Reading List, part two: JPS’s Holiday Gift Guide

Books make perfect gifts for Hanukkah or any holiday. To make your search for the perfect book easier, we have compiled a list of some of our most recent titles. There is a book for everyone and every occasion.

Day 1

The Lost Matriarch

The Lost Matriarch: Finding Leah in the Bible and Midrash

The Lost Matriarch weaves biblical text and midrash into a seamless narrative, revealing Leah’s full story and inviting readers into the delightful, provocative world of creative rabbinic and literary commentary. Through Jerry Rabow’s writing, readers learn the lessons of the remarkable Leah, who triumphed over adversity and hardship by living a life of moral heroism. By experiencing these midrashic insights and techniques for reading “between the lines,” readers are introduced to what for many will be an exciting new method of personal Bible interpretation.

Day 2

Jewish Meaning in a World of Choice

Jewish Meaning in a World of Choice: Studies in Tradition and Modernity

Internationally recognized educator and author, David Ellenson shares his most popular essays on Jewish religious thought, ethics, and modern Jewish. Ellenson addresses gender equality, women’s rights, conversion, issues relating to who is a Jew, the future of the rabbinate, Jewish day schools, and other emerging trends in American Jewish life. As an outspoken advocate for a strong Israel that is faithful to the democratic and Jewish values that informed its founders, he also writes about religious tolerance and pluralism in the Jewish state.

Day 3

The Aura of Torah

The Aura of Torah: A Kabbalistic-Hasidic Commentary to the Weekly Readings

Because a welter of details sometimes conceals the Torah’s aura of holiness, Jewish mystics and spiritual teachers for centuries have attempted to reveal that aura through creative interpretation. The Aura of Torah explores these attempts in an effort to bridge the gap between the Torah text and the modern Jewish spiritual quest. The book collects a wide variety of interpretations of Torah passages, commentaries, and midrash rooted in the mystical side of Jewish tradition, translated by Rabbi Larry Tabick, with original Hebrew and Aramaic texts included. The quoted authors span many centuries and speak from many schools of thought. Tabick examines how these texts build on the underlying principles of the Torah—the supremacy of God, the interconnectedness of nature and morality, and the unique (though not exclusive) role of the Jewish people in the divine plan for all humanity—to point to a deep spiritual truth in the world of the divine and the soul.

Day 4

Bar Mitzvah, a History

Bar Mitzvah, a History

The Jewish coming-of-age ceremony of bar mitzvah was first recorded in thirteenth-century France, where it took the form of a simple statement by the father that he was no longer responsible for his thirteen-year-old son. Today, bar mitzvah for boys and bat mitzvah for girls are more popular than at any time in history and are sometimes accompanied by lavish celebrations. Bar Mitzvah, A History is a comprehensive account of the ceremonies and celebrations for both boys and girls. A cultural anthropology informed by rabbinic knowledge, it explores the origins and development of the most important coming-of-age milestone in Judaism. Rabbi Michael Hilton has sought out every reference to bar mitzvah in the Bible, the Talmud, and numerous other Jewish texts spanning several centuries, extracting a fascinating miscellany of information, stories, and commentary.

Day 5

Carasik

The Bible’s Many Voices

The most common English translations of the Bible often sound like a single, somewhat archaic voice. In fact, the Bible is made up of many separate books composed by multiple writers in a wide range of styles and perspectives. It is, as Michael Carasik demonstrates, not a remote text reserved for churches and synagogues but rather a human document full of history, poetry, politics, theology, and spirituality. By articulating the differences among these voices, he shows us not just their messages and meanings but also what mattered to the authors. In these contrasts we encounter the Bible anew, as a living work whose many voices tell us about the world out of which the Bible grew—and the world that it created.

Day 6

A Bride for One Night

A Bride for One Night: Talmud Tales

Ruth Calderon has recently electrified the Jewish world with her teachings of talmudic texts. In this volume, her first to appear in English, she offers a fascinating window into some of the liveliest and most colorful stories in the Talmud. Calderon rewrites talmudic tales as richly imagined fictions, drawing us into the lives of such characters as the woman who risks her life for a sister suspected of adultery; a humble schoolteacher who rescues his village from drought; and a wife who dresses as a prostitute to seduce her pious husband in their garden. Breathing new life into an ancient text, A Bride for One Night offers a surprising and provocative read, both for anyone already intimate with the Talmud or for anyone interested in one of the most influential works of Jewish literature.

Day 7

Grandpa's Third Drawer

Grandpa’s Third Drawer: Unlocking Holocaust Memories

Of all the places in the world, Uri really loves to be at his grandparents’ house. There he can stay up way past his bedtime and eat as many sweets from the chocolate box as he likes. There’s only one forbidden place in that house: the third drawer in Grandpa’s desk. This drawer is locked. No one ever opens it until one day when Uri finds the key to the third drawer. From that moment, nothing is ever the same.

Grandpa’s Third Drawer takes up the difficult challenge of discussing the Holocaust with young children, of teaching its heritage and memory, all in a gentle and unobtrusive manner. The story of a silent grandfather unexpectedly confronted by his curious and loving grandchild is accompanied by rich illustrations that show authentic preserved objects donated by Holocaust survivors from Theresienstadt.

Day 8

Grandpa's Third Drawer

My Guardian Angel

The streets are eerily empty, and everyone in the Jewish community is terrified of Peter the Hermit. His men, the Crusaders, are moving through the town on their way to the Holy Land. They have been known to batter down doors and burn Jewish houses, all in the name of religion. This is not Nazi Germany but Troyes, France, in 1096, as seen through the eyes of funny, feisty, twelve-year-old Elvina. On a cold Sabbath afternoon while Elvina is alone in the house, three soldiers pound at her door. One of them is wounded. Elvina has only a moment to make a difficult choice that could put her family and the entire community at risk. Can her guardian angel guide her and keep her safe? My Guardian Angel is a story of compassion and tolerance that speaks clearly to readers of all faiths. Elvina’s voice lingers long in memory, and her courage and humor long in the heart.

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See The Jewish Publication Society’s New Fall Books and Great Holiday Gifts guide for more ideas.