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Lithuanian Yeshivas of the Nineteenth Century: Creating a Tradition of Learning (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization)
Lithuanian Yeshivas of the Nineteenth Century: Creating a Tradition of Learning (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization)
by Shaul Stampfer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $29.95
33 used & new from $23.96

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and a compelling read., August 12, 2015
Anyone who walks the streets of any major Orthodox neighborhood today can’t go far without passing a yeshiva. To the uninitiated, they may think these yeshivas go back for millennia. But that is not necessarily the case.

In Lithuanian Yeshivas of the Nineteenth Century: Creating a Tradition of Learning (Littman 978-1906764609), Shaul Stampfer (professor at the Dinur Center For Research In Jewish History at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) has written a detailed and brilliantly researched account of the development of the current yeshiva system.

This is an English translation of Stampfer’s Hebrew work which first appeared in 1995. It also includes additional material that became available with the opening of archives in Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism.

Those with an interest in modern Talmudic study will find the book, as I did, a spellbinding overview of the development of the modern yeshiva. Stampfer’s impeccable research changes the way one will look at the reasons for the creation of and the development of these yeshivas in Lithuania. The book is like a riveting documentary, full of fascinating insights.

The first modern Ashkenazi yeshiva was established relatively recently in 1803; with the founding of the Volozhin yeshiva by Rabbi Chaim Ickovits; but better known as Rabbi Chaim Volozhin.

Stampfer notes in the introduction that the yeshivas that developed in nineteenth-century Lithuania offered a completely new structure for the study of Talmud. He writes that the two main impetuses for this were a conservative reaction to the modernizing trends that were confronting the traditional world of Eastern Europe, and faith in the important of educational institutions.

The book focuses on the development of these yeshivas from roughly 1803 to 1914. The bulk of the book focuses on the Etz Chaim Yeshiva, which is better known though as the Yeshiva of Volozhin. The book also gives attention to other famed yeshivas such as Slobodka, Telz and Kovno.

The 1800’s to early 1900’s was a century of change and revolution. Every aspect of society was affected, from the isolated farmer to the yeshiva students of these Lithuanian yeshivas. I found Stampfer’s description of the environment to be quite enlightening and it certainly challenged my notion of what old-time yeshivas were about. The levels of Talmudic scholarship were legendary, but these were not stale, monolithic institutions.

Stampfer writes that the yeshiva system developed in response to the collapse of the batei medrash (informal study halls) and was seen as an essential element in preserving the traditional values of a conservative society. In the early nineteenth century, the yeshiva was therefore presented as simply a place of Torah study, with no suggestion of practical advantage or reward.

While the very Talmud that was studied at the Lithuanian yeshivas were written in the yeshivas of Babylon, the book notes that because the Lithuanian yeshivas offered a new model of Torah study, they can’t be regarded as a continuation of the yeshivas of the middle ages.

While many of today’s yeshivas are styled after their Lithuanian predecessors and there is an assumption amongst many people that today’s yeshivas operate in relatively the same manner as they did 200 years ago; Stampfer shows how their methods were often quite different. Two of the most striking are, first of all, the fact that the Talmud was studied systematically and completely; starting with Tractate Berachot, all the way to Tractate Niddah. In addition, the method of study in these yeshivas was not with a chavruta (study partner) as is de rigueur today, rather the yeshiva students would study independently.

The book covers every aspect of the yeshivas, from the number of students, admissions protocols, budgets of the yeshiva, student political organizations, student housing, tuition and much more.

The long-term influence of the Lithuanian yeshiva is unquestionable and Stampfer does an incredible job of detailing the milieu where these yeshivas developed. The book is impressive in exhibiting a large amount of research, as well as depth of content.

Those with an interest in Talmud study and the yeshiva system will unquestionably find Lithuanian Yeshivas of the Nineteenth Century: Creating a Tradition of Learning a fascinating and a compelling read.


