RECENT RELEASE! Alternative Medicine in Halachah

June 20, 2017

There’s a woman I know who has been trying for years to lose weight, mostly without too much success. Weight Watchers, Fit for Life, Atkin’s, exercise—you name it, she’s tried it.

“I’ve had it with these diets that don’t work for me!” she once complained to me. “You know what I really want to try—something that might actually get rid of the extra pounds?” Without waiting for my response, she went on, “Kinesiology. That’s what I want to try.”

Er, okay…now, what’s that?

Seeing my blank look, she explained that kinesiology is some kind of alternative therapy that helps pinpoint—and correct—certain imbalances in the body, which could go a long way toward figuring out why all of her diets weren’t working and what she could do differently in order to lose weight.

“Sounds good,” I told her. “So…why don’t you go for it?”

“I can’t,” she said. “My husband won’t let, because it might involve issurim of avodah zarah.”

Whoa. I was not going to argue with that one!

I thought of this conversation when I saw the new book released recently by Israel Bookshop, Alternative Medicine in Halachah, by Rabbi Raphael Szmerla. Unbeknownst to little me, there are a host of alternative therapies and practices in existence, all of which are said to restore healing for various maladies and medical conditions. In addition to kinesiology, there’s hands-on healing, acupuncture, dowsing, homeopathy and flower essences, geobiology and feng shui, hypnotherapy, and yoga, to name a few.

Problem is…like this woman’s husband feared, so many of these practices may seem to touch on extremely serious Torah prohibitions—we’re talking actual avodah zarah, kishuf, things like that! It’s a scary business… How is any frum Jew supposed to know whether or not he may avail himself of any alternative medicines, if the pitfalls are so dangerous and unknown?!

Ah, but the key word here is “unknown.” Until now that’s what all these alternative medicines and therapies were, by most halachic authorities—unknown. Who actually knew where homeopathy or acupuncture or kinesiology actually found their sources? Who really knew what feng shui is?

Now, with Alternative Medicine in Halachah out on the shelves, the hazy curtain shading these therapies and practices has been pulled, with the author, Rabbi Szmerla, doing the work for us. Rabbi Szmerla is an outstanding talmid chacham, former rosh kollel, and posek who has spent over three decades steeped in the deep waters of Gemara and halachah. For many years now, he has delved into the halachic issues surrounding the use of alternative therapies. To do so, he has personally studied some of these therapies in depth, in addition to having had close contact with many practitioners of different modalities for the past twenty-five years. Rather than relying on hearsay or dubious Internet research or magazine articles, he has made sure to obtain a first-hand, deep understanding of each alternative therapy before attempting to determine its halachic status.

The fifteen haskamos Rabbi Szmerla received for this book, from some of our most esteemed poskim in Eretz Yisrael, England, and America, are testaments to his integrity, scholarship, and yiras Shamayim.

After learning through this book, the reader will discover, as I did, that while some alternative medicines and practices are unequivocally permitted, some are permitted only under certain conditions, and some are categorically prohibited.

Next time I meet up with my kinesiology-interested acquaintance, I’ll know just where to guide her and her husband, so they can find out if perhaps this alternative therapy is something she can try out after all…

Click here to purchase online.

NEW RELEASE! Table for Two

June 5, 2017

“I just made the S’mores Bars—they came out yuuuum! And I’m so proud of myself—they look exactly like the ones in the photo!”

“I tried the Sweet Chinese Chicken for supper—everyone’s plates were licked clean!”

“I had a ton of oatmeal to use up, so I made the Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal for breakfast. So easy, and it was really filling—and delicious!”

Just a sampling of the rave reports that came pouring into our office just days after the release of Table for Two—A Kallah’s Cookbook. (The editor and proofreader actually gave their two-thumbs-up reviews before the cookbook came in—they snuck the recipes from the PDFs they were working off…shh!)

Let me set the record straight here: although yes, this cookbook is absolutely perfect for the kallah and newlywed just starting out in the kitchen, it is definitely not limited to those starry-eyed young ‘uns among us! The recipes here can—and SHOULD!—be used by every cook who’d like to see her food being eaten and blissfully enjoyed by her loved ones (which includes herself, too, of course!)!

