March 22, 2016
By Rabbi Johnny Solomon
Nefesh HaChaim is the name of R’ Chaim Volozhin’s magnum opus – his ‘Shulchan Aruch of Hashkafa’ – whose small size does not do justice to its extraordinary depth and breadth.
Like many young men and women, I was introduced to the Nefesh HaChaim while in Yeshiva, and I recall the sense of wonderment when introduced to some of its most basic concepts. Nefesh HaChaim provides a roadmap towards living a life of spiritual exaltation, and there are parts in this work where one can catch a glimpse of the blueprint for creation. But like many of those same young men and women – and in contrast to most of my other sefarim – my copy of the Nefesh HaChaim has been opened on very few occasions since then – primarily because I did not feel confident that I had the necessary skills to grasp the depth of this great work. Like all areas of Jewish mysticism, true comprehension of the Nefesh HaChaim demands a guide – someone who has toiled in Torah study and who has pursued a life of Avodat Hashem; someone who is already using the roadmap and someone who has been able to fathom those parts of the blueprint that have been revealed to them.
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February 29, 2016
Bridging the Kabbalistic Gap
Nefesh HaTzimtzum by Avinoam Fraenkel
Vol. 1: Rabbi Chaim Volozhin’s Nefesh HaChaim with Translation and Commentary
Volume 2: Understanding Nefesh HaChaim through the Key Concept of Tzimtzum and Related Writings
(Jerusalem: Urim, 2015)
Reviewed by Bezalel Naor
Recently there has been a spate of English translations of the classic of Mitnagdic philosophy, Nefesh ha-Hayyimby Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin (1749-1821), eminent disciple of the Vilna Gaon. This is perhaps the most glorious—certainly the lengthiest—of the translations, one that attempts to rewrite the debate between Hasidim and Mitnagdim.
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October 26, 2015
A review of “Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission and Legacy” by Rabbi Natan Ofir
By Izabella Tabarovsky for The Times of Israel
When asked about Rabbi Carlebach’s music, Timothy Leary, that dedicated explorer of mystical experiences and expanded states of consciousness, is reported to have said: “If I had ever had a chance to listen to Shlomo’s music before I ever took drugs, I would have never needed to take them in the first place, that’s how powerful his music was!”
This testimonial is one of many filling the pages Natan Ofir’s meticulously researched and documented book, “Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission and Legacy.” For the devoted followers of Carlebach, the book is a wonderful opportunity to re-encounter the man they knew and loved in a rich new context. For those who are just discovering his music, the book offers a wonderful starting point for a journey that can lead as far as the reader wishes to go. Read the rest of this entry »
May 24, 2012
by Batya Yaniger
What I’m about to describe is a learning experience that I believe is different from typical analytical study but also different from using the text in the service of my own agenda. It has something to do with hearing the text speak to me personally, in the same sense that logotherapy posits that reality is speaking to us personally – challenging us, evoking our will to meaning, eliciting our strengths and calling us out of hiding to become who we are meant to be. Similarly the text is one such reality. Study is an intimate encounter.
In fact for a Jewish person reading Jewish texts God’s personal call should come through even more strongly than the call coming through the reality of life. By being so intent on analyzing the text I believe we are missing that call! This is why it’s so important to me to formulate this process.
Here’s what one such learning experience was like:
A new book has just come out titled Stages of Spiritual Growth: Resolving the Tension Between Self-expression and Submission to Divine Will, by Batya Gallant. Although I know I always say this about every book, I feel this book is particularly suited to chevruta(study partner) study.
One day I was reading and contemplating the chapter on gevurah (to predominate/prevail) with a friend. The author describes the spiritual process towards a healthy relationship towards authority and how our preconceived ideas about submitting to authority can make us feel diminished and disempowered…
As we studied the book we went through a process of Read the rest of this entry »
April 17, 2012
by Batya Medad
It has taken me a long time to read Leila Leah Bronner’s Journey to Heaven, but that’s my fault, not hers. Most of my weekday reading is either on the computer or for my Bible studies.
I was very anxious to get started on Bronner’s book, because I’m very curious about The Next World, our “life” after death. It’s not my specialty. From my limited knowledge I’ve been under the impression that the next world is when we pay the real price for our sins and get proper rewards for our good. I was looking for some confirmation.
Journey to Heaven isn’t that sort of book. Bronner’s book is more academic than spiritual or emotional. She brings all sorts of texts, not all are Jewish, to explain what happens after death according to Judaism. I suggest watching these two youtube videos to hear what Bronner has to say. She really is fascinating.
Bronner’s book is very Read the rest of this entry »