A Guide for the Perplexed: Our 10th Annual One Book Mishkan Series


It's been ten years and we've read 10 wonderful works of fiction, non-fiction and memoir. This year we've selected an engrossing novel by a fine author and are planning an exceptional program series for the enjoyment of the community.

One Book Mishkan is for members and friends of Mishkan Shalom: All events are open to the public and we encourage you to invite friends, family and colleagues to join us for these special programs.

Beginning with the novel's multi-layered themes, we'll delve more deeply into some and expand our inquiry into broader questions. We hope you'll read this excellent work and join us throughout the year!


"...learned...heartfelt...elegant... (a) page turner….”

Dara Horn’s latest novel is an intricately woven tapestry of characters and themes ranging from the biblical story of Joseph to Moses Maimonides; from Solomon Schechter's 1896 discovery of the Cairo Geniza to a software prodigy and her application that records everything its users do. Historical locales and modern-day Egypt are the settings for themes of sisters and brothers, jealousy, abduction, medieval philosophy, destiny and free will and the interplay between technology and memory.

Programs in our 5775 series:

Book Discussion: A Guide for the Perplexed (Sunday, November 9, 2014)

Natalie Gorvine, Facilitator

Long-time Mishkan and Library Committee member Natalie Gorvine led our always-lively Book Discussion, and prepared a wonderful list of possible discussion topics. Also, Adam Blistein prepared a list of YouTube links related to the novel (click here).

Download the program flyer to e-mail and post.

Discussion Topics:

Natalie Gorvine created the following topics to consider in anticipation of our gathering:

  • How the three major story lines within the novel are connected and interwoven
  • The value of a Genizah
  • The potential (for good and/or ill) of the kind of Genizah software Josie develops and similar technological possibilities 
  • The ways in which the stories draw on the biblical story of Joseph
  • Sibling relationships in the stories within the novel
  • How anything in the book might relate to Mishkan's consideration of the Shmita year: e.g., what do we (as individuals, as families, as Jews, as members of other groups) keep, what do we discard, and how and why
  • The importance of faith, reason and intelligence to the characters in the novel
  • How any of the above themes particularly relate to your own life
  • Anything that surprises/disturbs/delights you or gives you new insights as you read

Natalie wrote: “Depending on the interests of those in attendance, we certainly may not ‘cover’ all of the above. By all means, bring your own reflections and questions as well. I hope that many of you will be able to join us for a thought-provoking, lively afternoon.”

Rabbi Shawn's Brown Bag Lunch & Learn: Maimonides (Saturday, January 31, 2015)

Coordinated by Dr. Lillian Sigal, Library Committee Chair

Bring a brown bag lunch* and learn about Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon: medieval rabbi, physician, philosopher and author of The Guide for the Perplexed, among many other highly influential texts. Maimonides sought to reconcile faith and science, destiny and free will, as do the characters in this year's One Book Mishkan selection.

Would you like to learn a bit about the Rambam beforehand? Here's a bit of background to get you started:

Maimonides Primer

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (1135-1204), known as the Rambam, was a rabbinic scholar, physician and philosopher. Born in Cordoba, Spain, he later lived in Morocco and Egypt, where he rose to be the revered head of the Jewish community.

While living in Egypt he composed his greatest work, the 14-volume Mishneh Torah, the first – and still canonical -- codification of Jewish law and observance which remains peerless in the logic of its structure, its clarity and vast learning. Maimonides Thirteen Articles of Faith and, regarding tzedakah, Eight Levels of Giving, are found there.

Deeply read in Arab Muslim philosophy and the doctrines of Aristotle, he strove to harmonize and differentiate Aristotelian thought with Jewish theology in The Guide for the Perplexed, explaining the function and purpose of statues found in the Torah against the backdrop of historical conditions.

Library Committee Chair Dr. Lillian Sigal writes: “Learning with Rabbi Shawn about how Maimonides dealt with reconciling faith and science in the medieval world will lay a foundation for our exploration of this philosophic challenge in our post-modern world at our April One Book program, in which a panel of three academicians will discuss God in an Expanding Universe.

*Lunches should be dairy or vegetarian — fish is fine, but no shellfish.

Offered thru our Adult Ed program: $9.00 Members; $18.00 Non-Members.

Print & post program flyer or forward to friends!

Saturday Night at the Movies: Fill the Void (Saturday, March 21, 2015)

Moderated by Dr. Adam Blistein

“An enthralling, stirring tale,” according to the New York Times, movie nite features popcorn, libations, yummy treats, great company and a lively post-film discussion, moderated by film buff and longtime Mishkan and Library Committee member, Dr. Adam Blistein.

