9/15/23

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for October 2016: Binging at Weddings and Not Believing in Sin

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for October 2016: 
Binging at Weddings and Not Believing in Sin

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I went to a big Orthodox Jewish family wedding recently in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The music was so loud that some of my relatives, who had expected it, brought along earplugs. There was so much food at the smorgasbord and the main meal that the next day I weighed myself and saw I had gained more than three pounds in one night.

I’m tempted to turn down invitations to future frum family simchas just to keep my hearing intact and my waistline under control. Is that a reasonable course of action?

Binging in Bergenfield

Dear Binging,

Sure you can skip family weddings to preserve your health and well-being, and you should do that if you have no other solution. But some of your kin seem to have found modalities that allow them to participate and preserve their hearing. Surely ear plugs are an option for you too. Why not avail yourself of them?

And regarding the food, you know that you do not have to eat all of it! One possible alternative is to attend the smorg and the chuppah and gracefully decline the elaborate dinner that follows. Who needs to drive home at midnight from Brooklyn anyway? Of course, doing that you will miss the chance to bond and share at greater length with your family. But with such loud bands, how much schmoozing could you do with the relatives anyway?

9/10/23

My Puffin Foundation Lecture on Religion and Terrorism

2023 update: I will never forget it. It changed our world. 9/11 is a terrible day for us all. Every year. I saw the second plane hit while I was driving in to work from the hill across the river. I saw the towers fall a short time later from my office window in Jersey City. Just know well that the terrorists acted in the name of Islam. Do not ever minimize or forget this. See the last five pages of my PPT for salient details: MAKING AN ACT OF TERROR INTO A SACRED COSMIC RITUAL. Awful horrible unforgivable.












6/23/23

Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy

We are observing today the 23nd Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy (aleha hashalom).

We miss her so very much. She would have loved to see the progress of her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and take pride in all of their accomplishments. She would have loved to read books to her great-grandchildren and to watch them play and grow.

She was born in NYC and attended the public schools in Washington Heights. She watched from her classroom window as they built the George Washington Bridge.

She graduated from Hunter High School, Hunter College and went on to a career in public service at the OPA and then into the field education. 

Together with my dad, she founded the Park East Day School when my father was rabbi at the Park East Synagogue, then called Congregation Zichron Ephraim. She subsequently taught in NYC public schools for many years.

She is interred on Har Hamenuchot in Jerusalem. Her beautiful memorial photo site is here.

2/8/23

Best Seller: Elegant new 750 page edition of "The Zohar in English"

Best Seller #1 in Zohar 

The Zohar in English Paperback!


The Zohar is called the greatest work of Jewish Mysticism. From the Middle Ages to today people of all faiths have studied and pored over the Zohar to explore the mysteries of God and the universe and to seek knowledge of when the redemption of the world will arrive.

The Zohar is a mystical novel whose hero is Rabbi Simeon son of Yohai, a rabbi and disciple of Rabbi Akiva from second century Israel. The original Aramaic work describes how Rabbi Simeon and his companions wander through the hills of Galilee, discovering and sharing mystical secrets of the Torah.

This large format 750 page edition presents the entire work in one volume in eloquent English as translated by several great scholars of the 20th century.


  • Amazon Best Seller

1/7/23

The Mishnah in a new and affordable English Edition

A new English translation of Mishnah edited by Robert Goldenberg (OBM), Shaye Cohen, and Hayim Lapin has been published for a hard to justify or afford price of $645.

In the Introduction two of the editors heap high praise on Rev. Herbert Danby's classic translation, which I edited and released and is now available in a beautiful new edition for $29. Here is what the other editors say about Danby.
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The Rev. Herbert Danby
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[From page 8] "In 1933, the Clarendon Press of Oxford University published The Mishnah Translated from the Hebrew with Introduction and Brief Explanatory Notes, by Herbert Danby, a volume of some 900 pages. It is a mark of the quality of Danby's work that it remains in print almost ninety years later. Our translation is completely independent of his, but we are aware that we are walking in his footsteps. For the Hebrew-less reader, unaccustomed to Mishnaic rhetoric and technical terminology, Danby's translation, [is] excellent in itself...
"Danby was a master translator, but the modern reader demands more from a translation than Danby provides. The goal of our Mishnah translation is to equal Danby's in quality and to surpass it in utility. In tribute to Herbert Danby, a philo-Semitic Christian Hebraist, we have retained almost unchanged his index of biblical passages and his table of weights, measures, and currency. We would have liked to retain his subject index, but we reluctantly came to the conclusion that it is too closely keyed to Danby's own translation and notes for it to be usable in a new setting.
"For biographical information about the Rev. Danby and an appreciation of his work, see the excellent article by Shalom Goldman in the journal Modern Judaism ("The Rev. Herbert Danby (1889-1953): Hebrew Scholar, Zionist, Christian Missionary," Modern Judaism-A Journal of Jewish Ideas and Experience, 27:2 (May 2007), pp. 219-245)."

From Goldman's article - we garner these insights:

"Danby’s most useful and widely-used contribution to the study of Jewish texts was his Mishnah translation. This translation quickly became a standard text in the English-speaking world and it remains in print seventy years after its publication. When, in 1988, Yale University Press published a new translation of the Mishnah, its editor, Jacob Neusner, made it clear that ‘‘publishing this fresh translation of the Mishnah constitutes no criticism of the great and pioneering translation by Herbert Danby. His translation has one fundamental flaw . . .He does not make the effort to translate the Hebrew into English words following the syntax of Mishnaic Hebrew . . . that is what the present translation, into American English, provides.’’ While Neusner’s translation takes us closer to the syntactical structure of the Hebrew of the Mishnah, Danby’s translation renders that text more immediately accessible and for that reason it remains the translation of record."

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My reaction is that it's good to see nice words about a classic Mishnah English Translation by Danby. But mystifying and a bit disappointing that the editors of the $645 edition have nothing to say in their introduction about numerous other recent and brilliant translations of Mishnah into English by for instance - Rabbi Steinsalz, or the edition by Artscroll (Schottenstein Edition of the Mishnah Elucidated - Complete 23 Volume Set), or the academic work edited by Jacob Neusner (which I contributed to), or the set by Pinhas Kehati, or editions rendering Mishnah into English by dozens of other scholars and rabbis.
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