others of a more idealistic age. The essence of surfing of course is the wave. And the lover of surfing no doubt wants to embark on the quest for the best wave. To experience the performance of the essence is to find the perfect wave.

Brown's two surfer dudes found one in South Africa, see the video clip below.

8/2/18

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Talmudic Advice Column for August 2018 - Should I Lie or Tell the Truth?

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Talmudic Advice Column for August 2018
Should I Lie or Tell the Truth?


Dear Rabbi Zahavy

I thoughtlessly violated a petty and unfair town ordinance. Now I am being fined for it. I’m thinking that I could just pay the fine, or I could go to the town and explain what happened and ask for a reduction in the fine. But nowadays it seems that our highest government officials have no hesitation making things up. Perhaps I can concoct a story to avoid the blame for my actions and avoid the fines. Would that be justified?

Conflicted in Cresskill


Dear Conflicted,

It should be easy for me to say that lying is not the preferred way to go. I’m obliged as a rabbi to represent ethical and moral standards. I should say without hesitation — tell the truth in good faith and ask your town to understand the situation.

But if we look around at all the obvious lying going on in our politics, in our world, it makes you stop and think. Maybe lying is a viable option. Maybe you will be better off if you lie.

And honestly, if you look closely at our Jewish traditions you see dramatic examples of lying recounted proudly in our Bible stories, without qualms. Why then should you opt for the truth?

Let’s critically probe three obvious instances of deceit by our esteemed and venerated patriarchs and ancestors as described in the first book of the Torah and see what we can learn from them.