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Celebrating Jewish Literature: Work, family, comedy and deep feelings

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

When looking at novels for review, I’m sometimes unable to tell if they feature Jewish characters. If I am really interested in a book, I’ve been known to go to great lengths – from making numerous web searches for the “title/author + Jewish,” to writing t…

Off the Shelf: Messianic believers in Second Temple times

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Messiah: the noun is connected to the Hebrew verb that means to anoint a person or object with oil. However, the connotations of the term have changed over time. In the early sections of the Bible, it usually referred to a man who was anointed with oil by another pe…

Off the Shelf: Sorrows and joys in old and new countries

There are some novels that are so distinctive that they’re difficult to describe. This was true of two recent books: “Before All the World” by Moriel Rothman-Zecher (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and “When the Angels Left the Old Country” by Sacha Lamb (Levine Querido). The former pac…

Off the Shelf: The road to true repentance

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Some of the best books are also the most challenging, especially if they force you to think carefully about how you view the world. Take, for example, “On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World” by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (Beacon Press). I…

Off the Shelf: Bonding over adverse circumstances

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

It’s often a matter of luck who our neighbors are. We pick a house based on a variety of factors, but rarely do we interview the people who live next door or across the street before making a decision. Yet, those neighbors can have a great impact on our lives as …