The Front Cover

There’s an error before you even open the book (this one isn’t my fault!). Can you find it?

4 Replies to “The Front Cover”

  1. well, i’m only bas noah, so i’m not really well schooled, and i haven’t gotten the books yet, but….since when does a rabbi refer to the “old testament?” and, in my bible, there are several more books to the original scriptures….

  2. Response to Comments on the subtitle of “Everything Torah”

    Although I originally did not want to comment here, I changed my mind after seeing that using the term “Old Testament” in the subtitle of “Everything Torah” seemingly caused surprise among readers. As a Roman Catholic I want to let you know that I appreciate your choice of words as a kind gesture signalling that you want to communicate the message of Judaism not only to Jewish but Non-Jewish readers as well which I find extremely important for reasons that shall be detailed below. Perhaps this comment may make other readers aware of that “additional” mission of your work that seems to me most important and that consists among others in reminding Non-Jewish readers to appreciate and respect the Jewish roots of Civilization and Christianity so as to prevent history from repeating itself.

    Communicating Jewish values not only to Jews but also Non-Jews (in my case Christians) as “Everything Torah” does, is also the vision of a great scholar and holocaust victim, Leo Baeck who alerts us to the danger of Christianity lapsing into Marcionism (a state where everything goes) whenever it forgets or deliberately tries to get rid of its Jewish heritage, the Law . Leo Baeck’s warning is in line with what is requested in Matth.5, 16-19, New Testament, namely that each single Law remains valid meaning that Christianity as we know it, may be neither understood nor could it exist without Judaism whose most essential message therefore must be communicated to Christians as well. It seems that the implications and meaning of Jewish Law may ultimately be traced to the 1st Commandment which is not only the common denominator between Judaism and Christianity but also the backbone of Civilization and our Constitution. Given the latter, Leo Baeck is right when he calls for Jews to communicate the message of Judaism to interested Non-Jews . And, to me “Everything Torah” is an important step in just that direction.

    By inviting not just a few, but all to the study of Torah, the latter may help prevent history from repeating itself. For, my own studies on the holocaust and German society of the era preceding both world wars, leads me to propose that the holocaust among others was the outcome of Christianity’s long history of paying lip-service only to what was (and still is) understood least, namely the 1st Commandment. Put differently, the Shoah is the outcome of relegating that particular Law to a closet existence to be finally dragged out again for ultimate sacrifice by the “priests” of Auschwitz.

    If my claim holds up there will be two major consequences.

    1. Having locked away the 1st Commandment (long before Germany opted for Hitler) Christians or “enlightened” atheists may now, after the Shoah, not shun the responsibility for having done so by asking “Where was (is) He?” (Or: “How could He led it happen?”), If an individual who has become a holocaust victim for his commitment to the 1st Commandment raises such questions it is understandable. However, when voiced by descendents of a large majority that contributed either actively or as bystanders to the Shoah, such outcry seems out of place and has the effect of keeping the 1st Commandment firmly under lock and key thus making it possible to carry on as before. To prevent such subterfuge, lets replace the “Where” by the “Who” so that the question no longer reads “Where was He?” but “Who was he?”. Which leads to additional questions such as: “Who were the new priests? and upon what rational did they base their authority? What were their dogmas? Questions that amount to nothing less than removing the question mark from behind ethical Monotheism so as to place it behind enlightened atheism.

    2. Realizing that the Holocaust did not take place in spite of ethical Monotheism’s social presence but because of its absence will lead to the second consequence of my proposition, namely that we shall not be able to learn the lesson of the holocaust unless we have learned the major one of Judaism which consists in respecting the 1st Commandment whose corollary is not tolerance but “respect” of the “other”. To just talk about “tolerance” as it was en vogue during the Enlightenment and after the Holocaust in (German) schools, surely does not do justice to the issue. The Shoah was not and could not have been prevented by just “tolerating” the very Commandment that makes human co-existence possible in the first place and therefore lies at the basis of our democracy’s legal code. In fact, a close look at the term “tolerance” reveals that it does not connote “respect”, but “disrespect” . We use the term “tolerance” primarily when we put up with some kind of nuisance, the “tolerant” being the “giver” and the “nuisance” the receiver who, out of generosity gets what he, in the eyes of the “tolerant” giver does not really deserve, In a nutshell, tolerance implies inequality in terms of “worthiness” and thus cannot be deduced from the 1st Commandment let alone substitute for it as the new ethicists and disciples of the Enlightenment wanted to make us believe.

    What can however be deduced from the 1st Commandment is “respect” of the “Other” who has been created in His image. As a consequence of the latter fact, so Didier Pollefeyt in a comment on the Holocaust, the essence of man can never be defined in closed terms as it is done by totalitarian systems and/or sciences. In other words, what certain scientists have been doing before, during and after Auschwitz till this day, namely reducing “man” to a category to assign him his proper place and meaning within a new script of their own making is unethical with respect to the Jewish heritage of Christianity. Though perfectly in line with the idea of “tolerance”, such science is an outcry against the 1st Commandment. which holds that as co-workers of one task we report directly to Him, who gives us our assignment. Life’s meaning consists in a never ending quest to find out for ourselves (not the other) what our share or contribution to His task is . In order to do so we have been equipped with tools. Although the tools we hold may differ from person to person, the contributions made will ultimately be the same in the sense of equal worth. The latter idea has been beautifully captured by the identical offerings of the princes in Numbers 7:10-7:89 which “Everything Torah” brings to our attention , the lesson being that of respect for “Other” and humility resulting from the awareness that in the end we all are no “princes” but have-nots”and as such indeed “equal”. Therefore, the contributions though important enough to be mentioned individually are, if viewed from afar the “same” all the more so since we neither own our achievements nor our tools which, like the “princes” we should perhaps rather put to His task than inspect, measure and compare.

    In sum, research suggests that a major cause of the Shoah was the evolution of a new enlightened “ethic” based on “pure” science that denied man any existence beyond what scientists were able to perceive, categorize and label thereby inaugurating a new era of barbarity. Christianity contributed to the latter process since it never tried to understand its Jewish roots the major one being the 1st Commandment, which, given its taboo on defining the ultimate “Truth” does not allow for a closed system at the theological level to develop. By insisting that man was created in His image, the aforementioned taboo of the First Commandment applies also to man meaning that he too cannot be defined and described in closed terms. Another direct consequence of ethical Monotheism is the idea of equal worth that is expressed in the Torah to be later pressed home in the New Testament and the Constitution of western democracies.

    All in all, the Holocaust and Judaism are inextricably linked to the First Commandment, the first by unconditional rejection, the latter by unconditional acceptance. To prevent history from repeating itself, not just Jews but all must try to understand the huge dimensions of Judaism and that Commandment that comes first in importance and temporal sequence. According to Jewish and Christian accounts, its violation marks the very beginning of human history and its desecration may well mark the end. To prevent the latter seems the most important mission of “Everything Torah”, a mission we should neither overlook nor forget. G.Klein

  3. Dear Rabbi Menken,

    I enjoyed reading your book and especially the commentaries on the Torah. Having said that, on page 72, you you mention how Jews and non-Jews need each other and as an example, you mention how non-Jews are needed to keep to keep the power running in hospitals on Shabbos. What you did not explain is how Israeli hospitals function without having non-Jews available. Finally, you mention how the diverse religions have helped to bring the Torah’s message to the world. You include the Muslim faith. After 9/11 and worldwide terrorism coming almost exclusively from Muslims, I would not have written that the Muslim faith has helped bring the Torah’s message to the world. It has rather twisted it.

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