The Mesorah Matrix publication project is a landmark effort underway to bring out ten first-rate, world-class volumes of essays on Jewish spirituality. Each stand-alone volume will be uniquely devoted to a specific theme.
The ten focus themes are:
Tikkun Olam (“Repair the World”)
Birkat Kohanim (The Priestly Blessings: a contemporary take)
The Kaddish (specifically, The Mourner’s Praise of God)
Modeh Ani (The solo daily morning prayer of Gratitude)
Search for Meaning (pegging-off of Viktor Frankl’s classic)
Havdalah (separating Holy from Secular: Sabbath > secular)
u-vacharta ba-chayim (The 613th precept-Choose Life)
Eheyeh asher Eheyeh (“I Will Be That Which I Will Be” – at the Burning Bush)
v’Shamru (The Sabbath)
Together, however, these books will stand for something that is unique and, in the digital world, just a bit unexpected: the unadulterated power of the written word to shape the opinion, to enflame the heart, and to inspire the reader to feel engaged and energized by the prospect of spiritual growth.
Others have endeavored to so to speak get-their arms around the formidable subject of Jewish spirituality; the ten-theme, ten-volume, 180+ author paradigm conceptualized by the publisher is astutely structured to finally achieve this goal.
The unique 10-year undertaking is under the larger umbrella of New Paradigm Matrix Publishing, a Manhattan-based publishing undertaking under the aegis of David Birnbaum, Editor-in-Chief. [Birnbaum is the author of the iconic 3-volume philosophical treatise Summa Metaphysica.]
At the core of the Mesorah Matrix enterprise is the conviction—shared by all involved, and with all respect to Marshall McLuhan—that the medium still isn’t the message. The message is the message. And the question of how new ideas should or could be delivered to those most likely to grow intellectually and spiritually from exposure to them, is the question facing all authors at the dawn of this new century. Different answers will develop in different cultural milieus, obviously. But for Jews seeking to anchor traditional spirituality in the givens of the instant information era, the preferred medium remains, even after all these many centuries, the sustained, well-argued essay rooted in antique sources but composed to speak directly to modern readers. As a result, the Mesorah Matrix project is planning to publish incisive, thoughtful prose by the kind of author to whom articulacy and reverence for ancient sources come naturally and easily; thus, to publish books that transform as much as they inform; and to publish books which leave their readers fundamentally altered through the experience of reading.
The 10-theme series of books will bring together the work of 180+ authors…and each one, every single essay that will appear in any of our books, is intended to provide its readers with both the context for - and the real possibility of - intellectual, spiritual, and even emotional growth. These are not to be, however, op-ed pieces or personal statements of dogmatic faith; instead, they are to be essays in applied scholarship, under which rubric we intend to denote essay and articles rooted in traditional sources. They are to be essays anchored in a serious appreciation of secondary literature, essays that have by their very nature the ability to transcend their own book-bound context – and to serve collectively as a great highway forward for those eager to embrace faith in the context of scrupulous intellectual integrity. These are not feel-good essays about Jewish life. Instead, they collectively constitute the path towards informed, thoughtful religiosity. Some of the best and most astute Jewish authors of our day will be putting-forth their concepts of the ideal avenue for real spiritual growth.
There are many publishers of books about Judaism and Jewish life out there. But the Mesorah Matrix project is unique among them…and specifically because of way its volumes break down barriers widely perceived to exist yet which turn out, in the end, barely to matter to the very people generally supposed to be defined by them.
Unifying the Spectrum
The Mesorah Matrix authors’ list is populated by Thought Leaders whom outsider observers have been programmed to expect not to necessarily wish to associate with each other. The Editor-in-Chief David Birnbaum has broken through the old imbriglio - and has unified the top Jewish Thought Leaders globally to work together under his aegis for the extraordinary common goal. The spectrum-spanning work is a paradigm-change of the first order.
