Future Things at Messianic Jewish Musings

Isn’t the beginning of the year great? If you’re like me, you’ve been doing some goal-setting and strategic planning.

Aside from all the personal stuff, a lot of my goal-setting and planning has been about writing and blogging and studying.

Most of you read Messianic Jewish Musings because you have caught the disease, the blessed disease. You can’t get enough Bible, theology, spiritual and intellectual stimulation. So you stop here and a dozen other places regularly. You want to be challenged, to grow, to become immersed in the world of sacred text and pleasure in the divine.

As one place you come to for challenge, I want to be sufficiently challenging for you. We’re on this journey of discovery together and we learn from each other.

On Monday I posted some ethics for discussions online and in any community. Part of the reason I posted it is that I’d like to generate more discussion this year. I’d like to not simply write theory and research and musings here, but also hear your theory and musings and research. (Of course, that means you need to do more than read blogs — but to research and think and make reading the Bible and literature about the Bible a habit).

I know many people spend so much time reading things online they leave little time for books and even the Bible itself.

I hope I can be one voice encouraging you to put paper in your hands and turn the precious leaves while savoring the learning. It’s a good year to learn Hebrew (see mountolivepress.com for the Torah and Hebrew Learning Materials by Jeff Feinberg). It’s a good year to read through Rashi (I recommend the Artscroll Sapirstein Edition Rashi which will help you understand him). It’s a good year to read a solid commentary or theological work.

I want to talk about books, books worth reading, and I will feel as if I have done something great if I get a few hundred people reading a book who might not have read that book otherwise.

One category of book that I’d like to see Messianic Jews reading, and Christians as well, is good Jewish books. I just got a used copy of Barry Holtz’s 1992 The Schocken Guide to Jewish Books. My Jewish library continues to grow and the recommendations by various scholars in the Schocken Guide are helping me find some gems (some out of print, but thank God for used books on Amazon).

I know most people can’t buy or read a few books a week.

But some of you know you need a challenge.

So, starting in March, I will begin a Jewish Book of the Month Club for Messianics. Hopefully a few dozen of you out there will find room in your reading schedule to join me with one new book a month. For some of you, that will mean adding one book to your regular three or four you read a month. For others, this may stretch you into reading one book a month.

How will I pick books? Well, I will look for a book that is widely recommended, at least in some sense a modern classic. I will look for books available new or used on amazon. I will look for books in different categories (the Schocken Guide is so useful here) like: introductory Jewish books, the Bible and its world, the world of Talmud, the Jewish Middle Ages, the European Jewish experience, the American Jewish experience, the Holocaust, Israel and Zionism, Jewish mysticism, Jewish philosophy, Jewish women’s studies, Jewish novelists, and more.

Note to other bloggers: I’d love to see other bloggers getting in on this. I didn’t call it the “Messianic Jewish Musings Jewish Book Club” in hopes that a few other bloggers might join in and encourage their readers to join in as well.

When should you order a book? What if you don’t want to wait until March? I’ll give four weeks before we start our first selection so you have plenty of time to order. If you don’t want to wait, here are some Jewish books I am reading now. Maybe you’d like to start with one of these:

(1) Iggeres Haramban/A Letter for the Ages: The Ramban’s Ethical Letter with an Anthology of Contemporary Rabbinic Expositions (Artscroll Mesorah Series) by Namanides
Permalink: http://amzn.com/0899062199

(2) To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility by Jonathan Sacks
Permalink: http://amzn.com/0805211969

(3) Sacred Attunement: A Jewish Theology by Michael Fishbane
Permalink: http://amzn.com/0226251713
* Warning: This one is tough reading. I read theology like candy and I’m having some trouble with this one, but I feel he is saying something significant here. So, I’d say this one is for the advanced reader.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Judaism, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Future Things at Messianic Jewish Musings

  1. tiqun says:

    The book club sounds like a really neat idea! the three books you suggested look very interesting, i was thinking of reading the book by Fishbane anyway this year. i think i’ll get the sapirstein edition finally – found a store here that carries them. for more general reading and not studying, which chumash would you recommend?

    i also think it’s great you suggested only jewish books here; the few messianic Jews who are around here are solely into christian books mostly, and christian things. i did a first step today in mailing to the one with the most connections, asking what he thinks of the possibility of some of to get together, to read the parasha and pray. do you have any ideas on how to get this going? i’m not speaking about creating a messianic community -that’s too big an endeavour- but already have some get together and start something, and something for our yiddishkeit, and the yiddishkeit of our children.

  2. Tiqun:

    The chumashim I have are all so different. Most people get the Artscroll Stone Edition. I’m not a big fan, though Artscroll does well on other books (such as the Sapirstein Rashi).

    Honestly, my overall favorite, is the Sapirstein Rashi, but for a general chumash, I like the most concise one which is great for carrying and with comments brief but helpful:

    Soncino Chumash: The Five Books of Moses with Haphtaroth by A. Cohen
    Permalink: http://amzn.com/B000GWJOZO

    It is out of print, but a handful of used ones exist on amazon (try searching A. Cohen Soncino Chumash to see a few different used editions).

    There are many ways to get a little kesher going, but the most important ingredient is . . . food. I’d suggest a havdalah with some food and Torah. But there are other ways too.

    Derek Leman

  3. cliff says:

    Is this the same Soncino Chumash? I can only assume it is, however, I notice that it does not specify whether or not the Haftaroth are included. Maybe it is a different edition. thanks

  4. cliff says:

    by the way, cool idea w/the book club!

  5. rebyosh says:


    I like the idea! We’ll just have to discuss further how to best accomplish this “cross-blog” venture.

  6. ltverberg says:

    Hi Derek –

    I haven’t read the book by Jonathan Sacks, but I greatly appreciate your interest in Jewish ethics. I’ve gotten very frustrated with how when people take an interest in Torah, they immediately focus in on rituals, even though Jesus’ strong emphasis was on its teaching on how to love your neighbor. (The book I’m currently working on focuses in on this issue.)

    In contrast to the absence of ethics discussion among Messianics, Jewish authors like Joseph Telushkin have written outstanding books on this subject. You mentioned one in your earlier post, “A Code of Jewish Ethics.” If you are accepting suggestions for books, I’d nominate that book. Another outstanding book of his is “Words that Hurt, Words that Heal,” on the ethics of speech. That one would fit in well with your New Year’s resolution on ethical discussions.

  7. peterygwendyta says:

    I like this idea. And good to get other blogs involved as well.

  8. Hi lvertberg –

    Good point about Jesus’s emphasis on ethics. Rabbi Russ Resnik just released a book called “Divine Reversal: The Transforming Ethics of Jesus” which perhaps can help to balance out the tendency you’re pointing out. There’s more info on Rabbi Russ’s new blog – http://rebrez.wordpress.com/.

  9. ltverberg says:

    Thanks for sharing that about Resnik’s book. I’ll look into it.

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