Lashon Hakodesh: History, Holiness & Hebrew by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

Lashon Hakodesh: History, Holiness & Hebrew by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is one of the most exciting and intellectually stimulating books I and the other reviewers at have read in a long time. Everyone here insisted on having a chance to read it.

Not to be blunt, but you should, too.

lashon hakodesh cover by reuven chaim kleinWe daven in Lashon Hakodesh every single day – but how much do we know about it?

Rabbi Klein takes what seems like a mundane topic – the Hebrew language – and in this ground-breaking work, blasts it open with questions that leave the reader reeling Why didn’t I ever ask that?

Here’s a sampler:

  • What language did Adam speak in Gan Eden? Out of Gan Eden?
  • What language were people speaking before the Tower of Babel?       At Har Sinai?
  • Why was Avraham Avinu called an Ivri? What was the original Hebrew script?
  • Does Lashon Hakodesh borrow from other languages or is it the other way around?
  • Are Arabic and Aramaic separate languages, or just corruptions of Lashon Hakodesh? Does Aramaic have kedusha?

For many of the questions, there are no definite answers. In fact, it’s shocking just how many different opinions and theories there are.

The sefer explores them in depth, occasionally reconciling them, sometimes not. It begins at Creation and moves on through history, contemplating what happened when Eliezer Ben Yehuda met Lashon Hakodesh, exploring how Modern Hebrew fits in, and considers “derivative” languages such as Judeo-Arabic and Yiddish.

Rabbi Klein takes a systematic, academic approach in the presentation of his material, with careful documentation of sources, while remaining firmly grounded in Torah sources. The writing style is clear and accessible. As an added bonus, the book is clearly laid out, with a beautiful cover, which makes the experience of studying it a really joyful experience.

When discussing foreign languages, Rabbi Klein even looks at why the Mishna chose the word afikomen rather than other possibilities.

There’s no doubt this remarkable sefer makes a fantastic afikoman gift for grownups.


Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is currently a fellow at the Kollel of Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem.

Published by Mosaica Press.

We received a review copy of this book.

Purchase now from Amazon.


Vegan Passover Cookbook by Rena Reich

This new vegan passover cookbook is here to answer a basic question: “What are we going to eat on Pesach?”

Who hasvegan passover cookbookn’t heard that question before? Imagine being vegan at Pesach. An Ashkenazi vegan, not a Sephardi vegan. Now what do you eat?

In the Vegan Start Passover Cookbook, Rena Reich answers the question for vegan families with such simplicity and grace that she makes it look easy. Her cookbook provides a Seder menu and enough recipes to see you through Pesach without using any dairy, eggs, fish, meat or kitniyot.

In addition to soups and vegetable salads that are suitable all year around, there are the vegan versions of standard Jewish fare: How do you make a potato kugel without eggs? Rena shows us how. Matzo brei, mock chopped liver and matzo ball recipes ensure vegans can still enjoy a traditional Yom Tov meal.

The main courses include “meatballs” made with mushrooms and walnuts, mushroom burgers and mushroom steaks, ratatouille and gnocchi.

No festive meal is complete without desert. With a collection that includes mouthwatering turtle bars, chocolate truffles, cookies, apple cake, and chocolate torte, there is plenty here for the most discriminating sweet tooth.

The recipes I was most happy to see in this book, however, were for the “extras,” like egg-free mayonnaise, almond butter, almond milk and almond crackers with rosemary.

Some of the recipes include matza meal, as in the kishke and matza meal pancakes.

The Vegan Start Passover Cookbook is laid out clearly, with beautiful photographs and clear, step-by-step recipes. None of the recipes are particularly complicated (although gnocchi, by definition, are a patchke!) and the dishes are simply spiced. If you like your matbucha hot, feel free to add more spices to your heart’s content.

This book proves that even with the restrictions against chametz, kitniyot and animal products such as meat, dairy or eggs, it is still possible to create healthy, appetizing food for Yom Tov.

Rena Reich blogs at, where she has a treasure trove of recipes for “food not quite like your mama used to make.”

We received a review copy of this e-book.


Purchase now from

vegan passover cookbook



Patterns in Genesis and Beyond by Rabbi David Sykes

Patterns in Genesis and Beyond by Rabbi David Sykes is a stunning book that turns a familiar intellectual journey into a revelatory one.

Patterns in Genesis - Rabbi David SykesRabbi Sykes likes patterns, especially patterns in Torah. The sefer is devoted to patterns that weave the Torah narrative together through Chumash. It could have been an esoteric endeavor, but part of the magic of this sefer lies in how the information is presented.