Digital Identity Management
Digital Identity Management
by Maryline Laurent
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $114.66
23 used & new from $23.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good resource for an academic introduction to the topic, August 6, 2015
Digital identity management is a broad term; but when applied to information security, refers to identifying users with a network, application or system and controlling their access to resources within those systems and applications.

An interesting point made early in Digital Identity Management is that French Interest users averaged 16.4 digital ID’s in 2013; which is up from 12.2 in 2009. It’s likely that by now, that number is over 20, and is representative of users worldwide.

The reason French users are highlighted is that authors Maryline Laurent and Samia Bouzefrane are both professors in computer science at French universities. The other contributors to the book are also based in the EU and the book therefore has a slant to European-based identic management.

The 5 chapters in the book takes a broad look at identity management from perspectives such as social networks, cloud, IoT and more. The book is written by academics and has an academic feel to it. Those looking for a reference on how to implement an identity management solution will have to look elsewhere.

The book is a good resource for an academic introduction to the topic, and lends itself to a college level class. Digital Identity Management provides a deep introduction to the abstract areas and core topics of identity management.


How Not To Be Hacked: The Definitive Guide for Regular People
How Not To Be Hacked: The Definitive Guide for Regular People
by Mr James J DeLuccia IV
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.99
35 used & new from $2.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read and valuable security awareness training guide, July 30, 2015
The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), also known as Rijndael, is susceptible to brute forces attacks. Mohit Arora of Freescale Semiconductor wrote in 2012 that it would take 1 billion billion years to crack the 128-bit AES key using brute force attack. No one ever said brute force had to be quick.

For those that don’t have a billion billion years, the alternative is to bypass the cryptography and try to attack the user. And therein is one of the weakest links within information security, the user.

In How Not To Be Hacked: The Definitive Guide for Regular People, author James DeLuccia has written an extremely useful guide that offers 63 valuable tips on how and what users can do to avoid being hacked.

When the author says the book is written for regular people, he means those folks who don’t know a device driver from a digital certificate. The book is written with no techno-babble or jargon, which makes it an enjoyable read for the novice.

The back cover says the book can help you become unhackable. While that’s a bit over the top, the tips in the book indeed go a long way to ensure that you won’t be an easy target.

Each of the tips in the book includes a meter showing low, medium or high; with the rating related to the type of information protection benefited from the tip. The book classifies each tip as either protecting: life, family or information.

The book focuses on pragmatic tips to help the regular user. Albeit that 2 of the tips may not be so pragmatic for most users. Tip #1 is don’t ever use your debit card again. But that may not work for the millions of Americans who don’t have access to credit cards. Tip #18 says do not use Internet Explorer ever again. Sage advice, but far too many regular users are not comfortable installing Chrome or Firefox. The other 61 tips though are straightforward, actionable and to the point.

Much of the information in the book will be obvious to information security professionals. But for the 99.9% of the populace that don’t have their CISSP, the information will be a huge benefit.

Phishing attacks often masquerade as banks with the request to share your password. Tip #6 notes that online service providers and banks will never ask for your password, as they already have it on hand. That observation is quite obvious, but for the regular user who doesn’t have that information or mindset, this tip alone will make the book worthwhile for most readers.

The book has a number of very low-tech, yet highly effective security recommendations. Tip #21 is to make up fictional answers to security challenge questions. If there is a breach and it’s known that you were born in Tallahassee, that information could be aggregated with other hacked data to launch a personal attack. But if you write different cities for different websites, that can obviate such an attack. Of course, such an approach requires you to securely write down your password. That is detailed in tip #30.

Credit card fraud is a fact of life, even with PCI and EMV smart payment cards. Tip #52 is to call your credit card company and request a new card every year. This ensures that anyone attempting to use your old credit card number will be denied. If you use autopayments, this could complicate things though.

The tips in the book are simple habits that if used, will go a long way to help the reader avoid being the victim.

For those looking for a book that as easy to read as it is helpful, How Not To Be Hacked: The Definitive Guide for Regular People is an excellent resource.


