Gifts From Hashem by Rabbi Moshe Goldberger

Opening the mailbox to find a review copy of Gifts From Hashem, by Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, was such a joy!

cover gifts from Hashem


The sefer is now parked next to our dining room table for a daily session of it at dinner time.

We highly recommend you get a copy do the same.

This book is adapted from the classic, hard-to-find “Apple Book,” the sefer Speak in All His Wonders, which is based on the teachings of Harav Avigdor Miller.

The material has been revised and expanded. It is arranged in short daily lessons that are meant to help readers achieve joy through being aware of Hashem’s presence in the world. Each lesson — most are less than a full page — is followed by a thought for the day.

The sefer has six parts. The first explores the concept of bechinah. The second helps readers put it into practice by appreciating the wonders of the human body. The third turns its focus on Hashem’s amazing creations in the world around us. By this time, readers must be experienced  bechinah practitioners, so Part IV raises the stakes. It is about appreciating pain, suffering, poverty, etc. Part V addresses a gift from Hashem that many people hardly stop to dwell on: The gift of being Jewish.

Appreciating Gifts from Hashem Through the Morning Blessings

The last section of the book leads readers through the Morning Blessings in a way that may forever change how we recite them.  In fact, the publisher promises an upcoming booklet that will contain only this section of the sefer, for those who want to use it in their morning tefillah.

There’s also a classroom edition of Gifts From Hashem in the works, which is wonderful news.

As Rabbi Goldberger writes in the introduction, “Through bechinah, we learn how to see the world through the Torah’s eyes and how to appreciate Hashem’s gifts. We develop an ever-increasing happiness and love of Hashem.”

We couldn’t think of a better goal with which to start a new year.

Published by Simchas Hachaim (which is the official publisher of Harav Avigdor Miller’s books and lectures.)

We received a review copy of this sefer.


Take It Easy! Gluten-Free Recipes for Passover

Take It Easy! Gluten-Free Recipes for Passover and Year Round by Mindy Rafalowitz  is a cookbook of delicious, simple recipes that I’d recommend to new and experienced cooks alike – regardless of whether they eat gluten or not.

Take It Easy! Gluten-Free Passover by Mindy RafalowitzIt is the most exciting recent addition to my collection of cookbooks.

Given that I have several hundred cookbooks, this actually is very high praise.

This is the English translation of the best-selling Israeli cookbook Mitbashel Poh Mashehu, which is already in its fourth printing.

It’s easy to see why it was so popular.

This book is packed with recipes chosen because they are tasty, healthy, easy to make and relatively inexpensive.

But what I love most about it is the whole underlying philosophy. Mrs. Rafalowitz is here to remind cooks that they don’t need to work themselves to the bone or break the bank to provide delicious, nourishing, even impressive meals to family and guests.

The recipes are made with simple, easy to find natural ingredients.  They’re also peppered with comments and tips on how to make things easier for the cook (hence the title). There are variations to some of the dishes, suggested substitutions, and tips on how to wow your family and guests with simple but effective presentation tricks.

I admit that I’m as easily enticed as anyone by beautiful photographs in cookbooks. This book has none. That makes it cheaper to buy and given the tone of the book, I suspect this was an intentional decision.

That thrifty, easy attitude permeates the book in a very refreshing way. It’s good to be reminded that while delicious food it an important part of Shabbos and Yom Tov, it shouldn’t come at the expense of an akeret habayis being able to spend time with family and enjoy Yom Tov.

It shows, too, in the book’s design. Each recipe is set out clearly, with the steps numbered and widely spaced. There are a minimum number of steps, too, and most recipes cover only one page. I couldn’t believe how much easier it was to glance back at the instructions while making something than it is with many other cookbooks.

Those thoughtful details make a big difference when you’re working under pressure.

Gluten-Free Recipes All Year Around

I do want to debunk a misconception caused by the book’s cover: This is not only a Pesach cookbook. It’s a collection of gluten-free, non-gebrokts and no potato starch recipes. So it’s understandable that the publisher chose to market it as a Pesach cookbook.  Included at the beginning of the book is a useful section of Pesach preparations. At the end of the book is an entire chapter entitled “Pesach Basics” that covers homemade mayonnaise, charoses, chrein, sauces and jams.

But all the recipes in between the first and last chapter are perfect for anyone on gluten-free or paleo diets.  Some recipes do use sugar, but elsewhere, there is an emphasis on healthy options. Where a rare recipe uses margarine, the author points that out and recommends making it only for occasional special occasions like Sheva Brachos. In other words, she encourages readers to make healthy choices but isn’t militant or dogmatic about it.

