Beyond Names, Beyond Words (on Parashat Vayera)

November 10, 2011

Excerpt from The Torah Commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Genesis, Part I.

NOW LISTEN TO THIS, FRIENDS. IT SAYS “VAYERA elav Hashem be’Alonei Mamre” (Bereishis 18:1), God revealed Himself to him in Alonei Mamre. What does it mean that God revealed Himself to him, why doesn’t it say that God revealed Himself to Avraham?

I want you to open your hearts in the deepest depths. Imagine if I would live all alone in the world, would I need a name? I only need a name because there are more people besides me in the world.

There are two kinds of names in the world. Sometimes I call a person because they are far away. I need their attention, so I call out to them. Obviously, if I would be all alone, would I need a name? Now imagine something else. There is somebody I love very much and I can’t stop saying their name, this is the deepest depths there is.

So, you see what it is, the deepest place someone can reach is the place beyond a name. There is a place which cannot be reached by a name, and in that place my connection is beyond choice. If my connection is only from that level of names, then one day we will stop calling each other altogether.

So you know what was revealed to Avraham when it says, “Vayera elav Hashem?” After Avraham entered the covenant with God, God revealed to him that the covenant is in that place which has no name . . . in a place which is beyond choice.

Vayera elav,” to him.

The beginning of Vayera is Avraham Avinu having the highest God revelation, but what is so deep is that God didn’t say anything.

I want you to Read the rest of this entry »

AJL reviews Women at the Crossroads

November 9, 2011

by Kathe Pinchuck

Siegelbaum, Rebbetzin Chana Bracha. Women at the Crossroads: A Woman’s Perspective on the Weekly Torah Portion. Bat Ayin, Israel: Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin, 2010. 229 pp. (978193668098)

Rebbetzin Siegelbaum is the founder and director of Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin, “an innovative women’s seminary in Israel offering a holistic, experiential approach to Torah living and learning, teaching women from all walks of life and of all ages.” The selections for each Torah portion were compiled from a weekly email newsletter. The descriptions of the seminary and its goals may give the impression of a “New Age” approach, but the author employs classical textual analysis. There are discussions women mentioned in the Torah, as well as specific mitzvot (challah, lighting candles), and analyses of language and syntax that emphasize the feminine. The last essay is a little preachy about women’s learning, but the others are insightful and erudite. Rather than taking a feminist tack or creating midrash, Rebbetzin Seigelbaum stresses the unique role of the feminine in all aspects of life and how it has contributed to “the molding of the Jewish people throughout the ages.” The book includes approbations from noted teachers and rabbis.

The back matter includes an index, a glossary and biographies of commentators. These elements make it accessible for those familiar with the portions and those with limited background, so the book is very highly recommended for all Jewish libraries.

AJL Reviews (Sep/Oct 2011), p. 36

Coming Back with the Kinderlach (on Parashat Vayera)

November 8, 2011

Excerpt from The Torah Commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Genesis, Part I.

And Avraham returned to his young men.        (Bereishis 22:19)

THERE ARE SO MANY HOLY BOOKS, AND EVERY holy book talks about how you have to teach your children to be holy, to be frum, to be cute, to be sweet. Where do you find what you need the most, which is mamesh how to love your children? Where do you find in the deepest depth of all teachings how to be close to your children? I’m going through all the chassidishe seforim, where is it?

Now let me tell you something.

The truth is that this is Eliyahu HaNavi’s Torah. What is Eliyahu HaNavi all about? Eliyahu HaNavi is coming to bring peace between parents and children. Ve’heishiv lev avos al banim ve’lev banim al avosam (Malachi 3:24). So no wonder it’s not written down yet because it will be revealed when Eliyahu HaNavi is coming. Since our generation is getting so close, we are already looking for it in the books.

Nobody was looking for this Torah a hundred years ago because they thought it is enough to have children, teach them a little, and that’s it. Today, thank God, we are already so close to Eliyahu HaNavi.

I’ll tell you how my father gave over Yiddishkeit to me, I’ll never forget it. Every Friday night, my father took me and my brother by the hand, and he walked around all over the house singing Shalom Aleichem with us, but with so much sweetness.

I’ll tell you something, do you know when my father gave overYiddishkeit to me? Yom Kipper night, after we came home from daven­ing my father mamesh would take each child for maybe half an hour. I could see his tears mamesh dropping down to the foor. Mamesh, giving it over to us, giving it over to us.

So after the Akeida it says by Avraham Avinu, “Vayashav Avraham el ne’arav“(Bereishis 22:19). Avraham Avinu came back to the children.