What makes this cookbook so unique is how beautifully basic and simple the recipes in it are. How many hundreds of cookbooks out there have recipes like “Balsamic-Infused Cornish Hens with Rosemary and Thyme Sauce” and “Seven-Layer-Double-Chocolate-Caramel Torte with Rhubarb and Custard Cream”? I’m not saying those recipes aren’t delicious, of course (er, I don’t know about the Rosemary and Thyme Sauce…)—but tell me, which typical, crazy-busy wife/mother/homemaker-plus-employee is actually going to make that?!

The recipes in Table for Two are different. Every single recipe is easy to make, with a short and straightforward list of ingredients that you’ll actually already have in your house—yet, to put it in the words of one of the above recipe testers, they are all yuuum!

And that’s why this cookbook is so perfect for beginner cooks, like young kallahs and newlyweds. Not every girl gets married knowing how to make cholent, or potato kugel, or even basic chicken and rice! (I know I certainly had a lot of learning to do in my first kitchen!) With the release of Table for Two—A Kallah’s Cookbook, which includes all these basic, good “heimishe” recipes, plus lots of other, not-so-basic-but-still-incredibly-easy recipes, these girls, too, can hold their heads high in their kitchens, confident in the knowledge that they can and, b’ezras Hashem, WILL become fabulous cooks in no time!

Buy this stunning cookbook for the kallah whose bridal shower you need to bring a gift to. Buy it for your wife, or mother, or mother-in-law…or yourself! All of you will love it—we guarantee!

Click here to purchase online.

NEW RELEASE! Dance of the Puppet

May 23, 2017

It was the weirdest feeling. For the first time, I really understood the phrase “to be someone’s puppet.”

I profess to being, what I call, “technically challenged.” Credit card terms, bank offers, points and mileage—to me, they’re all one big cholent pot of confusing lingo and terminology. Baruch Hashem we’ve worked out a set-up in which my husband more or less takes care of all of these kinds of things for the family, so I can happily be left out of it all.

But sometimes I have no choice but to get involved. Like when a credit card is under my name, and the credit card company only agrees to talk to me—not hubby—about whatever the issue may be. That’s how I found myself one day having the strangest conversation ever, with American Express.

There I was, on the phone with them, my husband seated strategically to my right.

“Okay, ma’am,” Cindy, the AmEx representative, chirped. “Let’s get started. What’s your member ID?”

Member ID? I looked blankly at my husband.

“She means this number,” he whispered, pointing to the paper in my hand.

“Oh, of course! My member ID!” I chirped back. “Sure! Here it is.”

And so our conversation went. Every time Cindy asked me a question, I’d mouth it to my husband, who’d quickly mouth back the answer, which I’d then repeat, with as much confidence as I could muster, to the ever-so-patient rep.

Like I said, it was a really weird—and really uncomfortable—feeling. When I finally hung up, I mentally resolved to sit down and familiarize myself with the credit card lingo once and for all, no matter what it would take, so I wouldn’t have to be anyone’s puppet again, even for such a small and inconsequential thing.

Yaffa Levinsky, in Dance of the Puppet, knows all too well how it feels to be a puppet—and not just for a couple of insignificant occasions. Yaffa’s whole day job revolves around her being other people’s puppet…unless she decides to do something about that.

But can she? Can the soft young woman manage to acquire her own backbone and do things her own way, for a change? Can the girl who’s happy to become a cleaning lady, simply because she’s sure she can’t do anything else, actually make waves in one of the most prestigious high schools in the city?

That, dear readers, awaits to be seen in this phenomenal, suspenseful novel, by bestselling author Esther Rappaport!

Click here to purchase online.

NEW RELEASE! A Living Sefer Torah

May 22, 2017

When it comes to “Torah heroes” we want our children—and ourselves—to emulate, it’s safe to assume that Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a will be on everyone’s list. This is a gadol who has all of Torah right at his fingertips, a gadol who is literally a “living sefer Torah.

