by A.Y. Sofer
The Jewish Home: A Guide to Jewish Family Life
Author: Eliyahu Kitov
Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov lived through turbulent times, whether as a young man in war-torn Poland in the middle of the last century, or as an early settler in the fledgling State of Israel during its formative years. In Israel, he developed into an exceptional educator and outstanding writer, and these two skills merged remarkably well when he authored a series of innovative texts that still resonate strongly throughout the Jewish world.
Rabbi Kitov witnessed, and surely understood, that Jewish life, in experiencing such tragedy and destruction, would be profoundly hurt to its very core, and one of the titles he authored was The Jewish Home, realizing full well that the Jewish family is the absolute cornerstone of Jewish life.
When the Jewish world suffers such immeasurable losses, the Jewish family is severely torn asunder. Healing would have to begin by putting the Jewish family back together again. And so, with great skill, warmth, erudition, and style, he addressed the concerns, the mindset, and the fractures of the time in which he lived, and The Jewish Home provided an informed, focused, and insightful roadmap to recreating Jewish family life in all its beauty, splendor, and spirit.
Although in a different guise altogether, Jewish family life is still under tremendous assault – now, just as it was then. Today, assimilation rates are at an all time high, traditional life styles and the family unit in particular is under steady attack, while the culture at large constantly challenges, undermines, and belittles authentic family values.
In 27 chapters, spanning over 500 pages, Rabbi Kitov guides the reader through all aspects of Jewish family life – from a multi-faceted discussion of the husband/wife relationship to an in-depth presentation of the mitzvos that relate to the Jewish family: kindness and hospitality, sanctifying the act of eating, mezuzah, separating tithes, the dietary laws, family purity, familial happiness, circumcision, pidyon haben, raising children, bar mitzvah, and more.
But don’t mistakenly think that when you open these pages you’re going to encounter a dry presentation of laws and information. On the contrary: Rabbi Kitov, in addition to being a true talmid chacham, was also a master craftsman in the writing arts, and this is clearly evident in his presentation and style. The Jewish Home is a beautiful blend of ideas, insights, stories from chazal, personalities and events from Tanach, history, as well as basic halacha, all woven together into a literary tapestry that is thoughtful, yet practical, and always a delight to read.
Take the mitzvah of mezuzah, for example. The chapter begins with the Talmudic story of Onkelos ben Kalonimus, the convert who authored the Aramaic translation of the Torah. The story centers on the mezuzah and this leads to a discussion of what this mitzvah means to a Jewish household.
The author then describes what an actual mezuzah consists of in terms of content and material; he quotes a beautiful Rambam regarding what a Jew should have in mind as he affixes a mezuzah to the doorpost; and he concludes the chapter with a selection of basic laws. This same approach holds true for whatever topic or concept you encounter in the text. For readers, this means you come away both uplifted and informed.
The current edition of The Jewish Home bears a handsome new cover, while the content remains a beautiful, highly readable translation of this noted work – organized with convenient shoulder captions and laid out in a manner that is easy on the eyes.
From The Jewish Press
The original text of the article may be found here.