I want you to know something awesome; Read the rest of this entry »

AJL reviews Darosh Darash Yosef

November 7, 2011

by Ilka Gordon

David, Avishai C. Darosh Darash Yosef: Discourses of Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik on the Weekly Parashah. Jerusalem: Urim, 2011. 472 p. (9789655240467)

Many books have been written and are being written about the teachings of Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik, the recognized leader of Modern Orthodoxy in the twentieth century, a renowned scholar and an extraordinary teacher, affectionately called the Rav by his many students. Rabbi Avishai David, a devoted student of the Rav and a Rosh Yeshiva (head master of a school of Jewish learning) attended many lectures in the 1970s and 80s, given by the Rav at Yeshiva University, Moriah synagogue in New York and Saturday nights in Boston. Darosh Darash Yosef is a compilation of the Rav’s insights into the weekly Torah portion culled from these lectures. Rabbi David presents the reader with a three or four page essay on each parashah (weekly portion) of the Torah. The essays are based on the Rav’s teachings and philosophy. Concepts are presented in clear and readable prose which can be easily understood by the scholar and layman alike. Both the novice and expert in Torah study will increase his or her depth of knowledge by reading this well written book. Darosh Darash Yosef is an excellent reference book for patrons who will be speaking about the weekly Torah portion, especially Bar and Bat Mitzvah students. Darosh Darash Yosef is highly recommended for all libraries. Rabbi David makes the Rav’s complex thoughts accessible to all readers.

AJL Reviews (Sep/Oct 2011) p. 36

Legendary Composer’s Torah Commentary Published Nearly Two Decades After His Death

November 4, 2011

by Sandy Eller

New York – Almost seventeen years to the day since Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach died of a heart attack at age 69 on a flight to Canada, his thoughts and commentaries on the first half of Sefer Bereishis century will be available for the first time to the public.

Even Shlomo, published by Urim Publications and The Shlomo Carlebach Legacy Foundation, was released last week in Israel and is slated to debut in New York this week. The 263 page hardcover volume, fourteen years in the making, encompasses the unique insights of the man who was inarguably the greatest composer of the twentieth century on parshiyos Bereishis through Toldos.

Compiling a posthumous commentary on the entire Chumash from someone who never wrote down a single word was no small task, according to editor Rabbi Shlomo Katz, a renowned musician who not only follows in Reb Shlomo’s musical footsteps but is also an integral part of the Shlomo Carlebach Legacy Trust which is devoted to publishing and distributing Reb Shlomo’s legacy.

“We have been collecting his works for years,” Rabbi Katz told VIN News. “We have recordings of concerts, classes and hundreds of thousands of hours of shiurim that Reb Shlomo gave. To date, we have gone through 1.2 terabytes of information and even that is only four percent of all the material we have acquired.”

This volume is expected to be the first in a series of seforim featuring Reb Shlomo’s Torah thoughts and the second half of Sefer Bereishis is expected to be released next summer. Rabbi Katz anticipates that future volumes will cover all of Chamisha Chumshei Torah, Neviim, Megillos and seforim on the different Yomim Tovim.

While most people think of music when they hear the name “Carlebach” many are not aware that the gifted composer had rare semicha from the Pachad Yitzchak, R’ Yitzchok Hutner and learned with Reb Aaron Kotler, Reb Shlomo Heiman and the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Known as a brilliant scholar and one of the top students at Beis Medrash Govoha in his day, Reb Shlomo was known for taking two suitcases with him on all of his travels, with one half of one suitcase devoted to clothing while, the remaining suitcase and a half were dedicated to seforim.

Despite the fact that Reb Shlomo attended Litvishe yeshivos in his youth, he spent a considerable amount of time surrounded by chasidus.

“It is very clear in Reb Shlomo’s commentaries in this sefer that he was very influenced by his chasidus,” explained Rabbi Katz. “His observations are a blend of those influences and like his music are both unique and filled with sweetness.”

This post appeared on the Vos Iz Neias site on October 30.

Rebecca’s Choice: The Surprising Sequel to the Tale of Ivanhoe

November 2, 2011

by Rebecca J. W. Jefferson

Balman, Alexander. Rebecca’s Choice: The Surprising Sequel to the Tale of Ivanhoe. Jerusalem: Urim, 2010. 256 pp. (9781936068197)

This reviewer, also a Rebecca, was a keen reader of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, not only for its romance and the beauty of its prose, but also out of appreciation for its positive Jewish stereotype. This Rebecca, however, found herself more than a little disappointed that Scott’s Rebecca didn’t run off with the impassioned knight Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert (as this Rebecca most probably would have done …). So it was with this shameful, never-confessed secret in mind that I embraced the chance to read Alexander Balman’s sequel, Rebecca’s Choice.

Balman’s story begins before the very end of Scott’s novel at the point where Brian de Bois-Guilbert has died as a victim of his ‘contending passions.’ Balman, himself dissatisfied with Scott’s conclusion, renders de Bois-Guilbert as merely unconscious. The knight convinces Rebecca that he allowed Ivanhoe to injure him in order to save her, and Rebecca is faced with having to rescue her former enemy. Together with Rebecca’s father and with the knight disguised as a Jewish traveler they escape England. Hot on their heels are Sir Brian’s Templar brothers who are intent on capturing him before he discloses the secrets of their order.

What follows is a page-turning, high-paced adventure that journeys throughout the Near East, filled with danger and surprise and featuring knights, pirates, slaves, assassins, and even Maimonides!

I won’t ruin the story by telling you what becomes of Brian de Bois-Guilbert, or his strange relationship to Daniel the proselyte. But I can tell you that Rebecca lives happily ever after…

Balman’s novel cannot be compared to Scott’s Ivanhoe for the latter, in terms of quality of prose, narrative structure and historical background is by far the superior work. But taken on its own merits this is an entertaining story with particular appeal for a Jewish audience.

AJL Reviews (September/October 2011) p. 31