Transcending denominational lines, but also crossing the much-promoted but ultimately unreal boundary between spiritual and academic writing, these authors come to their work possessed of the conviction that what makes of them reasonable partners in this enterprise is not their institutional affiliation, the schools in which they earned their degrees, or the specific jobs they have in the world of working men and women. Rather, what unites them are several things…and reading them in each other’s light, therefore, will be exhilarating precisely for readers who too wish to embrace those same ideals. They write as Jewish authors convinced that the wellsprings of Jewishness and Judaism have much to say to the modern world, including to the non-Jewish world. They write as authors who live in different homes built on the very same foundation of reverence for ancient texts, and particularly for the books that constitute the biblical and rabbinic literary corpora. They write as authors convinced that the future of the Jewish people lies in its willingness to build the future on the past, to be malleable and flexible in its interpretation of ancient tradition, to be thoughtful and possessed of deep, unshakable certainty in the value of the sustained ruminative contemplation of the classic works of Jewish literature. This extraordinary undertaking thus by its very nature will serve to break down the artificial, counterproductive barriers that serve no purpose other than to weaken the ability of Jewish people to speak as one to the world…and to each other as respected partners in their ancient/modern enterprise.
The authors on the Mesorah Matrix list are fully aware that querulousness is sometimes the hallmarks of much contemporary inner-Jewish dialogue, yet the authors have chosen to work together. They have elected to say with one voice that they esteem each other, that they respect each other, and that they understand that the great goal of seeing the future through the double scrim of history and literature is worth the effort it takes to set aside misconceptions about each other - and together to work towards the making of great Jewish books. These books will thus demonstrate the great power of the mesorah itself, of Jewish tradition at its most unifying and intellectually challenging, to serve as the common thread that through the force of its own pristine power has the power to unite the various segments of the Jewish world.
The ten volumes that will bear the Mesorah Matrix imprint will thus serve as seminal works of Jewish creativity, each in its own way serving to break down the artificial barriers that divide rather than unite…and which weaken the ability of the Jewish people to respond to the prophet’s call to serve as a beacon of hope, faith, and redemptive potential.
The Mesorah Matrix volumes will be unique for another reason: by looking deep within, they will also train their gaze far outside the narrow boundaries of the Jewish readership one might naturally expect to be their most likely audience. These are books by Jews and about Judaism…but they are also books for a world-wide readership seeking to understand the spiritual enterprise by peering at their own traditions through the lens of traditional Judaism.
Jewish Books for a World-Wide Audience
The Mesorah Matrix books will have a distinctly Jewish feel to them, but they are not intended to appeal solely to Jewish readers. The 180+ authors working together on this project speak in their own language, obviously. But the conceptual break-through here is not for them solely to speak to each other, but to the great world out there of readers eager to learn from them what
it means to be people of faith in the modern world….and why people outside our authors’ spiritual ambit should find it satisfying to learn from them and, where they can, to apply what we know of our traditions to their own. The notion that people seeking spiritual fulfillment will have lots to learn from each other may seem obvious when put so bluntly and clearly, but rare indeed is it in our world for books published in the context of one area of spiritual endeavor truly to speak to people living and laboring in other vineyards. And this too is part of what the senior editors of the series are hoping together to accomplish. Whether they will have succeeded will be for others to say. But now, in advance of the publication of any of the ten planned volumes, the hope is simply that people outside the Jewish world will find these books not merely interesting in terms of what they have to say about Judaism and Jewishness, but also in terms of their implications for their own spiritual lives.
The publication of the ten Mesorah Matrix volumes has been undertaken as labor of love for the printed word, for Judaism and Jewishness, and for the creative Jewish spirit that will be alive within the pages of each book. Furthermore, the authors, editors, and publisher are united in their hope that this specific genre of applied scholarship will inspire others to consider how best to bring the wisdom of their own traditions out into the world for the thoughtful contemplation of others. These volumes are going to be big, thick books filled with fine writing and lofty ideas. The concept is for them to serve to broaden the dialogue between all people of faith, and to give weight and substance to the gifts Judaism can offer the world…both to its Jewish citizens and to all people of good will and abiding faith in the worth of religion.
It is surely true that King Kohelet was right that to the making of books there is no end. But that observation only serves to make the effort to publish books in every generation even more noble and more in keeping with the creative genius of the Jewish people. These ten volumes will make their mark in the world by demonstrating that that this generation of Jewish authors has its own message to impart…and that it is a message of unity, industry, creativity, faith characterized by mutual respect and belief the great destiny of the Jewish people to bring redemption to the world through the medium of the written word.
The first of the 180+ authors to deliver an essay was none other than the “Chief Rabbi,” Jonathan Sacks of London (see rabbisacks.org). Key editors on the masthead reporting to David Birnbaum are world class luminary editors Benjamin Blech, Martin S. Cohen, Saul J. Berman and Shalom Carmy.