June 26, 2016
By Zev Garber
The Four Gateways of Nefesh HaChaim are introduced and discussed in Nefesh HaTzimzum, volume one. They speak respectfully of the power of human actions, speech/prayer, and thought in transforming self and world with metaphysical repercussions. Nefesh HaTzimtzum, volume two, is exclusively focused on sections of Gateway Three which discusses God’s Being (essence, existence, metaphysics) as developed in the Kabbalistic doctrine of Tzimtzum, that is, the contractions of the Infinite Being to create, penetrate, and sustain a finite universe. Doctrinal issues embrace experiential and transcendental response. Rationally, can an absolute Infinite Being be contracted to Finite Being; if God’s presence is everywhere in creation then in what way is creation an independent entity and Man’s function therein; if God as God does not contract does this embrace associated attributes, such as God’s Will and Glory, and so on. Read the rest of this entry »
June 22, 2016
By Zev Garber
Nefesh HaTzimtzum (two volumes) provides a general yet comprehensive gateway to the teachings and world view of Rabbi Chaim Volozhin (“Volozhiner”), a leading disciple of Rabbi Elijah b. Solomon Zalman, the Gaon of Vilna, as presented in his magnum opus, Nefesh HaChaim (Vilna and Grodno, 5584 ), arranged and published posthumously by his son and successor, Rabbi Yitzchak. The title’s double entendre (“soul of Chaim” and “soul of life”) speaks to the ideology of these volumes: fear of God brings life and intense love of Torah purports its sacred destiny at the highest attainable spiritual level. Read the rest of this entry »
June 19, 2016
By Rabbi Ari Enkin
Rabbi Shlomo Pick’s “Moadei Harav” is a welcome and refreshing window into the thought, style, and rulings of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik. This may very well be the clearest and most readable book on the Rav that offers readers of all levels a glimpse into the world of Rav Soloveitchik’s halachic teachings. Most other books on Rav Soloveitchik empathize his philosophy, and they are not always the most reader-friendly volumes.
I found almost all the essays to be practical and of great interest. Except for the entry on the status of Eretz Yisrael (“shem eretz yisrael” vs. “kedushat eretz yisrael”) all essays revolve around the holidays (hence the name of the book). Some of the essays I enjoyed most are the status of Kriat Shema on Yom Kippur (a davar shebekedusha?), Pirsumei Nissa of Chanuka (the difference between “revealing” and “demonstrating” the miracles of Chanuka) , the Status of “Simcha” of the two days of Purim, the status of Purim eve (a detailed discussion on ata kadosh, kaddish titkabel, and shehecheyanu), the Mitzva of Charoset (Rav Soloveitchik’s interpretation of the Rambam), and the setting of the date of Shavuot (a look at several rishonim).
There is an extensive introduction of essays on the Rav and his style of Torah study and Talmudic analysis. This is a quality publication suitable for all.
This review originally appeared on Torah Book Reviews.