Review of The Shame Borne in Silence

December 1, 2016

shameBy Daniel Stuhlman

In 1997, shortly after the publication of the first edition of this book, Rabbi Twerski, speaking at an overflow Baltimore audience, said that “True Torah observance is not conducive to any kind of abuse, physical, emotional or otherwise….” This is still his message in this revised and updated second edition.

Community members have a hard time believing that a “pillar of the community” can be a saint in public and a monster at home. Abuse can be verbal, emotional, and/or physical. Too often an abused wife is naively told to stay in the marriage and preserve shalom bayis (domestic peace). Even if the accuser is lying, we have to take an accusation seriously and try to help those involved. Rabbi Twerski, who is both a Chasidic rabbi and a psychiatrist, has many years of experience treating alcohol and other types of substance abusers. He knows that those who are sick, need professional help. Denial does not make the problems disappear.

This book is well written, but it is not a happy book. The case studies presented are sad because too often the person seeking help was not helped in the early stages by the parents, rabbis, or community members. After reading this book, you should be able to better recognize the signs of abuse and help the abused parties get the kind of help to make her or him whole. This book should be read and discussed by every rabbi, parent, teacher, and anyone else who could see domestic abuse.

It is highly recommended for every kind of library – personal, synagogue, academic, and community.

This review originally appeared in AJL Reviews.


Review of Moadei HaRav

November 30, 2016

MoadeiHaRav web1By David B. Levy

Rabbi Shlomo Pick’s edition of Moadei HaRav succeeds in offering the English-speaking, observant reader a better understanding and appreciation of some of Rav Soloveitchik’s ideas, analysis, and methodology relating to halachic (legal) teachings, regarding the chagim (holidays). Many of these shiurim (lessons) were originally delivered in English or Yiddish. Rabbi Pick provides a clear overview of the topics and offers explanations using the Brisker method of interpretation.

The book comprises an introduction and 17 chapters from the Rav’s lectures organized into three distinct parts. The first section includes an excellent essay describing the Rav’s position on the peshat (simple meaning) of talmudic passages, the role of minhagim (customs) within Jewish law, the Rav’s understanding of the teacher/student dynamic, and the relationship between philosophy and law. The second part contains shiurim on the holidays; for example, setting the date of Shavuot (based on a number of Rishonim). Some of these shiurim include an appendix to elucidate particular issues raised by the Rav.

Rabbi Pick also provides helpful footnotes that contain references to additional oral remarks or discourses by the Rav and/or other primary and secondary sources by and about him. The third section includes five studies on Jewish law and customs such as the mitzvah of Charoset (the Rav on the Rambam).

Rabbi Pick and his helpers (including Rabbi Shimon Altshul) have made a most positive contribution by sharing many of the Rav’s insights, innovative approaches, and intellectual brilliance in a very clear manner.

Highly recommended.

This review originally appeared in AJL reviews.


AJL Review of Meditations at Twilight on Genesis

March 8, 2016

by Ellen Share, Librarian, Washington Hebrew Congregation

meditationstwilight web01Meditations at Twilight on Genesis is a commentary on each parsha (chapter) in the book of B’reshit (Genesis). Rabbi Granatstein provides his own insights and wisdom along with a wide range of traditional sources, including the Talmud; Midrashic classics, such as B’reshit Rabba, Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer, and Midrash Tanhuma; Jewish philosophical works, such as Rambam’s Moreh Nevukhim (Guide for the Perplexed) and the Zohar; as well as the commentaries of Rashi, and Ibn Ezra, to name but a few. This book by an Orthodox rabbi is not about ritual, rather it has universal appeal for all Jews. The chapters are short and provide a good supplementary commentary to the parshot in the Chumash (Torah) and ideas for discussion at the Shabbat table. For example, In Parashat Vaychi, which is the final chapter in Genesis, Granatstein cites the story of Joseph as to show how our ancestors strove to maintain their Jewish identity and how we might learn from them. Thus, Joseph, who had become second in command in Egypt, made the Israelites promise that he would be buried in Canaan. Joseph never forgot that he was a Hebrew and of the land that God promised our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Recommended for any synagogue library.

This review appeared in the AJL Reviews February/March 2016 issue.