Adam writes: “The Library Committee chose this film for its spotlight on family -- especially sibling -- relationships, an important issue in this year's One Book Mishkan selection, Dara Horn’s: A Guide for the Perplexed.”

Fill the Void (Hebrew: למלא את החלל‎ - lemale et ha'ḥalal) was written and directed by Rama Burshtein, the first Orthodox Jewish woman to direct a film intended for wide distribution. Focusing on life in the Haredi community in Tel Aviv, Fill the Void tells the story of eighteen-year-old Shira, about to be married when, on Purim, her twenty-eight-year-old sister dies in childbirth. Learning the father may leave the country with her only grandchild, their mother proposes a match between Shira and the widower, leaving Shira to choose between her own wishes and her family's desire to keep the child near them.

Come join us for another great Saturday nite at the movies!

See the trailer.

Suggested Donation $5.00.

View and download the program flyer -- pass along to friends, family, lists!

Panel Discussion: God in an Expanding Universe (Sunday, April 19, 2015)

Convened by Dr. Harold Gorvine. Reception to follow.

Our well-loved panel discussion returns with a stellar cast of expert commentators set to explore a range of questions beginning with our One Book and building on its varied themes. We are so fortunate that longtime Mishkan and Library Commitee member, and beloved teacher and scholar, Dr. Harold "Doc" Gorvine is convening the panel and will moderate the discussion. Read his article, below, to learn more.

God in an Expanding Universe: Panel Discussion, by Harold Gorvine

Mishkan Shalom’s One Book this year is A Guide for the Perplexed, by Dara Horn. Maimonides, who wrote a book by the same title in the twelfth century, appears in the twenty-first century novel. Since Maimonides was trying to reconcile Torah and Aristotle, it seemed appropriate to ask a panel of religious seekers how they view God in the expanding universe of billions of galaxies that physicists and astronomers have discovered.

The Library Committee has invited three panelists:

Rabbi Michael Yondorf is a long-time teacher at Akiba – now Jack M. Barrack – Hebrew Academy. Rabbi Yondorf grew up in a Conservative household and decided to live an Orthodox Jewish life.

Joseph Dougherty, another long-time Akiba teacher, has a B.A. and an M.A. in physics and has taught both physics and astronomy. As a young man he studied in a Catholic seminary for one academic year. He is a religious Catholic.

Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, a Mishkan member, is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Department of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She is our third esteemed panelist.

The panelists will focus on the following issues: What role does God play in their lives? Has their view of God’s role changed at all in response to our new knowledge of the universe, and if so, how? What does prayer mean to each of them? What does faith mean to each of them?

Here, in advance of the program, is a little food for thought about faith: Paul Tillich, one of the great Protestant religious thinkers of the twentieth century, defined faith as “the state of being ultimately concerned; the dynamics of faith are the dynamics of man’s ultimate concern.” Louis Jacobs, a rabbi and professor of Talmud and theology, said, “Faith is synonymous with bittahon (trust).” 

In addition to reflecting on one another’s presentations, the panelists will respond to questions from the audience. Please plan to join us for a lively intellectual and spiritual session at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 19.

Suggested Donation $10.00.

View and download the program flyer -- pass along to friends, family, lists!

Arts Night Delights: An Evening of Performances Celebrating One Book Mishkan’s 10th Year (Saturday, May 16, 2015)

A very special evening of music, poetry readings, theatrical performances and more as we explore themes related to Dara Horn's A Guide for the Perplexed, our 10th annual One Book Mishkan selection.

Produced by Eileen Levinson. Reception to follow. Suggested Donation $10.00.

An evening of delights awaits us all as we gather for this latest installment of "Arts Night," now in its third year under the excellent direction of em­pressaria Eileen Levinson.

We're so pleased to welcome returning performers poet Susan Windle, actor Eileen Levinson and Rabbi Shawn Zevit. We're especially pleased to wel­come new performers Gerry and Estelle Alexander. An art exhibit of original work by Susan Richards will be on display. And, once again, Makhelat Micha'el our wonderful Mish­kan Community Choir, under the direction of Miriam Davidson, will help us cap off our 10th season.

Finally, we want to offer spe­cial thanks, in advance, to Karen Smith (Best Girl!) for her amazing help on the technical side of staging Arts Night. 

We hope you'll join us for this delightful evening of performances and stay to enjoy each other's com­pany as we celebrate ten full years of reading and learning together!

Suggested Donation: $10.00 (make online donations here).

Download & share Arts Night Delights program flyer with friends & family; thanks for posting to your lists!

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