Review of Nefesh HaTzimtzum

December 1, 2015

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, NefeshHatzimtzumOne1

I am at a loss for words to describe how blown away I am by the magnitude of Avinoam Fraenkel’s Nefesh Hatzimtzum.
Nefesh Hatzimtzum is a translation and study guide to R’ Chaim Volozhin’s Nefesh Hachaim. For those unfamiliar, Nefesh Hachaim is the “Shulchan Aruch” of hashkafa and philosophy. The concepts presented by R. Chaim are a basic platform to give us knowledge of the closest that is humanly achievable in relating to God and by extension, our ability to serve Him.NefeshHatzimtzumTwo1

Nefesh Hatzimtzum is simply outstanding. It is a crisp and clear presentation of what has essentially been a closed book. Now Nefesh Hachaim is not only accessible, but in Fraenkel’s two volume set (over 1600 pages!), one also enjoys the benefits of a spoon fed education on the material.  Read the rest of this entry »


Review of Pioneers of Religious Zionism

August 4, 2015

By Rabbi Ari Enkin

Pioneers of Religious Zionism explores the life of the six most prominent leaders of religious Zionism in the 19th and early 20thcentury. These are Rabbis Yehuda Alkali, Zvi Hirsch Kalischer, Samuel Mohliver, Jacob Reines, Abraham Isaac Kook, and Judah Leib (Fishman) Maimon.

There is roughly thirty pages devoted to each of these rabbis, where we learn about their early years and education, political opinions, and their relationship and influence within the Zionist movement.  A central feature of all these rabbis’ lives is that that by collaborating with the secular Zionist movement, they were victim to fierce opposition, condemnations, and defamations from their colleagues in Europe and the Land of Israel. Read the rest of this entry »


Review of The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures

August 2, 2015

By Rabbi Ari Enkin

That the shidduch world has gone mad is not news to anyone, but that there are competent and credible individuals within the frum world who don’t fear tackling the issue, might just be. Dr. Michael J. Salamon’s “The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures” takes a frank look at what young religious ‘daters’ are going through. From the nauseating questions that parents and shadchanim have no shame asking, to the real life shidduch experiences, this book is full of shidduch stories that should have been written in a fiction novel or a book of Jewish humor. Sadly, however, they are the true stories that so many young men and women are experiencing. Read the rest of this entry »


Review of Journey Together

July 29, 2015

By Rabbi Ari EnkinJourney Together: 49 Steps to Transforming a Family

Following the order of the “sefirot” that are a popular study during the Sefirat Ha’omer period, Journey Together is a guide for building and repairing relationships during the 49 days of the sefira count. Consistent with the themes of the individual sefirot, the primary attributes that are focused in the book are: loving kindness, strength/restraint, harmony/truth, endurance, humility, foundation/bonding, and leadership/nobility.

The book opens with a great introduction on the importance if counting the omer, and a primer about the concept of the sefirot. Each of the seven content-packed chapters opens with an explanation of what that week’s sefira emanation represents. For example, week one opens with a discussion of “chessed” and its ramifications on creation and the world. We then examine examples of the day’s sefira in the context of the Biblical figure who is associated with it, and then move on into the motivational stories. And so it is with each day’s sefira count

The book is overflowing with ideas and inspirational teachings, anecdotes, analogies, and stories to help us transform the days of sefira for better. There is an extremely refreshing blend of teachings from modern day rabbis, educators and inspirational speakers, such as Rebbetzin Jungreis, Rabbi Avraham Twerski, Rabbi J.B. Soloevitchik, Rabbi Akiva Tatz, Rabbi David Aaron, Rabbi Stewart Weiss, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, and many others.  Read the rest of this entry »


Review of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values

July 14, 2015

By Rabbi Ari EnkinEncyclopediaofJewishValues9789655241631

Nachum Amsel has done it again. The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values presents over forty exciting and pressing issues of the day where clarity from a Jewish perspective is so urgently needed and sought. Some of the topics include: Alternative Medicine, Birthdays, Capital Punishment, Competition, Gun Control, Homosexuality, Music, the Land of Israel, Ransoming Hostages, Leaders who Sin, and much, much more.

The chapter on “Sports” was exceptionally interesting, and frankly, fun to read. There are many halachic issues relevant to sports, such as a variety of Shabbat related laws, and responsibility for damage and injury incurred in the course of sports. Readers will learn about sports in Judaism throughout the ages, right from the Biblical (with examples in Job, Zacharia, and Lamentations, no less!) and the Talmudic (Kohanic altar races, among other creative games and sports). The chapter also includes a brief review of famous Jewish baseball players in Unites States history.

Some of our greatest sages encourages sports and exercise and even engaged in it themselves. For example, The Chafetz Chaim advises walking and swimming, as does Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzkly, a swimmer himself. Rav Avraham Kook writes that a healthy body is as important as a healthy spirit. Rabbi Shlomo Goren did fifty push-ups daily. As you can see, there is much Jewish value to be found in sports (not to be confused with sitting in front of a television set with beer and pretzels and watching a football game). Here are some excerpts from that chapter: Read the rest of this entry »