Cloud Computing Design Patterns (The Prentice Hall Service Technology Series from Thomas Erl)
Cloud Computing Design Patterns (The Prentice Hall Service Technology Series from Thomas Erl)
by Thomas Erl
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $42.50
63 used & new from $24.00

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provides well-explained vendor-agnostic patterns to the challenges of providing or using cloud solutions from PaaS to SaaS., July 13, 2015
Far too many technology books take a Hamburger Helper approach, where the first quarter or so of the book is about an introduction to the topic, and filler at the end with numerous appendices of publicly available information. These books end up being well over 800 pages without a lot of original information, even though they are written an advanced audience.

In software engineering, a design pattern is a general repeatable solution to a commonly occurring problem in software design. A design pattern isn't a finished design that can be transformed directly into code. It is a description or template for how to solve a problem that can be used in many different situations.

Using that approach for the cloud, in Cloud Computing Design Patterns, authors Thomas Erl, Robert Cope and Amin Naserpour have written a superb book that has no filler and fully stocked with excellent and invaluable content.

The authors use design patterns to refer to different aspects of cloud architectures and its design requirements. In the cloud, just as in software, design patterns can speed up the development process by providing tested, proven development paradigms.

The book contains over 100 different design pattern scenario templates that are common to a standard enterprise cloud roll-out. Each scenario uses a common template which starts with a question or specific requirement. It then details the problem, solution, application and the mechanisms used to solve the problem.

The authors build on the notion that for anyone who wants to architect a large cloud solution, they need to have a broad understanding of the many factors involved with the real-world usage of cloud services.

Because cloud services are so easy to deploy, they are often incorrectly misconfigured during roll-out and deployment. The authors write that its crucial have a strong background in cloud services before doing any sort of a rollout. Because it’s often so easy to deploy cloud services, this results in far too many failed cloud projects. And when the project is poorly implemented, it can actually cause the business to be in a far worse point from where it was before the cloud rollout.
The authors deserve credit for writing a completely vendor agnostic reference, even though there are many times you would appreciate it if they could suggest a vendor for a specific solution.

The books 10 chapters discuss the following areas:
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Understanding Design Patterns
Chapter 3: Sharing, Scaling and Elasticity Patterns
Chapter 4: Reliability, Resiliency and Recovery Patterns
Chapter 5: Data Management and Storage Device Patterns
Chapter 6: Virtual Server and Hypervisor Connectivity and Management Patterns
Chapter 7: Monitoring, Provisioning and Administration Patterns
Chapter 8: Cloud Service and Storage Security Patterns
Chapter 9: Network Security, Identity & Access Management, and Trust Assurance Patterns
Chapter 10: Common Compound Patterns

Some of the more interesting patterns they detail are:

• Hypervisor clustering – how can a virtual server survive the failure of its hosting hypervisor or physical server?
• Stateless hypervisor – how can a hypervisor be deployed with a minimal amount of downtime, while allowing for quick updating and upgrading?
• Trusted platform BIOS – how can the BIOS on a cloud-based environment be protected from malicious code?
• Trusted cloud resource pools – how can cloud-based resource pools be secured and become trusted?
• Detecting and mitigating user-installed VMs – how can user installed VMs from non-authorized templates be detected and secured?

The book is replete with these scenarios, and each scenario includes downloadable figures that effectively illustrate the mechanisms used to solve the problem.

Chapter 3 provides a number of first-rate architectural ideas on how to design a highly resilient cloud solution. Much of the promise of the cloud is built on scalability, elasticity and overall optimization. These chapters show how to take those possibilities from conceptual to a working implementation.

Cloud failures are inevitable and chapter 4 details how to build failover, redundancy and recovery of IT resources for the cloud environment.

Chapter 9 is particularly important, as far too many designers think that since the underlying cloud abstraction layer is highly secure, everything they build on top of that will have the same level of security. The book details a number of design patterns that are crucial to ensuring the cloud design is securing that data at rest and is resistant against specific cloud attacks.

