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Off the Shelf: Searching for paradise by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Pardes, paradise, the orchard: the opening epigraph of David Hopen’s novel “The Orchard” (Ecco/HarperCollins) quotes from the Talmud, telling the story of four rabbis who visited paradise. One dies, the second becomes insane, the third becomes an apostate and only the fourth emerges wh…

Off the Shelf: Different life paths by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Both intermarried, but only one’s spouse converted. Both struggled with the religious aspects of Judaism, yet one felt strong enough about Zionism to make aliyah. Each became a writer, although their paths to being published greatly differed. Courtney Zoffness, who has won awards for her f…

Off the Shelf: Fictional versions of real life by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Novels based on true stories: there are several ways these can be written. One is to create characters who borrow from the experience of real people, but who are definitely fictional. Another is to treat a real person as a character and write a fictionalized version of a biography or memoir.…

Off the Shelf: What does a rabbi think about that?

 by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Different opinions and rabbinic debate: those were staples of Jewish religious dialogue as Judaism moved from a sacrificial-based religion to a prayer-based one. As technology changed so did debates on what Judaism thinks about everything from electricity to plant…

Off the Shelf: Women and the war over kosher meat prices

 by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

“We’re not making riots... But if we cry at home, nobody sees us. We have to help ourselves.” Those were the words Rose Baskin spoke to City Magistrate Robert C. Cornell during her trial at the Essex Market Police Court on May 16, 1902. Although she received…