Whether it’s finishing all of Shas and poskim once a year; learning a masechta in his sleep (!); or getting lost in his Gemara while sitting in a tiny chair in a kindergarten class (you need to read that story to see what we mean!), the genius and hasmadah of Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a are legendary. And wondrous things often happen to a person on this level…

Read all about it in A Living Sefer Torah, a collection of 25 awe-inspiring stories for children (and adults!), about a truly awe-inspiring gadol—the living sefer Torah, Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a.

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NEW RELEASE! The Ambassadors

May 19, 2017

It’s the story we grew up on. At Bnos or Pirchei events, around camp bonfires, or at some lucky families’ Shabbos tables, this was the tale the dramatic storytellers would say over, each one outdoing the other with their descriptions of the evil galach and his black magic capabilities. (“’Aaabra Kadaaabra!’ he would say, and then—POOF! The person disappeared!”) If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m referring to the amazing, legendary story of the Baal Akdamos.

What?! You don’t know the story?! You mean to say that you played hooky at all those events…? Well, I don’t want to ruin the incredible tale for you—only a proper storyteller (see above qualifications!) could do justice to it. Or…you can always go out and buy The Ambassadors!

When I first saw this book, I was amazed. What a fantastic idea! To put this beloved true story into comics form, for children to be able to read—and thoroughly enjoy—all by themselves…pure genius!

Then I began leafing through the pages, and my high regard for the book sky-rocketed! The attention to detail…the realistic illustrations…the fictional storyline that threads its way throughout the non-fictional account… I’m telling you, dear readers, you must see this book for yourselves to see what I mean! It is absolutely a jewel among today’s children’s books.

Treat your kids to The Ambassadors for this Shavuos! They’ll understand the story behind the holy Akdamos prayer like never before—and what’s more, they’ll be entertained the entire Yom Tov long!

Click here to purchase online.

NEW RELEASE! Just Imagine—We’re Bringing Bikkurim!

May 18, 2017

Did you ever wonder what it was like to bring bikkurim during the times of the Beis Hamikdash? We hear so much about it—the tremendous joy that permeated the entire event, the different steps to the process, the excitement and anticipation that ran high as the bikkurim-bearers joined the procession to Yerushalayim… Wouldn’t it be amazing if you, as a parent, could give over this emotion-laden account to your children so that they, too, could appreciate what the bikkurim-bringing procession was all about?

Now you could!

With the release of the newest book in the Just Imagine series, We’re Bringing Bikkurim!, your children can now read all about the exciting events surrounding the bringing of bikkurim, in the way that they like best—through comics, of course! As with the other books in this groundbreaking and much beloved series, readers will be able to imagine as if they themselves were bringing the bikkurim to the Beis Hamikdash, and the excitement they’ll feel by reading this account will be absolutely genuine!

Click here to purchase online.


NEW RELEASE! Matriarch of King Dovid’s Dynasty

May 17, 2017

Megillas Rus. We read it in shul every Shavuos, the yahrtzeit of Dovid Hamelech, Rus’s descendant. But who was this righteous convert named Rus? How did a former Moavite princess merit to become the wife of the Shofet Yisrael and the matriarch of the Davidic dynasty, culminating in Melech Hamashiach? Clearly, there are layers and layers of meaning behind this well-known story.

For decades, students and educators alike have turned to Rav Gershon Weiss’s works in an effort to understand cryptic stories and episodes in Tanach and Jewish history, and the story of Rus is no exception. In Matriarch of King Dovid’s Dynasty, Rabbi Weiss takes us through all of Megillas Rus with an extensive and enlightening commentary. Drawing upon numerous mefarshim, this book will help you understand the amazing story of Rus with an incredible clarity and understanding of the significance of each event that occurred.

Have you always wondered about the Moavite princess-turned-convert-and-tzaddeikes, from whom Dovid Hamelech emerged? After reading this beautiful book, you will no longer be left wondering. Indeed, you will be privy to an absolutely stunning swatch of history, one which hasn’t yet finished being woven…

Click here to purchase online.