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Off the Shelf: Major life changes by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

The two memoirs seemed to have little in common at first glance. Yet, underlying the authors’ very different lives is a similar theme: the need to adjust to a major life change. In “Becoming Eve: My Journey From Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgendered Woman” (Seal Press), Abby Chava Stei…

Off the Shelf: Outsiders of the shtetl by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

An idealized view of the shtetl used to exist in the American mind – a wonderful place, filled with happy, observant Jews who lived joyous Jewish lives. Over the past several decades, scholars have been disputing that view, showing that shtetl life was more complex and far from perfect. A …

Off the Shelf: Women’s roles and history by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Ever wonder what would happen if characters from different novels were to meet? In the case of those featured in this review, there would be arguments about the role women should play in public and private life. However, that is not their only purpose: the authors also portray Jewish life in…

Off the Shelf: Family, friends and love by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Sometimes the way you feel about a book depends not only on your mood, but what else you’ve read recently. Before reading the novels in this review, I’d been actively engaged in two different, very exciting fantasy series. The second in one series ended with a cliff hanger and I so wante…

Off the Shelf: Morality versus Divine command by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

“Thou shalt not murder” is one of the Ten Commandments. Yet, twice a year – during Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat Vayera – Jews read the Akedah, the binding of Isaac, which could also be called “the attempted murder of Isaac.” God tests Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his son. …