I appreciate an author who respects her readers enough to let them make their own, informed, choices.

I’d recommend this book to young and experienced cooks alike.

Published by Mosaica Press.

We received a review copy of this book.

Buy now from Amazon.

About the Author: Mindy Rafalowitz

Mindy Rafalowitz has been a cooking columnist for the Hebrew Hamodia for twenty years. However, she doesn’t just write about food. She runs food demonstrations and healthy cooking workshops in Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. She also sends out a phenomenal free weekly recipe and cooking tips e-mail newsletter.

To subscribe to Mindy Rafalowitz’s free newsletter or learn more about her workshops, please use this form:


Take It Easy by Mindy Rafalowitz




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It’s Time for The JWWS Writing Seminar!

JWWS, the Jerusalem Women’s Writers Seminar is the main frum writers’ event in Israel.  Each year, it attracts hundreds of writers who meet to network, meet their favorite authors, publishers and acquisitions editors, and attend workshops to help them hone their skills.

If you’re attending and have a book you’d like to have us review, please bring a copy and find me at the conference. I’ll be wearing my name tag!

JWWS Jerusalem writers conference poster

This year, I’ll also be presenting a JWWS workshop:

What Writers and Editors Need to Know About Copyright

Do you own the rights to that article you wrote? Do you know what you are giving up when you sign that publishing contract for your first novel? What’s a “work for hire”? Do you need to register your copyright? Answers to these questions and more…

Knowledge of copyright is critical for novelists, freelancers, editors, and publishers. Whether you’re an established author, a magazine editor or just starting out in self-publishing, this workshop is an opportunity to update your copyright IQ.

We’ll cover the basics of copyright laws, print versus the web, the public domain, what to cover in writers’ contracts, what freelancers need to know, and the major pitfalls editors need to watch out for when accepting work for publication.

To register for JWWS, click here.

Looking forward to meeting many of you there!

Culture Shock by C. Rosenberg

Culture Shock by C. Rosenberg is the tale of two friends, Yemima and Gittel who meet in Eretz Yisrael, after each flees the country of her birth.

FCulture shock by C Rosenberg coverrom the book’s publisher:

When the very heartbeat of life turns unfamiliarly hazy and gray, how does one distinguish between what is right, what is wrong, and what is simply “different”?  In the seething political cauldron of Eretz Yisrael post-1948, religious individuals struggle against the winds of the time and culture shocks they are not prepared for. …

Gittel: The daughter of a staunch Yerushalmi family who already suffered the loss of two sons – one to death and the other to patriotism – searches for acceptance among her peers in a setting where modern customs seem to have penetrated even the most guarded of enclaves. …

Tzachi: Having broken off contact with his family years ago, he’s overcome by pangs of homesickness and longing for his old home. Will he forever remain trapped in the shadows of his slain brother? …

Ezra: Interned in a transit camp in Yemen and then airlifted with his family to Eretz Yisrael during Operation Magic Carpet, he’s caught in the storm blowing across the land he has waited so long to call home. …

Yemima: An unusually bright, sensitive, and perceptive girl, she’s endured much suffering in her young life. Will she ever be given the chance to spread her own wings and begin anew in Eretz Yisrael, or does the instability of the times dictate a different reality?

Sounds like a heartwarming novel about a fascinating, turbulent era in our history.

From Israel Bookshop Publications.

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Midnight Music by Menucha Chana Levin

Midnight Music is the new teen novel by Menucha Chana Levin.

This is her fifth novel and she’s been published in Hamodia,, and other Jewish media outlets.

Midnight Music cover by Menucha Chana LevinMidnight Music first appeared as a serialized story in Binah Bunch Magazine.

From the back cover:

Tehilla Sherman was perfectly happy living in her comfortable old house in a small New Jersey town, attending the school run by her parents. Then, to everyone’s shock, the school has to close down due to lack of funds and her parents need to find new jobs.

At the end of the summer, Tehilla has to adjust to a very different lifestyle in a high-rise apartment in Brighton Beach, New York. There, she meets Galia, a girl originally from Russia, who is just starting to discover her Jewish heritage. Both Tehilla and Galia find themselves being challenged by new experiences. Can their mutual love of music help them to build a true friendship?

Published by Israel Bookshop Publications.

Purchase now from

Menucha Chana Levin is also the author of:

the castle builders by menucha chana levin the youngest bride by menucha chana levin A Family for Frayda by Menucha Chana Levin

Searching by Rochel Istrin

Searching by Rochel Istrin is a beautiful novel that deserves a second life. This gripping tale follows the story of a young mother and that of the family from which she is cruelly torn apart.

