by Rabbi Ari Enkin Torah Book Reviews
I am completely blown away by the English Aruch HaShulchan that was just published by Urim Publications. This outstanding volume covers chapters 242-292 of Orach Chaim, the laws of Shabbat. Specifically, these chapters primarily discuss preparing for the arrival of Shabbat, Jewish/Non-Jews partnerships, preparing the stove/oven for Shabbat (shehiya, chazara, and hatmanan), kiddush, the Shabbat meals, and more.
For those less familiar, the Aruch Hashulchan is a code of law written by Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein (1829–1908). The Aruch Hashulchan is incredibly unique in that before discussing the relevant halachot of each chapter, it first cited the relevant Talmudic passages and the view of the Rishonim. Most such Rishonim are only accessible to the advanced student of halacha. With this English translation, the world of the Rif, Rosh, Rambam, Ran, Ravan, Rabbeinu Chananel, and more, are now at the fingertips of English speakers. Priceless!
I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems that the Aruch Hashulchan just doesn’t get the full measure of attention or authority that it deserves. It often seems as if there is a popularity contest between the Mishna Berura and the Aruch Hashulchan.
Although not completely accurate, perhaps the state of affairs can be summarized as follows: the “yeshivish” world follows the Mishna Berura almost exclusively. This is ostensibly due to the influence of Rabbi Ahron Kotler who enacted that his Lakewood yeshiva follow the Mishna Berura exclusively. On the other hand, much of the non-yeshivish world defers to the Aruch Hashulchan. This is quite odd, actually, considering that the Aruch Hashulchan is a Lithuanian work while the Mishna Berura is a Polish one!
The Aruch Hashulchan is probably the most thorough and conveniently organized compilation of halacha today. As mentioned, every halachic issue opens with a presentation of the relevant scriptural and Talmudic sources. So too, unlike the Mishna Berura’s text-based-tradition to deciding halacha, the Aruch Hashulchan tries to determine the halacha based on Talmudic precedents and contemporary practice…and often works hard to satisfy both. It’s not since the Rambam that there has been a work of halacha that covers all of Jewish law like the Aruch Hashulchan does.
So should we follow the Mishna Berura or the Aruch Hashulchan?
Rabbi Yehuda Henkin in Bnei Banim 2:8, cites his grandfather, Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, as having ruled that the Aruch Hashulchan is the more definitive and authoritative decisor of halacha. He offers a number of reasons for this. One reason is because most of the Aruch Hashulchan was written after the Mishna Berura. In fact, the Aruch Hashulchan often cites the Mishna Berura before issuing his own rulings. Another reason is because it covers the entire Shulchan Aruch while the Mishna Berura only covers the Orach Chaim section. Finally, the Mishna Berura was essentially written by a scholar while the Aruch Hashulchan was written by a scholar who was also a practicing rabbi. As a practicing rabbi, the author regularly interacted with the community and dealt with the problems and issues that they faced. He had more hands-on experience in dealing with halachic dilemmas. Indeed, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein is reported to have said that the Aruch Hashulchan takes precedence over the Mishna Berura for this reason alone.
This new Urim English edition of the Aruch Hashulchan is an absolutely vital addition to the collection of any Anglo student of Halacha. Both the Hebrew and English is crisp and clear, attractive and engaging. Whether used as one’s primary study of halacha or as a review for those more fluent in halachic texts, I have no doubt that one’s retention and understanding of the Aruch Hashulchan will be better then ever. Thank you to Urim Publisher R’ Tzvi Mauer for sending this volume! It’s simply outstanding…a real game changer in the world of English halacha. Hopefully it’s the first of many volumes.
Harvey Sukenic ● AJL News and Reviews
Ronen Neuwirth portrays Halacha as the “narrow bridge” between the eternal Torah and the shifting reality, but in need of change to meet the challenges of postmodern society. Neuwirth served as a pulpit rabbi in Israel, rabbi of Bnai Akiva in the US, and founded Beit Hillel, an organization building bridges between religious and secular Israelis. His audience is a modern Orthodox lay readership. In his introduction, he presents those elements of contemporary society which challenge the acceptance of halacha. He follows with seven chapters tracing the development of the halachic process and an extensive treatment of the basic principles of rabbinic decision making, with over a thousand sources.Continue reading “The Narrow Halakhic Bridge – new review”
Daniel D. Stuhlman ● AJL News and Reviews
The title of this book suggests that the author is offering a simple book with practical advice for the community or shul rabbi. However, Sperber has put together an in-depth discussion that teaches the reader how to think more deeply about the methods used to issue a halachic ruling.
While there is a tendency toward greater stringency and conservatism, the author talks about sensitivity to the questions and questioner. When new situations occur, the rabbi has to weigh the legal codes of the past with the implications of the facts in front of him. What was once forbidden could now be permitted and what is forbidden to one may be permitted to another.
For example, Sperber considers how to deal with the issue of congregants with hearing problems and the use of hearing aids on Shabbat. Normally, electronic devices such as microphones, phones, screens, etc. are forbidden on Shabbat. However, someone who is hard of hearing would not be able to hear the Torah reading or respond to Shabbat greetings without a hearing aid. Thus, the author guides community rabbis to lead by considering that humanitarian needs may override the rabbinic limitations of mukhsah (items forbidden to touch on Shabbat)….
This broad-ranging book explores the role of halakha as a bridge between eternal principles and practical application in an ever-changing world. (The “postmodernism” of the title is often used as a synonym for the “contemporary world,” and sometimes for the cluster of assumptions which come hand in hand with that philosophical tradition.) Neuwirth is particularly concerned with issues of personal freedom and autonomy, and the ability of halakhic texts and rabbinic figures to speak with authority today.
Michael A. Shmidman, Editor Emeritus ● Tradition
Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak (Isadore) Twersky zt”l, was justly renowned for his brilliantly insightful, meticulously researched and felicitously formulated scholarly oeuvre, concentrating generally upon medieval Jewish intellectual history and with special attention to the Maimonidean corpus. But the Nathan Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy at Harvard University also was the Talner Rebbe of Boston, as comfortable delivering divrei Torah at Shalosh Seudos in the Talner Beis Midrash as he was conducting doctoral seminars on medieval Jewish rabbinic literature in Room G of Widener Library in Harvard Yard.Continue reading “Torah of the Mind, Torah of the Heart”
Midwest Book Review ● The Judaic Studies Shelf
Synopsis: A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study of Jewish texts such as the Talmud. The basic form of the rabbi developed in the Pharisaic and Talmudic era, when learned teachers assembled to codify Judaism’s written and oral laws.Continue reading “The Importance of the Community Rabbi – new review”
Talli Rosenbaum on love and marriage and the joys and challenges of intimacy.
“Sex is not something you ‘have’ but rather an expression of an intimate and erotic energy that a couple mutually shares.” This quote, from the recently released book, I Am For My Beloved: A Guide to Enhanced Intimacy for Married Couples by co-authors Talli Rosenbaum and David Ribner, reflects the theme that a passionate marriage is about cultivating a loving, emotionally intimate relationship.
In this episode of Intimate Judaism, Rabbi Scott Kahn interviews co-host Talli Rosenbaum, and her co-author Dr. David Ribner about the book, which helps couples improve both their emotional and physical intimate lives. Join Rabbi Scott, David, and Talli, as they discuss the challenges of writing a book about sex for Orthodox Jewish couples, the topics they chose, and the book’s relevance for Jewish couples, regardless of their background.
Finally, listen here as Talli and David offer suggestions for sustaining passion in a long term, monogamous marriage.