Review of Moadei HaRav: Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

October 5, 2016

The Rav On The Holidays

By: Ben Rothke

Title: Moadei HaRav: Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
Author: Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick
Publisher: Urim Publications

There is no need to state in these pages that Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik was one of the greatest Talmudists of the past few hundred years. But for English readers, there has long been a dearth of books in English that captured the depth and breadth of R’ Soloveitchik’s Talmudic genius.

In Moadei HaRav: Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick has written a fabulous work, based on his notes from the Rav’s shiurim. Rabbi Pick is a former student of the Rav, who now teaches Talmud and Maimonidean thought at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and brilliantly captures the Rav’s ideas in these lectures.

The book begins with an introduction to Rav Soloveitchik’s methodology of Torah study. Rabbi Pick then writes 17 chapters on various Talmudic issues. For me, the most startling point in the introduction is that while the Rav, who studied in Berlin and was familiar with the methodologies of academic Talmud research, was fundamentally opposed to it. Rabbi Pick writes that the Rav felt that way as he thought academic Talmud both focuses on insignificant matters, and puts too much significance on the consequence of socio-historical or psychological processes.

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Review of Nefesh Hatzimtzum

March 22, 2016

By Rabbi Johnny Solomon

NefeshHatzimtzumOne1Nefesh 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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Dr. Joshua Golding, Author of The Conversation, Responds to Book Review Comments

June 20, 2013

From Life in Israel:The Conversation

Last week I wrote a book review of The Conversation, by Joshua Golding.

I now have the honor of hosting Dr. Golding’s response to my review, discussing some of the issues I raised and questioned in my review.

Joshua Golding responds:

 As the author of The Conversation I’d like to express my great thanks to Rafi G for posting a review of my book on his blog! Its nice to read a review where you can tell that the reviewer “got” what the book is all about: a philosophical journey in the form of a novel. However, I did want to respond to a few of his critical comments on certain aspects of the story.
First of all, I do see the main character David as “discussing philosophy himself, and arguing with others.”  From the beginning of the book, he thinks and speaks  critically about what he is being told by his friends, professors and the Rabbis with whom he comes in contact. The development of David’s own views comes gradually in his journal, which grows and deepens in complexity over time. Also, toward the very end of the book, in a conversation held during his senior year graduation party, David really blossoms by suggesting his own view about the nature of wisdom. As the book develops from the beginning of his freshman year to his senior year, David critically sifts through many of the views and arguments he has heard, and develops his own unique approach to things. At the end of the book, David makes an important decision which is driven partly by emotional factors but also by his philosophical journey that has taken place over four years’ time.
As far as his relationship with Esther, what I intended there was that while at the beginning David is interested in Esther primarily because he is attracted to her, as their acquaintance grows he actually becomes more interested in her as a friend, precisely because he comes to know her as a person rather than just as a pretty thing. On the other hand, while Esther at first has no romantic interest in David, gradually as she comes to know him better as someone who is sincerely interested in really learning about Judaism, she comes to Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: The Conversation by Joshua Golding

June 18, 2013

From Life in Israel:The Conversation

The Conversation, by Joshua Golding, is a book on philosophy. Specifically, Jewish Philosophy.

The Conversation is listed as a book of fiction, because the philosophy is couched in a story, but do not doubt that philosophy in the book is far more dominant than the fictional story in which it is couched. The story makes it readable – to non-philosophers, but the story is clearly secondary to the philosophy.

The story is of a young Jewish college student who is not at all connected to his Jewish heritage, beyond having had a bar mitzvah. So much so, that he is even dating a non-Jewish fellow student and thinks nothing of it. As the story goes, David Goldstein is a student of Philosophy. As a freshman he starts to forge his way in his studies, delving into philosophy and developing his relationships with his friends and professors. An experience by a Holocaust Museum entices him to go in, and he gets touched by something that sparks a search about his Jewish roots and the philosophy of Judaism.

David breaks up with his girlfriend as his search about Judaism becomes more intense. Eventually he Read the rest of this entry »

The Search Committee: Not Quite “a Novel”

April 18, 2013

From Shiloh Musings:The Search Committee high res

When I was at the recent Jerusalem International Book Fair, I was offered books to review by a couple of publishing houses. told me to just take a few from their stand, which I did.  One of them is The Search Committee- a novel, by Marc Angel.  When I took it, I didn’t check the copyright date or I would have had discovered that the book is far from recent.  It was published in  2008.

I’ll start with the good…
The book is easy and quick reading, and the main topic is thought-provoking.

