by MMX authors
addressing the question-
Why is the Mesorah Matrix series
important to the Jewish people?
Vernon Kurtz (Rabbi, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL, and past president of the Rabbinical Assembly): In a moment in Jewish history where everyone claims that there are major divisions among members of the Jewish people, the Mesorah Matrix series brings together scholars and teachers of all branches of Jewish thought and religious persuasions, individuals in the pulpit and in academia, people who live all around the world, to profess there is something that unites us – Jewish learning, what we call Torah. While individual writers may disagree on specific issues, they are all united, as all of us are, by our love Torah learning and personal growth. The series allows us to grow in Torah and in Jewish knowledge.
Dan Ornstein (Rabbi, Congregation Ohev Shalom, Albany, NY): I’m honored to be a contributor to the Mesorah Matrix Series on Judaism. The series provides readers of all backgrounds and levels of knowledge with accessible, thoughtful essays and articles that explore Jewish ideas, practices, and values with depth, passion and intellectual honesty. Best of all, each volume does this through the lenses of highly specific prayers, practices and values that then serve as topical bases for broad based discussions and reflection. Mesorah Matrix is a magnificent addition to the powerful conversation that is Judaism.
Zvi Grumet (Rabbi and Senior Staff member at the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel; chairman of Bible at Yeshivat Eretz Hatzvi in Jerusalem; and faculty member at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem): The Mesorah Matrix series presents a fascinating collection of thought-provoking articles from a broad spectrum of contemporary Jewish thinkers and scholars.
Roberta Kwall (Professor, DePaul University College of Law): The Mesorah Matrix series really resonated with me because it brings together rabbis and scholars from across the spectrum of Jewish denominational affiliation. In this day and age where most publications manifest only one viewpoint, the idea of this type of diversity in each volume was particularly appealing. It was an honor to be included and I am excited to see the series in its totality.
Michael Graetz (Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Magen Avraham, Omer, Israel): Anyone who is seeking a broad, comprehensive, intelligent, intellectually and emotionally exciting experience of learning about Judaism, Jewish sources, and customs must delve into the 10-volume Mesorah Matrix series. Each volume is often a surprise of ideas and insights about the topics, such as Sanctification, Covenant, U-Vacharta Ba-Chayim (Choose Life), Kaddish and 6 other topics. Full disclosure, I wrote a few essays in this series, but each time I saw the whole book, I was overcome with gratitude to be a participant in this endeavor. I learned so much, and my understanding was enlarged many times over by the interpretations and insights of the amazing spectrum of authors that were gathered for each Volume. The creators and editors of these volumes, David Birnbaum and Rabbi Martin Cohen, have made an invaluable contribution to the potential for understanding the depth, wisdom, intellectual and emotional sustenance of Jewish literature and tradition.
Elie Kaunfer (Rabbi, President and CEO of the Hadar Institute, New York): The scholars assembled in these volumes are top notch, and the ideas put forth are innovative, while grounded in our tradition. Scholars and laypeople alike will benefit greatly from these works.
Ariel Evan Mayse (Rabbi and Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University, Stanford, California): A remarkable achievement in breadth and depth, this series represents an incredible resource for Jewish thinkers, scholars and seekers of all stripes!.
Elyse Goldstein (Rabbi, The City Shul Congregation, Toronto, Ontario, Canada): I’m proud to be part of this huge undertaking, making so much of Jewish wisdom accessible to so many.
Elliot Dorff (Rabbi, Professor at the American Jewish University, Bel Air, California and Visiting Professor at the UCLA School of Law): Written in clear, non-technical language, the Mesorah Matrix books present important aspects of the Jewish tradition from the vantage points of multiple readers, thus showing the rich meanings that these Jewish rituals and values have. As such, they are “must reads” for anyone interested in learning about Judaism in a serious way and enriching one’s life in doing so.
Avram I. Reisner (Rabbi, Chevrei Tzedek Congregation, Baltimore, Maryland): It is rare to find so much wisdom focused on a single prayer or concept as is found in this Mesorah Matrix series. A treasure both in depth and breadth.
Saul J. Berman (Rabbi and Professor, Yeshiva University and the Columbia University Law School): The ten volumes of the Mesorah Matrix series amounts to an encyclopedia of the best of traditional and new creative thinking on the central issues of Jewish Spirituality for the 21st century. People struggling with the place of truth, personal virtues and social values in their lives, will find multiple essays which challenge them to grow intellectually and spiritually in their Jewish identity. The ideas are all deeply rooted in Jewish texts in ways that enlighten the early texts and brighten the path into the future of the Jewish People.