With a list price of $49.99, the book is a bargain considering the amount of useful information the book provides. For anyone involved with cloud computing design and architecture, Cloud Computing Design Patterns, is an absolute must read.


Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History
Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History
by Marc B. Shapiro
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $36.24
43 used & new from $29.80

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and well document analysis of censorship within the Orthodox world, July 7, 2015
Most of my book reviews here (including this one) have been edited by the astute Ezra Brand. Where his editing ends and censorship begins is not often so clear. So what’s the difference between the two? Let’s start with how Google defines them:

• Censor - examine (a book, movie, etc.) officially and suppress unacceptable parts of it
• Edit - prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it.

One doesn’t have to be an etymologist to see that there is an overlap between the two terms. How can one tell the difference between censorship and editing? You often won’t know it when you see it.

In Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization ISBN 978-1904113607), author Marc Shapiro, professor of religious studies at the University of Scranton, has written an engaging book on the topic of censorship within the Orthodox world.

After finishing the book, it occurred to me that while the content of the book was quite interesting, the title of the book bordered on histrionic. Shapiro highlights innumerable instances of censorship. But the majority of these were micro matters of changing a sentence or two, removing a paragraph, removing a reference to a controversial topic, and the like. While he provides a few examples of where stories have been completely fabricated, the reality is that there are not myriad examples of wholesale rewriting of history by the Orthodox.

With that, Shapiro details how some segments of Judaism's Orthodox society have taken it upon themselves to modify some aspects of the past by censoring books. It should be pointed out that while it is indeed clear that these groups commonly edit out those things that don’t fit their Weltanschauung - as Shapiro shows at length - this phenomenon is hardly unique to the Orthodox.

Just last week, the TV Land cable channel in the United States made the decision to stop airing the 1980s show “Dukes of Hazard” amid controversy over the Confederate flag, which is prominently displayed on the roof of the Duke Boys’ car, named the General Lee. Is that censorship? Or simply a reaction to the times?

Censorship is anathema to an academic like Shapiro, a scholar who has the capabilities to deal with sensitive and often complex topics. But for those writing for a much less sophisticated readership, it may be needed to limit what one writes, as they may lack the wherewithal to properly discern the complex ideas being discussed.

Knowing what not to put into writing can be just as important as to what is left in. At the most simplistic level, we know that reading Stephen King or James Joyce to a 5-year old is not the most judicious approach for bedtime. In matters of philosophy and faith, a reader may also need to be shielded from topics which they simply lack the intellectual wherewithal to properly digest.

The slippery slope is when and where to invoke the rules of censorship. For those wanting a definitive measure, there unfortunately simply isn’t any.

The book opens with the observation that there’s often a tension between the quest for historical truth and the desire of communities of faith to pass on their religious message.

The book is certainly an interesting read, even though Shapiro’s arguments are not always overwhelmingly convincing. He quotes the famous line from A Few Good Men that "You can't handle the truth!” while admitting that there are times where the content is simply too much for the reader. Shapiro writes that Orthodox writers and publishers often worry about how certain texts will affect those who perhaps can’t handle them.

Shapiro writes that it hardly needs to be said that all historians have biases. He observes though that academic historians often have an unconscious bias, while those Orthodox who try to re-write history do it consciously.

Chapter 5 is about Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and is one of the most interesting in the book. Shapiro writes that when it comes to Orthodox censoring of the past so as to align it with the present, the figure of Rabbi Kook stands out. It’s not that it was only Rabbi Kook’s adversaries who did much of the editing/censorship; rather it was his own son Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook. Part of the reason he edited/censored his father’s work is that he felt some of his father’s writing were not appropriate for the generation. In addition, due to their controversial nature, any misinterpretation could be very harmful.