The cover copy – and massive 600-page length – suggest an obscure, heavy tome, but the book is anything but that. Outstandingly well-written, the text is so clear and simple that it often lulls the reader into feeling he’s simply reading a retelling of a familiar story. And yet, almost certainly, he will come to the end of each section with a new, breathtaking insight that suddenly seems so obvious.

The patterns Rabbi Sykes uncovers literally left me going oh wow! on many occasions. I would reach the end of a chapter only go back and read it again, nodding as I read, feeling that I was seeing things in a completely new way.

The rewards are not only intellectual. Many of Rabbi Sykes’s insights are spiritual and emotional. For example, the parallels he finds between the shidduch of Yitzchak and Rivka, and that of Moshe Rabbeinu and Tzipporah lead to the teaching that an element of a successful shidduch is performing above-and-beyond acts of chessed for one’s spouse. Through the study of Chumash, the sefer can have an immediate impact right in our daily lives. Time and again, Rabbi Sykes shows how the negatives can, through teshuva and following the correct path, be turned into brachos, thus leaving the reader with a positive, uplifting experience.

As we head into Pesach, I find it profoundly meaningful to review the story of Yosef Hatzaddik. Much of the sefer is devoted to Breishis, but as the words “and Beyond” in the title promise, there are extras, such as a chapters about David Hamelech and Batsheva, Moshe Rabbenu, Yocheved and Miriam, the concubine of Gibea, and a fascinating discussion of water and the Exodus.

From the cover:

In his Book of Psalms (19:8), King David declares: “God’s Torah is whole.” These words have been the guiding light for this book’s approach to the interpretation of the Torah. In this work, verbal and thematic links between Biblical accounts, especially in the Book of Genesis, are noted and expounded upon, and are shown to be present in a consistent and systematic way. These connections also combine to form a network of patterns, an integrated whole. Throughout the millennia, many commentators have pointed out such connections; in this work, their observations are adduced and built upon. The uncovering of patterns in the Torah has no end, as the holy Torah is of infinite depth.

When I reached the end of the sefer, my first thought was: Is there another volume to look forward to?

According to the forward by Rabbi Menachem Davis, Rabbi Sykes has been perfecting Patterns in Genesis for thirty-six years. Interesting that it took that long for the hidden lights illuminated by his work to be revealed. It would be worth waiting another thirty-six years for another volume. But in the meantime, there is plenty, plenty to discover and delve into here.

Much of this sefer formed the basis of Rabbi Dr. Sykes’s PhD thesis at Yeshiva University. Since then, Rabbi Sykes has moved to Monroe, New York, where he is a certified life coach and Torah teacher.

You can listen to Rabbi Sykes being interviewed about his sefer here.


We received a review copy of this book.

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Children’s Haggadah: Let’s Go Free with Miri & Tzvi

Let’s Go Free With Miri & Tzvi by Devorah Benedict is a new children’s Haggadah. It includes illustrations based on Torah, Midrash and commentaries to help children experience the journey from slavery to redemption.

Children haggadah Let's Go Free

From the cover:

Join Miri and Tzvi for an up-close look at the trials and miracles experienced by our ancestors in

Egypt. Forty-eight full-color illustrations, drawn according to the Torah, Midrash, and their commentaries, come together with the beautifully arranged, fully translated Haggadah text to bring alive the Passover story of the exodus. Complete with annotated sources and a fun “hiding” chameleon, this Haggadah will keep children involved throughout the whole Seder night from — and will help them feel as if they themselves are going out of Egypt!

Published by Feldheim.

Purchase now from Feldheim or from Amazon.


Gluten Free Around the World by Aviva Kanoff

As the title suggests, Gluten Free Around the World, by Aviva Kanoff, is a culinary circumnavigation of the globe.

Going gluten-free is challenging enough. Going gluten-free, kosher and interesting, too, can seem like an insurmountable challenge.

gluten free cookbook by aviva kanoff But Aviva Kanoff has it covered in this wonderful new book, crammed with recipes for tantalizing, creative foods she has tasted during her travels to such far flung places as Ecuador and India, Cambodia and Morocco and more.

Aviva is a former student of the French Culinary Institute and is an accomplished photographer and world traveler.  Combine those talents and the result is a culinary adventure that gluten-free adherents might have despaired of ever being able to enjoy.

Recipes range from the enduring (Blueberry Scones) to the contemporary (Candied Fig and Goat Cheese Salad), from riffs on classics (Fish Tacos) to ethnic specialties (Beef Pho).

The spectacular photos of the places Aviva has visited add even more of a reason to explore this book and start cooking up a gluten-free feast.

Published by Brio.

Purchase now from Amazon.

Aviva Kanoff is also the author of The No-Potato Passover: A Journey of Food, Travel and Color, which won the Gourmand Award for the Best Jewish Cuisine in 2012.

No potato passover by aviva kanoff