Reuven Bulka (Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada): Some meetings take place in rooms. Others in halls. Others in ether space. And then there is the Mesorah Matrix series, wherein meetings of Klal Yisrael take place in books, books in which people share a wide range of ideas that enlighten and inspire, and in a most meaningful way, bring us all together in a common endeavor to better understand and appreciate the beauty and profundity of our faith.
Shohama Wiener (Rabbi and Rosh Hashpa’ah at ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, and rabbi at Temple Beth-El, City Island, New York): The Mesorah Matrix series is a breath of fresh air in contemporary Jewish thought on spirituality. It shows the vitality of Jewish concepts and practices in varying denominations and parts of the Jewish world, and will help build ties among segments of am Yisrael, the Jewish people.
Baruch Frydman-Kohl (Rabbi, Beth Tzedec Congregation, Toronto, Ontario, Canada): The Mesorah Matrix series offers a high quality combination of intellectual and spiritual writing that will be of value to all those interested in the spiritual resources of the Jewish people. Let these amazing books guide your study in the coming years.
Harvey Meirovich (Rabbi and Visiting Professor at the Frankel Rabbinical College in Berlin, Germany, and at the University of Potsdam): Judaism’s interpreters over the ages have contributed much to humanity’s moral and spiritual evolution. One reason for this has been the courage to confront and wrestle with the perceived actions of both God and Man. Now, through the diverse insights of gifted contemporary teachers, the Matrix series (via its 10 volumes) invites all who are in search of meaning to think afresh about what it means to belong, to believe, and to behave in a topsy-turvy world, so often encrusted in moral turmoil.
Rami Shapiro (Rabbi and Independent Author, formerly Professor at Middle Tennessee State University): At a time when so many Jews find Judaism shallow, narrow, and fixed, Mesorah Matrix shows the depth, reach, and creatively fluid nature of contemporary Jewish thought. These ten volumes give voice to the range of Jewish thinking from the mainstream to the mystical and offer the reader a deep dive into Jewish possibilities.
Michael Broyde (Rabbi and Professor at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia): The many volumes of the Mesorah Matrix series are an excellent collection of new and novel creative thinking on the hard problems of Jewish law, Jewish spirituality and Jewish community. Taken together they present a vision of the future that will only enliven each and every reader.
Jeremy Rosen (Rabbi of the Persian Jewish Center, New York, New York; director of the Yakar Educational Foundation in London, and chairman of the Faculty for Comparative Religion, Antwerp, Belgium): The Mesorah Matrix series is a seminal expression of the variety of Jewish religious and spiritual thought in our times. It is an essential antidote to the monochromatic and fundamentalist mood that is in danger of monopolizing the religious narrative.
Dalia Marx (Rabbi and Professor at the Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem): Jewish culture is about debate, about machloket, about shared learning experiences and about the effort to sharpen one’s principles and one’s opinions through the medium of discussion and dialogue. In recent years, however, it seems as though we have somehow abandoned our traditionally healthy culture of vigorous, productive dialogue in favor of building ever-higher walls between people with differing opinions. As a result, many Jews have stepped back from earnest, productive dialogue in favor of the kind that emphasizes the differences (which are not even always entirely real or fully justifiable intellectually) between people.
This is perhaps most visibly true in Israel, where I live. The Mesorah Matrix series can be a useful tool even outside Israel, one that could serve to restore dialogue to its place of honor in our culture, and therein lies its importance. In the pages of its ten volumes readers will find many conflicting viewpoints set forth thoughtfully and respectfully, and specifically without the kind of rancor that has become in so many settings the hallmark of inner-Jewish debate. This series is important precisely because it brings together the voices of Jews from so many different backgrounds and kinds of denominational affiliation in the kind of multipartite dialogue that never seems in our day to come into existence of its own accord.
Hayyim Angel (Rabbi and National Scholar at the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals; Tanakh Education Scholar at the Ben Porat Yosef Yeshivah in Paramus, New Jersey): This is serious work from an incredibly diverse group of scholars on some of the most important religious issues of our time.
Shai Cherry (Rabbi and Executive Director of Shaar Hamayim: A Jewish Learning Center in Solana Beach, California): The foundational documents of the Jewish people–the Torah, the Talmud, and the Midrash–were all polyphonic. Hillel became our model sage not because of his sagacity, but because his pursuit of wisdom demanded exposure to points of view other than his own. Since the Middle Ages, Jewish literature has shrunk to the monotone. The Mesorah Matrix series restores the symphony. The editors, like Hillel, have searched for counterpoints to provide the harmonies, and the discordances, that is contemporary Judaism.