Searching by Rochel IstrinHere’s an excerpt from from the back cover copy:

Young and feisty Zelda must escape to far-off America when anti-Semitic villagers accuse her of espionage. She must leave behind her two small children, Yosseleh and Ruchka, her violinist husband Leizer – and life as she’s known it.

Dramatic enough right there, but then World War II intervenes and makes it impossible for Zelda’s family to join her in America.

After surviving in the forest with the partisans, Leizer finds himself on a freight train bound for Siberia – alone.

When the war ends, Zelda goes back to Europe, determine to find out what happened to her husband and children.

Will the family ever be whole again? Will Zelda ever be able to rebuild the tattered relationship with the child she left behind so young? Will Zelda and Leizer find each other once more?

This isn’t a long book, but is a suspenseful one. It’s also clearly well researched. Many Holocaust novels strive for some hope through contrived happy endings that are oh, so predictable. This isn’t one them. There’s hope here, and happiness, too, to be found among the tears, but they don’t come easy nor the way one would expect them.

Searching was Rochel Istrin’s first novel. Unfortunately for her, it was released just as her first publisher was closing and it never got the distribution and publicity this book deserved. So let’s try to make up for that now by giving this one a second shot and spreading the word. It’s a short book that’s worth the read.

Published by Targum.

We received a review copy of this book.

Purchase here now from

Rochel Istrin is also the author of:

Hidden by Rochel Istrin


Pain Relief by Peri Berger

Pain Relief by Peri Berger is one of those books that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go – not for a long time after you’ve finished it. I was stunned by this one.

pain relief by peri bergerFirst, there’s the unusual subject matter. Yes, it’s a family drama. Yes, there are teenagers with problems involved. And as the cover and title suggest, someone is addicted to drugs.

But – here’s the first shocker – it isn’t one of the kids.

It’s Mom.

Here’s the book’s cover blurb:

Happy marriage, great kids, devoted parents, a flourishing business — Hindy Fishman seems to have it all. No job seems too big for her to tackle, no goal too far to reach. How can a simple fall change all that? Could this really be happening to her? How could someone like her wind up in rehab?

Well.  There are no trite answers here. Just like in real life, Hindy’s going to have to face what got her into this mess, and how her addiction has affected her family.

The author isn’t out to make us feel good, so there are no pat endings here.  Sometimes, when we make mistakes, we cannot unmake them.  We cannot take away the hurt we’ve inflicted on others, no matter how much we wish we could have a do-over.  Sometimes, the best we can do is learn to live with the consequences of what we’ve done.

If that sounds depressing, it’s not – it’s just to say that this isn’t a sappy book that bends reality just to make its readers feel good.  It’s a mature read that grows its characters and treats its readers with respect.

There is much here for adults, spouses, teenagers and parents to take away from this sobering and yet truly hopeful, loving novel.

It was my first introduction to Peri Berger, which is inexcusable, since this book is far from her first, and it was serialized in Hamodia, too.  It took me a while to digest it, but as soon as I could stop thinking about Pain Relief for a few minutes, what did I do but go pick up another Peri Berger novel!

Published by Jerusalem Publications.

We received a review copy of this book.

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Peri Berger is also the author of:

The Narrow Bridge by Peri Berger








Zero Tolerance by Peri Berger


Teens Talk by Malka Katzman

Teens Talk by Malka Katzman is a book about the inner-most secrets of friends you wish you’d had when you were in high school.

Teens Talk by Malka KatzmanIt took a while to be able to review this book, because my teens took it and wouldn’t give it back!

That should tell us all we need to know about it.

The true stories of twenty-two teenage girls are presented in a diary-like format. Each chapter is about a different girl and situation. Teens Talk offers an intimate exploration of the complicated issues young people must grapple with.

There’s the  girl who fears she’s got a terrible illness.

One of the girls, Malka, is leaving behind everything she knows to move to a new country.  Anyone who’s ever moved as a child will relate to what she’s going through.

Another is shocked when she learns why she’s lost her best friend.  What teen doesn’t have bumpy patches with friends?

The issues are the kind that can take over a teen’s entire world.  While learning how each kid faced her challenge, readers are bound to identify with much of what they are going through.

Teens Talk is an opportunity for teenage girls to read about people like themselves.  At this delicate developmental stage, it’s vital for them to see they aren’t alone, even when they have problems and fears that they might not have admitted to their best friend.

There aren’t many books specifically for frum teens, so this is an important contribution for a group of readers that could use a lot more attention.

I’d recommend the book to parents as well. It’s an important reminder of what it is like to be a teenager.  Carefree, it’s not.  Reading this may make us all a bit kinder, a bit more patient and understanding toward those sometimes challenging young people.

