Thursday, May 30, 2019

Reviews around the Web of God versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry

In this post, I hope to cull from all over the internet various book reviews of my latest hit God versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry (Mosaica Press, 2018). You can click the links provided to see the full reviews, I'll just pull out some interesting points from each of them. You can also check out the book's Amazon page for more book reviews.

The esteemed Rabbi Israel Drazin wrote about my book on his blog (and in his Times of Israel blog) that my book is "filled with information on every page about Jewish history, ideology, God, idols, superstition, and mistakes made by the ancients.... even readers who dislike his approach will benefit by learning about the problems created when we try to understand biblical narratives, Jewish history, and why the ancients worshipped idols, and they will be prompted to think of their own solution to the problems that are raised." Kudos to him for taking the time to write about my work!

Aaron Rubin over at Mystical Paths writes quite enthusiastically about this book:
For several months now I have been reading the essays of Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein... His most recent work, 'G-d versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry', follows suit, resulting in a composition that is nothing short of groundbreaking. His analysis and compilation of sources is more than illuminating; it is inspiring, presenting a wealth of sources, both from the traditional, Jewish sources - from the Talmud to the Zohar to more recent commentaries - and from the secular, academic world.
If you are interested in biblical history, in the etymology of the various idols and pagan deities mentioned in the Torah, what they mean and how they impact the narrative, or in how the cultural milieu of the ancient Near East impacted on the lives of the Jewish people, from their genesis until the end of Tanach and beyond[!], you must read this book.

My book was mentioned by the Jewish Press in "Titles That Caught Our Eye" and then was later treated to a full-length book review by Ben Rothke (which also appeared on his Times of Israel blog). His conclusion reads:
This is a fascinating book that clarifies some of the most challenging topics in the books of the Prophets. Klein does a thorough job of detailing what was occurring, the drive to incorporate idolatry into the services, and the power of idolatry that was able to enrapture a nation.
As Alan Jay Gerber, the Kosher Bookworm, wrote in The Jewish Star: "Rabbi Klein’s teachings are staunchly traditional, coupled with a full appreciation for modern scholarship. As in his previous works, he carefully footnotes his sources, giving the reader a chance to research everything cited in this valued work."

The inimitable Rabbi Jack Abramowitz writes a glowing review of my book on the OU website. In a nutshell he says:
Idolatry and the people’s interactions with it are so integral to the Books of the Neviim that I daresay one cannot fully appreciate the narrative, nor the prophets’ continual exhortations, without at least an intellectual understanding of what it was that motivated so much of our history. This is where God versus gods comes in.

Rabbi Jeff Bienenfeld, a close disciple of the late R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, wrote over at the Jewish Link NJ:
The subtitle of Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein’s remarkable study says a great deal about the immense task Rabbi Klein assumed in researching his fascinating book, “God versus Gods.” The subtitle, “Judaism in the Age of Idolatry,” sets an enormous challenge for anyone attempting to chronicle the role idolatry played in the religious culture and history of the Jewish people from biblical times until the destruction of the First Temple. With the Churban HaBayit, our sages teach that the worship of idols as an ancient cultic practice for all intents and purposes ceased. Over this lengthy time period, from mankind’s earliest days until some three and a half millennia later, Rabbi Klein offers an exhaustive and substantive account of how the Jewish people variously succumbed to and resisted, promoted and fought to eradicate this most pernicious of transgressions. Because there are few sins whose prohibitions are as many in the Torah as idolatry, and because this sin is the central focus of the prophets’ rebuke and chastisement in Neviim, the topic deserves careful and studious attention. Rabbi Klein’s work provides just that.
The Former Chief Rabbi of Australia, Rabbi Raymond Apple, wrote a comprehensive review of my book in the Jerusalem Post and at J-Wire where, inter alia, he notes:
In this new book, Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein tells the story through the eyes of the Oral Torah sources.  His book is fascinating and is far more than it appears.  Despite its title, it does not limit itself to the nature and influence of ancient idolatry.  It looks deeply into the meaning of God in Biblical history, asks why anyone in their right mind would choose to worship idols, wondering whether ancient man could believe both in God and in idolatry, asking whether idolatry still exists, and tapping into the major problem of how we should read the Bible and what we mean by Biblical truth.
The one and only Rabbi Naftali Kassorla (Director of Kollel Toras Chaim and a Maggid Shiur at Yeshivas Tiferes Yisroel in Jerusalem) read the book and graciously offered his thoughts on Ari Enkin's blog Torah Book Reviews. Rabbi Kassorla wrote:
The Torah world can once again rejoice, as one of its rising stars, Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein, the author of Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness, & Hebrew has produced another impressive work in God versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry... Rabbi Klein does an immaculate job at presenting us with the different approaches to understanding the history of how the battle between idol worship and monotheism played out. It is worthy to be added to anyone’s bookshelf. I found his book enlightening, intriguing, and entertaining, and I strongly suggest it to others as well.

