A Year with Mordecai Kaplan


A Year with Mordecai Kaplan

Wisdom on the Weekly Torah Portion

Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben
Foreword by Rabbi David A. Teutsch

JPS Daily Inspiration Series

296 pages


April 2019


$22.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2019


$22.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2019


$22.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

You are invited to spend a year with the inspirational words, ideas, and counsel of the great twentieth-century thinker Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, through his meditations on the fifty-four weekly Torah portions and eleven Jewish holidays.

A pioneer of ideas and action—teaching that “Judaism is a civilization” encompassing Jewish culture, art, and peoplehood; demonstrating how synagogues can be full centers for Jewish living (building one of the first “shuls with a pool”); and creating the first-ever bat mitzvah ceremony (for his daughter Judith)—Kaplan transformed the landscape of American Jewry. Yet much of Kaplan’s rich treasury of ethical and spiritual thought is largely unknown.

Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, who studied closely with Kaplan, offers unique insight into Kaplan’s teachings about ethical relationships and spiritual fulfillment, including how to embrace godliness in everyday experience, our mandate to become agents of justice in the world, and the human ability to evolve personally and collectively. Quoting from the week’s Torah portion, Reuben presents Torah commentary, a related quotation from Kaplan, a reflective commentary integrating Kaplan’s understanding of the Torah text, and an intimate story about his family or community’s struggles and triumphs—guiding twenty-first-century spiritual seekers of all backgrounds on how to live reflectively and purposefully every day.

Author Bio

Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben is senior rabbi emeritus of Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation in Pacific Palisades, California, and a past president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. He is the author of numerous books, including Children of Character: Leading Your Children to Ethical Choices in Everyday Life and Making Interfaith Marriage Work.


"The author . . . [hopes that his work] 'will stimulate reader contemplation, elicit personal reflections that further illustrate or develop the ideas in this book, and motivate readers to make our tradition's profound teachings ever more meaningful and impactful in their own lives.' A Year with Mordechai Kaplan does just that, while at the same time sharing the wisdom, passion, and insights that Kaplan can continue to offer us into the next phase of Jewish life."—Jonathan Fass, Jewish Book Council

"Mordecai Kaplan's illuminating commentary based on Jewish tradition and his own life experiences give us new wisdom. Rabbi Reuben explores Kaplan's wide-ranging thought, Jewish religious experience, and human experience in a way that is clear and emotionally sensitive."—Reviews by Amos Lassen

"Rabbi Reuben’s commentary makes for wonderful Shabbat reading—inviting us to engage with Torah, Kaplan and contemporary human experience in ways that are nourishing, optimistic and inspire us with hope."—Elsie Stern, Reconstructing Judaism

“There is no greater sage than Mordecai Kaplan to walk us into an appreciation of how religion can add depth and insight to the experience of modernity, and no rabbi with greater sensitivity to guide us along the way than Steven Carr Reuben. Newcomers to Kaplan and longtime aficionados alike will revel in spending a year with Mordecai Kaplan. Relying on the spirit and smarts of these two rabbis not only enlightens us but elevates us.”—Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University

A Year with Mordecai Kaplan is inspirational. It reminds me of a less mystical Larry Kushner and a more anecdotal Harold Kushner.”—Rabbi Arnold Rachlis, University Synagogue, Irvine, California

“Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben’s selection of insightful passages from the writings of Mordecai Kaplan and illuminating commentary from Jewish tradition and his own life experiences generate a treasure trove of wisdom to delight the mind and move the heart. A Year With Mordecai Kaplan is a spiritual gift!”—Rabbi David Ellenson, chancellor of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

“As Steven Reuben probes Torah, Kaplan’s wide-ranging thought, Jewish religious experience, and human experience in wonderfully clear and often penetrating reflections, Reuben and Kaplan together awaken our desire to be ‘champions of holiness.’”—Ellen Davis, Amos Ragan Kearns Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School

Table of Contents

Foreword, by Rabbi David A. Teutsch    
1. Genesis (Bere’shit)
Bere’shit: Fulfillment    
Noaḥ: Good Enough    
Lekh Lekha: Purpose    
Va-yera’: Interconnectedness    
Ḥayyei Sarah: Lovingkindness    
Toledot: Family    
Va-yetse’: Seeking    
Va-yishlaḥ: God-Wrestling    
Va-yeshev: Thoughtlessness    
Mikkets: Dreams    
Va-yiggash: Destiny    
Va-yeḥi: Appreciation    
2. Exodus (Shemot)
Shemot: Revelation    
Va-’era’: Mercy    
Bo’: Hardened Heart    
Be-shallaḥ: Action    
Yitro: Self-Interest    
Mishpatim: Human Dignity    
Terumah: Indwelling    
Tetsavveh: Light    
Ki Tissa’: Giving    
Va-yak’hel: Community    
Pekudei: Building    
3. Leviticus (Va-yikra’)
Va-yikra’: Prayer    
Tsav: Firelight    
Shemini: Godliness    
Tazriaʿ: Witness    
Metsoraʿ: Defilement    
’Aḥarei Mot: Scapegoat    
Kedoshim: Holiness    
’Emor: Hunger    
Be-har: Oppression    
Be-ḥukkotai: Free Will    
4. Numbers (Be-midbar)
Be-midbar: Wilderness    
Naso’: Blessings    
Be-haʿalotekha: Humility    
Shelaḥ-Lekha: Perception    
Koraḥ: Rebellion    
Ḥukkat: Anger    
Balak: Dwellings    
Pinḥas: Women    
Mattot: Vows    
Maseʿei: Vengeance    
5. Deuteronomy (Devarim)
Devarim: Discovery    
Va-’etḥannan: Oneness    
ʿEkev: Gratitude    
Re’eh: Choice    
Shofetim: Justice    
Ki Tetse’: Indifference    
Ki Tavo’: Experiencing God    
Nitsavim: Generations    
Va-yelekh: Teaching    
Ha’azinu: Rock    
Ve-zo’t ha-berakhah: Divine Kiss    
6. Holidays
Rosh Hashanah: Sovereignty of God    
Yom Kippur: Transformation    
Sukkot: Gratitude    
Shemini Atzeret: Sharing the Divine Presence    
Simḥat Torah: Celebration    
Hanukkah: Rededication    
Purim: Resilience    
Pesach: Freedom    
Yom ha-Shoah: Living in the Shadow    
Yom ha-Atzmaut: Building a Just Nation    
Shavuot: Torah    
Epigraph Source Acknowledgments    

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