Chava Pinchuck ● AJL Reviews
The Shulchan Aruch—the Code of Jewish Law (the “Code”)—was authored by Joseph Karo in 1563, and it remains the most widely accepted compilation of Jewish law ever written. Rabbi J. B. Solovetchik, z”l, articulated an “action to experience paradigm,” whereby doing the mitzvahs with intention provides a link to God. Looking at the “Code” through this lens, Rabbi Grunstein shows the reader how to elevate his observance of the commandments by knowing whether obligations are biblical, rabbinic, or custom, knowing the background and historical context, and providing practical suggestions.
Starting with Tefillin, Torah Reading, and Shabbat, Grunstein then follows the yearly holiday cycle, starting with Rosh Hashanah and concluding with Tisha B’Av. Each chapter begins with a statement of the mitzvah or obligation, followed by an “And Now What” section that explains the significance of the obligation and how to better appreciate it, and concludes with a “Summary of Experience.” For example, Grunstein explains why Shavuot is two days and has no major symbols—because we should celebrate the Torah every day!
Rabbi Grunstein, the Director of Training and Placement at the Straus-Amiel and Beren-Amiel Institute of Ohr Torah Stone, draws from his teachers and mentor, Torah luminaries Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, z”l and Rabbi Yehuda Amital, z”l. He brings many interesting points that will enhance mitzvah observance. The source quotes are often lengthy, which document his arguments, but break up the flow of the text. There is (obviously) more content about days like Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah, which involve more mitzvahs, than about Shavuot. The chapters on Counter the Omer and Tisha B’Av shed light on observances that get less attention. Because the book is source heavy and is indexed neither by sources nor themes, it will be a very welcome addition to Orthodox libraries, and a great resource for more traditional congregations.