Shapiro acknowledges that censorship does have a place when he concludes chapter 5 with the observation that when Kook was censored, those who did it were actually doing him a favor by helping to preserve his reputation. While that fact does not make the censorship any more acceptable, Shapiro writes, it does show that not all censorship comes from a bad place. And with Kook, this censorship is motivated not by opposition to the figure being censored, but out of reverence for him and a desire to ensure that this reverence is shared by as many as possible.

The book concludes with chapter 8 on the topic of “is the truth really that important?” Shapiro does a superb job in collecting various sources on the topic. Immanuel Kant said that lying is always morally wrong. Judaism understands that there is an inherent tension between preserving the truth, which is a fundamental imperative, and the notion that there are times where it’s better to lie.

The book is indeed a fascinating and well researched book. The title itself is somewhat broad, as it’s not that Orthodox Judaism has rewritten its history at the macro level. Rather Shapiro has documented many cases where it has been modified at the micro level.


Information Security Analytics: Finding Security Insights, Patterns, and Anomalies in Big Data
Information Security Analytics: Finding Security Insights, Patterns, and Anomalies in Big Data
by Alan Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: $49.71
39 used & new from $36.48

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good guide for those looking to get a solid into to information security data analytics, June 30, 2015
Getting log data is not an IT challenge. But the information security challenge and a huge struggle for those who are tasked with it, is making sense of a near infinite amount of data.

In Information Security Analytics: Finding Security Insights, Patterns, and Anomalies in Big Data, authors Mark Talabis, Robert McPherson, I. Miyamoto and Jason Martin have created a brief guide that shows how you can take the myriad raw data, and turn it into meaningful analytics.

The authors focus on the methods that are particularly useful for discovering security breaches and attacks, which can be implemented via either free software, or using commonly available software.

Like most titles on data analytics, the book places a heavy influence on R, is a programming language and software environment for statistical computing.

The book is a good how-to guide with plenty of coding examples, to show the reader how to effectively use the tools to make sense of the data they have.

For those new to the topic of data analytics, Data-Driven Security: Analysis, Visualization and Dashboards by Jay Jacobs and Bob Rudis is the gold-standard on the topic.

This book builds on that with an emphasis on information security is a worth a read for those with an interest in the topic.


There Will Be Cyberwar: How The Move To Network-Centric War Fighting Has Set The Stage For Cyberwar
There Will Be Cyberwar: How The Move To Network-Centric War Fighting Has Set The Stage For Cyberwar
by Richard Stiennon
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.85
30 used & new from $7.47

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling read about the inevitability of a cyber 9/11, June 22, 2015
A point Richard Stiennon makes a number of times in There Will Be Cyberwar: How The Move To Network-Centric War Fighting Has Set The Stage For Cyberwar; is that cyber Pearl Harbor is the wrong metaphor. He feels a more appropriate metaphor is cyber 9/11.

At 135 pages, the book is a quick and enthralling read. And at the end you are left wondering if just perhaps, there has already been a cyber 9/11.

Much of the book describes the working of network-centric warfare (NCW). The main theory of NCW is to remove the fog of war via a sensor grid and a combination of precision-guided weapons, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and command and control. It’s that move to NCW that Stiennon believes has set the stage for an inevitable cyberwar.

The book details how the US has spent billions in a run up to NCW, but seems to have forgotten that its underlying infrastructure (Windows, GPS, drones, etc.), were all built on insecure software. With that, the Pentagon has had numerous wake up calls, from malware on top secret networks, the Snowden debacle and more. Yet the reality is that the Internet and most military networks, as the book points out in detail, are quote porous.

Much of the book deals with China, and their overt and covert attempts to penetrate US systems, networks and any intellectual property they can get their hands on.

Chapter 8 on Assurance is a particularly fascinating chapter. While China has made it eminently clear that their goal is world domination, US firms and the US government have no qualms about outsourcing the manufacturing of key components to China.

A both fascinating and horrifying point the book makes is that the US does not have a comprehensive program to certify that integrated circuits going into US weapons systems don’t contain malicious circuits. While DARPA is working on such a program, it’s still in its infancy; leaving US systems and military equipment at risk.