Now, why have I titled this “Not Quite a novel?”  Honestly, I don’t see it as a novel.  Here’s the definition of a novel from


a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity,portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes.

The book does not have any real scenes, actions, character development etc. And there is certainly no “complexity.”

Simply put, Marc Angel,  “Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel of New York City and founder of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. He is the author and editor of over two dozen books, and this is his first work of fiction,” has tried to humanize two extreme trends/ideologies in American Jewish Orthodoxy aka Torah Judaism.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he hasn’t published a lot about the same exact issue as non-fiction.

In Angel’s opinion there’s a danger to Orthodox Jewry if Read the rest of this entry »

Everyday I Bless You: Reflections on the Healing Power of Shiva

December 16, 2012

by Nathan RosenEverydayWeb1

This book combines the personal story of the author’s coping with his mother’s death with the teachings of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. He organizes the book around the five letters of the word shiva (seven) to represent the key issues which he explores: surrender, hope, ire, valor, and acceptance. The author also selected “accept” as a mnemonic for acknowledges, conceding, connecting, embracing, placing, and teaching as part of the “acceptance of the pain of loss.”

He echoes many of the common questions that all people who have suffered a loss ask and provides the reader with many of the standard historical answers. The book also includes a nine page section with helpful suggestions in a common area of confusion—how to pay a proper call during shiva (the seven day period of mourning). In the book, the author hears and talks to his mother. This provides much of the narrative story line. Whether those conversations were the author’s actual perceptions or just a literary device is unclear, but it does provide a relatively smooth technique to introduce questions and situations and provide answers and insights. The author practices grief and bereavement counseling in Long Island as a PhD clinical psychologist, and he is a teacher at New York University and fellow at Harvard Medical School. His previous book on “Angel Letters: Lessons that Dying Can Teach Us About Living” was published in 2007.

 This review originally appeared in the AJL newsletter (December 2012).

The Kosher Bookworm: Yes, It’s Rosh Hashanah, Again

September 24, 2012

by Alan Jay Gerber

Yes indeed, it is Rosh Hashanah once again, and there are some really fine, high quality books for your continued learning pleasure.

To really understand the true meaning and feeling for the upcoming “Yimei Ratzon,” a close reading of some of the most authoritative teachings concerning this holy season is always in order. This year is no different, and by the time you finish with this essay, you will be inspired to read some of the selections suggested or revisit previous Kosher Bookworm reviews for even more choices.

Once again The Commentator strikes: Rabbi Yitzchak Sender’s latest work, The Commentators’ Rosh Hashanah: Prayers and Torah Reading [Feldheim, 2012] brings to our readers a 317 page anthology of original essays on the most important liturgical works found in the machzor, spanning the entire repertoire of the sacred writ of this season. Starting with the selichos prayers and spanning the entire liturgy, both the halachos as well as the deeper meanings of the text are subjected to the classic Commentators treatment. Through humor, anecdotes, and homiletics, we are brought face to face with the wisdom, inspiration, and profound ethical teachings whose purpose it is to bring us to appreciate the true logic and purpose of the concept and practice of real, heartfelt teshuvah.

Dr. Erica Brown, that educator of educators, has once again brought to our homes a unique, and quite original work entitled, Return: Daily Inspiration For The Days Of Awe [OU Press/Maggid, 2012] wherein, by using the calendar based technique of the ten days of repentance, presents for our use a daily discipline of readings based upon a series of Al Chet selections, with each day headed by a differing ethical theme. These themes include faith, destiny, humility, compassion, anger, honesty, and holiness.

Drawing upon a plethora of literary sources, her multi-cultural presentment gives our time honored themes of teshuva a unique and most relevant meaning for all Jews seriously interested in the deeper theological, as well as practical meanings, of what the concept of repentance should mean to all of us. This work is a true supplement to that great work by Rabbi Ezra Bick, In His Mercy: Understanding the Thirteen Midot [Maggid/Yeshivat Har Etzion, 2010]. Also, to be referenced from a previous review, is Dr. Louis Newman’s work, Repentance: The Meaning and Practice of Teshuvah, [Jewish Lights, 2010]. Also it should be noted within this same literary genre, is Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski’s now classic Twerski on Machzor: Rosh Hashanah [Artscroll, 2011, 2012], a supplement now in its second printing, and most deservedly so.

In addition, we have a second volume of Rabbi Moshe Weinberger’s excellent commentary on Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook’s Orot Teshuvah, Song of Teshuvah [Urim/ Penina Press, 2012] Read the rest of this entry »