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

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By Rabbi Johnny Solomon

Over the past decade there has been an explosion of both Hebrew and English language books containing and explaining the teachings of the great Jewish thinker and Talmudist Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. However, while many of these books faithfully convey the wide range of creative and insightful ideas of Rav Soloveitchik, far fewer explore his unique talmudic methodology or attempt to present many of the ideas that he taught in his talmudic lectures. The reason for this apparent omission is due to the fact that any (authentic) attempt to explain how the Rav extrapolated his ideas from the Talmud requires a deep knowledge of the talmudic passages which inspired and informed him.

Rabbi Dr Shlomo Pick, himself a former student of Rav Soloveitchik and currently a teacher of Talmud and Maimonidean thought at Bar-Ilan University’s Institute for Advanced Torah Studies, wishes to redress this imbalance through presenting some of the more accessible Talmudic lectures by the Rav that explore themes relating to the festivals.

In 2004 Rabbi Pick published a Hebrew volume titled Moadei HaRav (literally, ‘The Festivals of the Rav’) containing seventeen extended summaries of public lectures delivered by the Rav based on the notes that both he and others took while attending these lectures, in addition to incorporating an introductory chapter on ‘The Rav’s Methodology of Torah Study’. In so doing Rabbi Pick provided a unique window that shed light on the Rav’s methodology that could be understood by both Talmudic experts and laypeople alike.
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Review of Nefesh Hatzimtzum

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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Review and Dvar Torah of Torah Mysteries Illuminated

By Rabbi Johnny Solomon TMI-pasteon.indd

Torah Mysteries Illuminated, by Thomas Furst, is a fascinating collection of original and thought-provoking Torah insights. Each of the eighteen essays in this beautifully published book explores a specific topic concerning Tanach, Holidays, Prayer and the Jewish Home, and each sheds new light on stories, concepts and phrases that the reader may, until this point, have never even considered. For example, in his essay titled ‘”Yom Tov”: What’s in a Name?’, Mr. Furst provides considerable evidence to demonstrate how the word tov refers to moments of divine revelation, and consequently, how the term Yom Tov refers to a ‘day on which Hashem revealed Himself to His people’. Then, in his essay titled ‘Shevet Levi’s exemplary character’, Mr. Furst offers a wide ranging analysis of how the word Achim is used with reference to Shevet Levi, as well as how Moshe & Aharon differed in their personality types, leading the reader to a clear understanding of why Moshe needed to be accompanied by his brother when confronting Pharoh, and why there is a need for both Kohanim and Leviim. Finally, as mentioned above, Mr. Furst’s examination of Adam’s first sin is nothing less than ingenious. I thoroughly enjoyed learning Torah Mysteries Illuminated and will certainly be consulting it on a regular basis. Continue reading “Review and Dvar Torah of Torah Mysteries Illuminated