From Israel Bookshop Publications.

We received a review copy of this book.

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Uncertain Tomorrows by Miriam Sachs

Uncertain Tomorrows by Miriam Sachs is one of those books that reminds us that behind the calm, quiet exterior of normal people we know may hide giants of extraordinary strength and emuna.

Uncertain Tomorrows  by Miriam SachsI’ve known the author for years. I could never have imagined what she and her family have experienced. (Miriam Sachs is a pseudonym.)

This autobiographical tale follows the author as an eleventh grader, with all the emotional upheavals and social concerns that most normal teenagers have. What she also has, as she juggles school, friendships and teen angst, is a younger brother who passed away, and two sisters who are fighting for their lives. While Miriam’s classmates are planning school events, she’s spending days at the hospital, relieving her parents at her siblings’ bedsides.

Three of Miriam’s siblings were affected by Fanconi Anemia (FA). One died when she was very young, two of them passed away when she was in high school. FA is a genetic disease that causes victims to develop cancer and bone marrow failure. Many of them also have congenital abnormalities of the limbs such as missing or extra fingers, endocrine problems, and sometimes learning disabilities.

The narrative is brutally honest, sometimes chronicling Miriam’s adolescence at its most self-absorbed, sometimes depicting her heroic stretching past her limitations to become “the nice person” she wants to be.

The author mentions that she wrote this memoir for her parents. And truly, they exhibit incredible reservoirs of strength and emuna, as they struggle through the suffering and eventual deaths of three children. Even more eye opening is how, in the midst of all this darkness, they also remarkably parent their “normal” teen as well.

You’ll need tissues for this one and one pack just won’t do. This is not an easy read, but it will linger in your thoughts long after you close the last page.

Published by Menucha.

We received a review copy of this book.

Purchase now from Menucha.  SPECIAL $5.49 SALE PRICE!

A Stranger to My Brothers by Henye Meyer

A well-researched historical coming-of-age novel, A Stranger to My Brothers is a standout book for teens that will appeal just as much to adults.

Stranger to My BrothersAt first glance, author Henye Meyer’s journey through early early Medieval times is a gripping tale of swashbuckling adventure.

The plot has enough drama to keep readers on the edge of their seats, flipping pages late into the night.

But there is far more to this novel.

The details of every day life 11th-century England, a time when paganism still smoldered and Christianity was just taking over, offer a window into a world we rarely get to see.

Martin is an orphaned teen and we get to travel with him through Europe, join the crusades, live through pogroms, walk through Hungary and explore Constantinople in all its Byzantine glory.

Martin’s dream to join the Byzantine emperor’s Varangians guard will introduce readers to groups and events that many history books have left out.

Through myriad little touches – the feel of different grades of woven fabrics, the balance of a well-made sword – Mrs. Meyer brings to life the world our ancestors inhabited.

There is more graphic violence in this book than most frum readers may be used to. Pogroms are violent and Mrs. Meyer doesn’t pretend they are not.

Frightening challenges abound, but the pleasures and human relationships that are not so different from ours today are all there, too.

The latter is where this novel really shines. Its realistic portrayal of an angry teenager is honest and fresh. Martin is an honestly portrayed abused, angry young boy.

He doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder, he’s got a giant boulder. He’s selfish and callous one moment – and then heroically self-sacrificing the next. He’s rude, obnoxious and at times engages in deeply inappropriate behavior.

In other words, he’s a believable peasant teenager who grew up barely knowing he was Jewish. Despite that, Mrs. Meyer manages to make us love him and keep rooting for him, which is in itself really something!

What happens when he meets another Jew is not at all what one expects. The characters around him don’t fit stereotypes – the helping hands most often come from the least likely people. This is no smooth slide into a frum life with an easy happy ever after. Martin’s a tough kid and there are wrenching decisions, disastrous falls and many heartbreaks before he grows into a man and chooses his path.

There are also lots of unexpected flashes of humor and some complex other characters along the way.

Original, exciting, honest and real. Highly recommended for teens over 13 and adults.

A Stranger to My Brothers was previously published as Fall of the Sun God.

Self-published. (See our FAQ on self-published books.)

We received a review copy of this book.

Mrs. Henye Meyer is also the author of:

This Is America

This is America!

(Israel Bookshop Publications)



crocodile island

The Exiles of Crocodile Island

(ArtScroll Youth)



adrenaline rush

the humorous thriller, Adrenalin Rush (Menucha Publishers).




Starlight by Henye MeyerStarlight (Menucha Publishers)