The book brings to light a fact about the Hainan Island incident; the April 2001 incident of a midair collision between a Navy EP-3E and Chinese J-8II fighter. The result was that the crew of the EP-3E were not able to sanitize all of their equipment in time, which enabled the Chinese to ultimately reverse engineer the secret operating system used on the plane. By doing that, the Chinese has a road map for decrypting Navy classified intelligence and operational data.

A cyber 9/11 is inevitable, and as There Will Be Cyberwar shows, it might just be closer than we think.


Protocols of Justice (2 Vol. Set): The Pinkas of the Metz Rabbinic Court 1771-1789 (Studies in Jewish History and Culture)
Protocols of Justice (2 Vol. Set): The Pinkas of the Metz Rabbinic Court 1771-1789 (Studies in Jewish History and Culture)
by Jay R. Berkovitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $330.00
25 used & new from $189.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking research on how the French rabbinical courts interacted with society at large, June 14, 2015
Journals and diaries have long provided historians and readers with unique insights into historical events. From Anne Frank to Virginia Woolf and more, the details in these accounts are of significant historical value.

While not at the individual level, Protocols of Justice: The Pinkas of the Metz Rabbinic Court 1771-1789 (Brill Academic Publishers ISBN 978-9004265158) details the official register of cases that came before the Metz, France rabbinic court (beis din) in the two decades prior to the French Revolution. The register (pinkas) deals with a wide range of cases that the Jews of Metz dealt with.

Author Jay Berkovitz, Professor and Chair of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has painstakingly transcribed the pinkas, which provides fascinating and new insights in the lives of the Jews of Metz. Through his work, Berkovitz has opened a manuscript long gathering dust in the YIVO archives, brought it to light, and created an invaluable resource for scholars.

But his contribution is not simply as a transcriber; rather his decipherment of the cases significantly changes our understanding of how the Metz rabbinic court interacted with French society at large, in addition to the influence of French society on the court itself.

A pinkas can refer to both court registers, in addition to communal registers. The pinkas of the Metz Rabbinic Court (PMRC) is one of a very limited number of extant court journals.

The PMRC is perhaps the most complete beis din journal available. This provides researchers with a unique mapping to information concerning the culture of the Jewish community. It in turn can be used to investigate the interplay between law, society and culture. While the transcripts of the cases in the pinkas are somewhat dry, the discover of this interplay that Berkovitz has uncovered is groundbreaking.

The pinkas allows the reader to better understand the communal structures, economic patterns, dynamics of family life and role of law in the years leading up to the French revolution. The events that transpired and the cases that came before the court are not that radically different than what many courts deal with today.

The MBD (Metz beis din) dealt with a wide variety of cases encompassing the entire spectrum of life, including commercial transactions and disputes, inheritance and division of assets, paternity cases, women’s roles in economic life, the interplay between French law and Jewish law, and much more. As to inheritances, the book interestingly notes that French civil courts at the time did not recognize a will as a means of distributing property in the estate of the deceased. It’s such an environment in which the MBD had to deal with.

The PMRC is not a word by word transcription of what occurred in the beis din. Rather a detailed summary of the judicial proceedings that were produced by court scribes.

Berkovitz writes that the pinkas shows that the MBD didn’t operate in a vacuum and to a degree, was fully engaged with French culture of the times.

This is a 2-volume set with volume 1 providing a narrative and overview, and volume 2 with the actual text of the pinkas. The five chapters of the English volume 1 are:
1. Law and historical narrative in the eighteenth century
2. Communal autonomy and rabbinic jurisdiction
3. Legal acculturation and its broader social foundations
4. Overlapping jurisdictions : between legal centralism and legal pluralism
5. Women, family, and property