Sid Schwarz (Rabbi, Independent Author, and Senior Fellow at Hazon): For centuries, Jews have been admired as the ‘People of the Book’. We have an enviable reputation for having contributed to the world of ideas far beyond what our proportional numbers might otherwise have suggested. It is therefore worth celebrating the completion of ten volumes of the Mesorah Matrix series. It assembles deep and provocative ideas from some of the leading thinkers in Jewish life today. If you are a Jew who likes to be challenged to think deeply, this series is a gift.
Robbie Harris (Rabbi and Associate Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary): When I was asked to write for the Masorah Matrix series, the mission as I understood it was to combine the highest level of academic scholarship while insuring that I oriented my research not mainly at my fellow academics but rather in the interested reading public at large. Moreover, I was not simply to investigate an academic question alone, and then present my findings but instead couch both question and results in such a way as those would be compelling to a general audience. When I consider the ten volumes of the Mesorah Matrix series I find that the authors represented there all attempted to do precisely that, to take the historical-critical scholarship that are the academic tools of a professor’s trade and demonstrate why these should matter to people outside of the academy. Thus, these volumes offer a unique opportunity to the public to access a type of “paideia” in Jewish studies, a preeminent series of scholarly investigations that will not only challenge the mind but will delight the soul as well.
Shmuly Yanklowitz (Rabbi, President and Dean of the Valley Beit Midrash, Founder and President of Uri L’tzedek, CEO of The Shamayim Va’aretz Institute, and Founder and President of YATOM: The Jewish Foster and Adoption Network): The breadth of knowledge contained within the volumes of the Mesorah Matrix series is an incalculable asset to the Jewish people. Through these tomes, readers in the present and the distant future will be united in finding the best of Jewish philosophy in one comprehensive set. We should be grateful that these books will be available to seekers of wisdom for generations to come.
Michelle J. Levine (Associate Professor of Bible, Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University, New York): The Mesorah Matrix series offers a unique forum where diverse voices from across a broad Jewish spectrum present groundbreaking and innovative ideas that reflect on pivotal issues of Judaism and its core values. The remarkable contribution of each volume is its versatile development of a key topic from multifaceted perspectives, built on readings of Jewish texts ranging from rabbinic to medieval to modern analyses. This series will appeal to a wide-ranging Jewish audience that seeks a sophisticated discussion that can foster and facilitate the Jewish quest for enhanced spirituality and identity.
Rachel Adelman (Assistant Professor, Hebrew College, Newton, MA): These ten unique collections of essays include a wide range of scholars, academics and rabbis, men and women from the Orthodox to the unaffiliated, from within Israel and across the Diaspora. Organized loosely under concepts such as Havdalah and Tikkun Olam, these works bring together the intellectual and the heart-felt search for meaning across Jewish sources. Eloquent, deeply textual, accessible and generative, this treasury could serve as a resource for adult study groups, sermons for congregational rabbis, academic research and learning li-shmah (for the sake of Torah itself). As a contributor in the area of Tanakh and midrash in three of the ten volumes, it has been an honor to find my essays alongside Elliot Dorff and Erica Brown, master teachers able to convey their passion for Torah on the written page.
Barbara Shulamit Thiede (Rabbi, Temple Or Olam, Concord, NC; and Professor, University of North Carolina-Charlotte): There is no series like it. In this ten-volume series, erudite voices from across the spectrum of Jewish experience, Jewish knowledge, and Jewish understanding are offered in accessible, gentle essays. Nowhere else can a reader access so many diverse views in one series. Nowhere else can the breadth and depth of Jewish learning from every possible denominational setting be found side-by-side. The inclusion of all kinds of Jewish perspectives on salient spiritual questions of our day makes this series truly one of a kind.
Herbert Yoskowitz (Rabbi Emeritus, Adat Shalom Synagogue, Farmington Hills, MI): I commend the great contribution to Jewish knowledge based on Jewish texts that is being made by the Mesorah Matrix Series. The essays included in the volumes were carefully and skillfully edited to insure the high quality of the writers’ contributions. Readers who want to study Judaism on a high level would do well to read books in the Mesorah Matrix Series.
Jacob Adler (Professor of Philosophy, University of Arkansas): The Mesorah Matrix series when complete will constitute an amazing collection of essays covering a wide range of spiritual and religious issues by Jewish writers, both prominent and lesser-known, spanning the gamut of approaches. The series will remain an invaluable reference for many years to come, both for scholarly and practical-minded readers—and, indeed, for historians in the distant future wanting to take the pulse of Judaism in the early 21st century.