The famous Jblogger Chaviva Gordon-Bennett did a video book review which you can see right here:
Don't be put off by the book's price on Amazon, you can search around the different Seforim Stores on the web to find the cheapest price. Here are some stores that sell my book:
By the way, my book also has a Goodreads page, a Google Books page, and it appeared in the New Jewish Books blog of the Jewish Book World. It was also featured in the Books to Love blog. The Association of Jewish Libraries also featured my book in the May/June 2019 edition of their AJL Reviews. Here's 
what they wrote:
reviews2019_05_06 by on Scribd

Friday, November 09, 2018

Rabbi Yaakov Zev Lev

With a heavy heart, I dedicated this week's article to the memory of my dear friend Rabbi Yaakov Zev Lev (1946-2018). He passed away this past Monday after battling cancer for several months. Rabbi Lev was originally from the USA, but came as a youngster to the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, where he figuratively became "part of the furniture" in the Beis Midrash. For Rabbi Lev, every day of Torah Study was as exciting as the previous. He was said to have learned with the same chavrusa for forty years! Rabbi Lev was a master Talmid Chacham and authored the work Me'at Tzari, a commentary to Targum Onkelos. I personally spoke to him from time to time (usually at his seat in the Main Beis Midrash of the Mir during lunch time) and he always had the kindest, most encouraging things to say. He will sorely be missed. 
לע"נ הרה"ג יעקב זאב ב"ר ישראל לב זצ"ל. תנצב"ה.
Pictured: Rabbi Yaakov Zev Lev reading a Kesubah, to his right stands Rabbi Binyomin Finkel of the Mir Yeshiva.

New Release - God versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry

Mosaica Press together with Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein have just released a new ground-breaking work entitled God versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry.

God versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry seeks to understand the Bible’s accounts of polytheism, follows its history, and focuses on the struggle between Jewish Monotheism and pagan/idolatrous cults in the Biblical period. An extended section is devoted to understanding the Talmudic concept concerning the paradigm shift which emptied the world of the Evil Inclination for Avodah Zarah, and its implications from a religious perspective. 

This unique work delves into the Bible’s view of the history of idolatry, as well as the hermeneutical, philological, Kabbalistic, and Halachic approaches to this topic taken by various Rabbinic figures through the ages. The second part of this book consists of an encyclopedia that lists and elaborates upon every foreign deity mentioned in the Bible. The author also compares and contrasts traditional Jewish views to those of modern-day academia (addressing archeology and philology of the Levant), offering proofs and difficulties to both approaches.

As the old saying goes, “Two Jews, three opinions.” In almost every chapter, more than one way of looking at the matter at hand is presented. In some cases, the differing opinions can be harmonized, but ultimately many matters remain subject to dispute. Hopefully, the mere knowledge of these sources will whet the reader’s intellectual curiosity to learn more.

Written by a brilliant young scholar, God versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry is ground-breaking, intriguing, and remarkable. This book is available on and at better Jewish bookstores near you. For review copies or bulk orders please contact

Besides on Amazon, the books are also available at other Online Jewish Bookstores:

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