With volume 2, in Hebrew consisting of
• Volume One, Part One: Fol. 5a-46a, July 1771– December 1774
• Volume One, Part Two: Fol. 2a-54b, January 1774 – July 1777
• Volume Two: Fol. 1a-147a, August 1777 – 1 July 1789
• Appendix 1: Additional Cases August 1789 – January 1790
• Appendix 2: List of Judges on the Beit Din
• Appendix 3: Copy of consultation from Messieurs Pierre-Louis Roederer and Paquin, avocats
• Appendix 4: List of Places
• Appendix 5: List of Foreign (non-Hebrew) Words and Phrases
• List of Abbreviations

Volume 2 lends itself to the serious scholar who has the time and wherewithal to plow through the many cases, in additional to fluency in Hebrew. Volume 1 in a much more readable which lends itself to the non-scholarly reader.

Volumes 2 has but 1 facsimile page from the pinkas. From a visual perspective, it would have been more gratifying had a larger number of facsimile pages been included to get a better feel for the layout and overall formatting of the pinkas. In addition, at over 1,000 pages, the volume would have been much more manageable and usable had it be divided into 2 volumes.

A significant theme that Berkovitz advances is that the Metz court records contain conclusive evidence that the engagement of the Jews with the social, cultural and economic dimensions of the society around them was far greater than is generally assumed.

Berkovitz notes that one can’t simply dive into the pinkas without first considering three intersecting areas of history and law. Namely the history of the Jews in Metz and northeastern France, modes of Jewish jurisprudents in the Beis Din, and the relationship between Jewish law and general law. The book provides significant and interesting detail into all of those areas.

The portrait of the MBD focuses on both its roles in the local community affairs and on its interaction with the larger world of French law and jurisprudence. In fact, the MBD records challenge the very idea of an insular Jewish legal system and an insular Jewish culture. It was this theme which I found most interesting.

Chapter 5 on Woman, Family and Property is particularly interesting, as the proceedings of the MBD challenge the monolithic picture of the traditional family by presenting a wider variety of images of family relationships than is generally available in most conventional accounts and prescriptive legal sources. Women of the time were indeed heavily involved in the commercial sector. Berkovitz writes that women involved in pawn broking and moneylending constituted roughly twenty percent of the total number of Jewish lenders who appeared before the MBD.

The pinkas shows the enormously complex legal, social and political challenges that the Jews of Metz and environs faced. By opening up this important pinkas, Berkovitz has given researchers significant amounts of area in which to delve deeper.

The pinkas shows that the daily lives and problems faced by the Jews of Metz were not so different than what many today. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose


Crafting the InfoSec Playbook: Security Monitoring and Incident Response Master Plan
Crafting the InfoSec Playbook: Security Monitoring and Incident Response Master Plan
by Jeff Bollinger
Edition: Paperback
Price: $42.73
55 used & new from $25.70

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable resource to use to build out a security monitoring and incident response program, June 10, 2015
An extremely important piece of advice in Crafting the InfoSec Playbook: Security Monitoring and Incident Response Master Plan is on page 85, where authors Jeff Bollinger, Brandon Enright and Matthew Valites write that you will need at least one dedicated and full-time person to analyze your security event data.

When creating programs for information security monitoring and its corresponding incident response plans, far too many firms focus solely on the software, hardware and appliances; not realizing it takes people to make it work. The book shows how to take the potential of them devices, and put them into actuality. The book notes that it’s not a trivial matter, but it’s not rocket science, and it can be done.

The premise of the book is that only when you know and can describe exactly what you are trying to protect; can you develop an information security playbook and incident response program. The book then goes into detail just how to do that.

The book is an extremely valuable reference for anyone who wants to build out a security monitoring and incident program. The authors take a very hands-on approach on how to develop a strategy to ensure that the process is done effectively, rather than by simply installing a few appliances and hoping for the best.

While the authors are all part of the Cisco Computer Security Incident Response Team, the book takes a vendor agnostic approach to the topic.

Security monitoring and incident response are two critical component of a larger information security program. For those that are serious about building that out, Crafting the InfoSec Playbook: Security Monitoring and Incident Response Master Plan is a great resource to start with.


