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Judges for Our Time: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Shoftim Hardcover – March 1, 2009
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Brings immediacy and life to the great characters portrayed in the Book of Judges. --Rabbi Berel Wein Rav of Bet Knesset Hanasi, and noted historian and lecturer<br /><br />Rabbi Pruzansky has shown that the writings of our prophets are not simple books of history meant to teach us events of the past but are voices of prophecy, carrying with them Divine lessons for the future. His penetrating analysis of the period of the Judges and its application to our own day reminds us that our Holy Scriptures are both timeless and timely. This volume is an essential addition to the library of anyone who believes that the messages of yesterday still speak to us and still direct us today. --Rabbi Neil Winkler, Young Israel of Fort Lee, New Jersey<br /><br />The message for our time that flows so naturally from the author's pen makes Shoftim a guide to current events. Rabbi Pruzansky expresses the prophetic message clearly, emphatically and boldly. --Rabbi Sholom Gold, Jerusalem
The message for our time that flows so naturally from the author's pen makes Shoftim a guide to current events. Rabbi Pruzansky expresses the prophetic message clearly, emphatically and boldly. --Rabbi Sholom Gold, Jerusalem
Rabbi Pruzansky has shown that the writings of our prophets are not simple books of history meant to teach us events of the past but are voices of prophecy, carrying with them Divine lessons for the future. His penetrating analysis of the period of the Judges and its application to our own day reminds us that our Holy Scriptures are both timeless and timely. This volume is an essential addition to the library of anyone who believes that the messages of yesterday still speak to us and still direct us today. --Rabbi Neil Winkler, Young Israel of Fort Lee, New Jersey
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Rabbi Pruzansky recognizes that the title "judges" does not refer to a judicial function. He portrays the judges as more than mere charismatic military commanders who rose when an occasion demanded a leader to save the Israelites from belligerent nations. The judges are men and women devoted to God and His Torah, with an overriding mission to bring their coreligionists to proper divine worship.
He reads the biblical book, which he titles by its Hebrew name Shoftim rather than Judges, as much more than a volume of history. "Properly understood," he writes, "Shoftim provides a window into our world" and to the future of Judaism. The problems described in Judges not only confronted the ancient Israelites when they first entered Canaan over three thousand years ago, but are "potential pitfalls of modern statehood" in general and individual Jews in particular today and in the future.
The rabbi approaches his subject with the conviction that God was and is present and involved in human affairs daily, and that the State of Israel should not be pluralistic like the United States, but a country that accepts Torah laws as its constitution. He understands that the more than dozen judges mentioned in the biblical book served the Israelites consecutively, that they did not overlap, and that the period of the judges lasted 366 years. He generally accepts didactic elaborations contained in post-biblical Midrashim, which the Book Shoftim does not even hint, literally. Thus the judge Otniel, for example, was not only an accomplished military general who stepped forward to save his people from danger, as told in Judges, but a biblical scholar who spent hours daily in Bible study. The judge Ehud, to cite another example, was only successful in killing an enemy king because he was one of four people who died without ever committing a sin. Additionally, the non-Israelite Goliath, who David slew, was a descendant of the judge Samson.
Rabbi Pruzansky spends some sixty pages, over a quarter of his book, discussing the most famous and perhaps most interesting and problematical of the judges, Samson. The Bible depicts him as an unusually strong man who fought against Philistines as a lone wolf, alone, seemingly against the consensus of his people, who intermarried, and who was seduced and foiled by Delilah.
Steven Pruzansky sees Samson as some Midrashim show him. Samson is "the leading Torah scholar and spiritual guide" of his age. He taught his people Torah for some twenty years "between his skirmishes and intermarriages." His "one-man wars enabled the people to focus on rebuilding their spiritual lives free from the terror of the Philistines." Pruzansky explains that Samson married non-Israelite women as a two-pronged strategic subterfuge to ingratiate himself in the enemy camp and to seemingly separate himself from the Israelites so that the Philistines would not seek revenge for his deeds against his people.
Pruzansky explains that although Samson's strategy was inspired and even directed by God, Samson failed because living among the non-Israelites turned his heart and mind. He fell in love with Delilah, who was using as a tool to his task. Samson "was harmed by his prolonged exposure to the decadent society of the Philistines. He infiltrated it, but, in turn, it infiltrated him as well" even though he was protected by a divine plan and his Torah studies.
So, too, many Jews today, the rabbi teaches, have well-meaning and seemingly cogent goals, that fail because of the temptations of the non-Jewish secular environment.
Yet, despite the danger, he continues, Judaism needs leaders who are proactive and have the courage to "risk their spiritual lives and even their physical existence - to assist other Jews, to bring them back to Torah, to conquer the land of Israel from ruthless enemies, and to infiltrate behind enemy lines - like" the Jewish spies who forfeited life and family to live as Arabs. He emphasizes the declaration attributed to the British statesman Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." He offers over a dozen examples of modern Israeli heroic Samson-like acts.
Since Samson is depicted as an observant Jew devoted to Torah law, questions arise. How could this leader violate Jewish laws, such as living as a Philistine? How could Samson kill seemingly innocent non-Israelites? How could he commit arson? Pruzansky analyses these and other questions and offers answers.
This reading of the Samson story, one example among the more than dozen judges, serves to show how Pruzansky sees the Book of Judges teaching how Jews should behave today and in the future.
He incorporates extra-biblical Jewish traditions into the stories of the Judges and builds his interpretations of events on the combined elements of the book of Judges and the Jewish traditions.
Naturally, I didn't always agree with the author's conclusions or commentary, but as I read this book along side of my own copy of the book of the Judges, I found it gave me a fresh perspective on the ancient stories I have known from childhood and a new way of thinking about some of today's political questions.
To get an idea of this Rabbi just check out his blog. His blog basically subscribes that anyone who thinks politically different then me and worse not part of my brand of Judaism nothing is ever said nice about them and the worst motives are assumed by Rabbi Pruzansky. He also unlike the judges will sensor reasonable opinions that disagree with him even if they are based on fact and in no way get personal as I am doing here.
The Judges tried to bring all Jews together and Rabbi Pruzansky does nothing to that goal.
Just one horrible example he loves to put down other brands of Judaism and his own Brand of Judaism is basically has some very small flaws but they are the exception not the rule. How does this bring Jews some unity which the judges through their judgement did create some unity and not one group hating the other group. WHAT IS THE MOST TERRIBLE ABOUT THIS is this man loves to put all brands of Judaism other then his own Chasidic Judaism,. Conservative Judaism, Reform Judaism to win some points for those who like to focus on hating others and blaming other Jews for their problems yet the vast majority of Jews are just unaffiliated and Rabbis like him ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM THAT NEED SOLUTIONS. Not my brand of Judaism is better then your brand of Judaism and to openly point out problems and not suggest any solutions but just to be one up of another group. That is horrible and as a Jewish man who has been taken advantage of by other Jews with it is this kind of mentality that allows this to happen and him focuses on Jews to blame all their problems on Jews from a different brand of Judaism but never his brand. And in the end ALL JEWS LOSE because of petty men like Rabbi Pruzansky. So why is he writing this book if it doesn't seem to affect him in the slightest as I don't see anything he does that shows the mentality of the judges in the bible as he couldn't care less about his people only to promote himself and his brand of Judaism which at best represents maybe 5% of the Jewish people as a whole.