Sa'adyah Gaon (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization)
Sa'adyah Gaon (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization)
by Dr. Robert Brody
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $36.50
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating work, about one of the most fascinating personalities in Jewish thought., June 3, 2015
The period of the Geonim dates from roughly 600 CE to 1040 CE. The Geon was the head of the Sura and Pumbedisa yeshivas in Babylonia, and was the de facto spiritual leader of the worldwide Jewish community. Much of the Geonic period is shrouded in mystery. In fact, it’s unclear just how the Geon was elected in the first place.

Sa'adyah Gaon was arguably the greatest of the Geonim. And in a remarkable biographical work appropriately titled Sa'adyah Gaon, Robert Brody, professor of Talmud at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, provides a fascinating overview of his life, the challenges he faced, battles he fought, and how his influence is still felt today. Just how great was Sa'adya? Brody quotes no less than Abraham ibn Ezra who referred to him as the chief discourser everywhere (ראש המדברים בכל מקום), a Rabbinic idiom meaning that his opinions should be the starting point for any intellectual discussion.

Sa'adyah was the most influential rabbinic personality of the Geonic period whose broad influence on the development of the Jewish tradition is still felt today. A biography of such a figure was much needed, and Brody’s work fills this lacuna.

The first chapter opens with an introduction to the Geonic period that provides a background to the milieu in which Sa'adyah lived.

A polymath of the first order, six of the eight chapters focus on the various subject areas on which Sa'adyah wrote, namely with a focus on Sa'adyah as a philosopher, Biblical commentator, linguist, poet, man of Halacha and polemicist. Brody provides a meaningful overview of who Sa'adyah was, what he stood for, and the many battles he fought.

Looking at his life now, it’s quite easy to overlook what a trailblazer and revolutionary Sa'adyah was. Brody writes that as far as we know, the only literary activity in which the Babylonian Geonim before Sa'adyah’s time engaged in was the writing of responsa. Sa'adyah diverged from that path and we still have a large amount of his writings on myriad topics, though some have been lost.

Brody also interestingly notes that one of Sa’adyah’s significant departures from precedent was that he was the first to introduce the Jerusalem Talmud and aggadic midrashim to the literary world of rabbinic Babylonia.

Sa'adyah is perhaps best known for his theological battles with the Karaites. The book notes that he was certainly well suited to that line of activity, which demanded intellectual and rhetorical vigor and a powerful and combative personality.

It was that very personality that lead him to be elected as Geon, which is remarkable given his Egyptian birth. As the Geonate was traditionally left to native Babylonian scholars.

In addition, Brody pays special attention to the great calendar controversy of 922 with Aaron ben Meir of Eretz Yisrael, in which Sa'adyah prevailed. Sa’adyah’s victory was due in large part to the force of his personality, boldness, brilliance and sense of conviction. The calendar controversy arose in part due to the prolonged, and often fierce, rivalry that existed between the scholars of Babylonia and Israel. Much was at stake, as the Rabbinic leadership in Babylonia and Israel were in competition in general for influence over the Diaspora.

Brody lists over twenty books and treatises that Sa'adyah wrote, of which his most famous is Emunos ve-Deos (“The Book of Beliefs and Opinions”), composed in 933 CE. The theme of the book is his reconciliation of Jewish tradition and rationality.

Brody notes that Sa'adyah was so multifaceted that it’s impossible for any one person to do justice in a biography of Sa'adyah and evaluate the full extent and variety of his life’s work. Unfortunately, Brody exacerbates that given the brevity of the book, coming in at a scant 160 pages. One gets the feeling that Brody is holding back, and in this case, readers would appreciate much more details about Sa'adyah.

Sa’adyah was the type of brilliant individual that only comes along every few hundred years. Brody’s book, albeit a brief one, gives you a sense of who Sa’adyah was, and the impact of his works. It’s a fascinating work, about one of the most fascinating personalities in Jewish thought.


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