Category Archives: seforim

Excerpt from "Song of Teshuva

The excerpt below is from, Song of Teshuva, a commentary on Rav Kook’s Oros HaTeshuvah by Rav Moshe Weinberger and adapted by Yaacov Dovid Shulman.

The currents of teshivah- of the individual and of the community- surge forward.

This image of teshuvah as a flowing river comes from a passage in the Zohar: “There is a hidden place, which is the depth of the well.  And from it rivers and springs stream to every direction.   And that deepest of all depths is called teshuvah” (Acharei Mos 70).

A related idea is coveyed in by the fact that the Hebrew word for “river”, nakhal, is an acronym of the phrase, “nafsheinu khiksa laShem– “our soul hopes for Hashem” (Tehillim 33:20).

The currents of teshuvah flow- within the individual, community and the entire Jewish people- in the form of an inclination to chagne and improve.

Thus, the Gemara teaches that every day a heavenly echo calls out, “Return to God” (Pirkei Avos 6:2 and Hagigah 15a).  The Baal Shem Tov explains that this echo is not a loud proclamation, but our inner awareness of teshuvah calling to us.
Rav Kook believed that despite its many detours and difficulties, the world is spiritually improving, and he refused to accept a dark, negative and pessimistic outlook.  He saw this return to God as being woven into the very texture of the universe.  This view is not unique to Rav Kook.  Thus, when people told the R. Yisrael Meir Kagen, the Chofetz Chaim, that the Balfour Declaration marked the beginning of the redemption, he demurred and replied that Creation itself marked the beginning of redemption.  (Pages 106-107)

Rav Weinberger’s commentary on Oros(t) HaTeshuva now in book form

Black hat tip to R Reuven Boshnack.

Perfect for Elul and Tishrei!  I have been a teleconferencing Rav Weinberger’s Oros Ha’Teshuva shiurim forever, it seems.  They were my Friday morning companion for the eight years I lived in Indianapolis and after that, too.  Thanks to Reb Yaakov Dovid Shulman, the commentary of Rav Weinberger has now become available in book form.  Oros Ha’Teshuva is not (for me) easy to learn just on it’s on.  Like most of what Rav Weinberger teaches, his ability to clarify ideas and bring them home to our level is a gift.  My copy is ordered already.

From the publisher’s website:

Includes the original Hebrew text of Oros HaTeshuvah, a new translation into English by Yaacov Dovid Shulman, and commentary from Rabbi moshe Weinberger.

“Teshuvah – repentance – does not come to embitter life but to sweeten it.”

HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook wrote these inspiring words in Oros HaTeshuvah, a work in which he delivers the message that teshuvah is not a somber process of self-deprivation but a joyful journey back to Hashem and to the core of who we are.

When Oros HaTeshuvah was published in 1925, it was immediately accepted as a classic of Jewish thought and hailed for its brilliance of ideas, warmth of feeling, depth of psychological insight, holiness of spirit and mastery of Torah knowledge.

However, because of the difficulty of its language and the profusion of its exalted concepts, Oros HaTeshuvah has remained for many a sealed book.

Now Rav Moshe Weinberger, Mara D’Asra of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, New York, has composed a commentary that reveals the treasures embedded within Oros HaTeshuvah. Based on an extensive knowledge of Jewish philosophical and inspirational literature, Rav Weinberger’s commentary is profound, moving and fresh, richly explicating Oros HaTeshuvah’s ideas in a clear and accessible but not superficial manner. His masterful expositions on a variety of topics (such as the difference between depression and a broken heart) are both lucid and invigorating.

This book will fulfill the hopes of those who are looking for a holy text written in a contemporary style that will inspire them to renew their spiritual passions, strengthen their religious commitments and energize their personal growth.

Place your order here or contact your local seforim store.

"Making an empty space for new thought"

Photo from here

The sefer Da Es Nafshecha teaches the following:

When Hashem created the world, He first created an empty space to allow room for the world to exist.  This can be compared to making the preparations require to erect a building.  First, a large hole must be dug in order to lay a foundation; otherwise, the building won’t last.  In fact, the deeper the foundation, the more stable the building will be.  So too, when a person wants to access the foundation of his thought, he must first access the empty space that is the place for the foundations.  This empty space is the source of our thoughts.

Often in Jewish meditation writings (based on Torah-true sources) the phrase “empty tge mind” is used.  Base on this teaching, I think my own approach of mentally clearing out the garage or warehouse isn’t really the goal.  Looking below the surface and clearing out the foundation should be my starting point.

Rav Moshe Weinberger on Igeres HaMussar

After seeing Dixie Yid’s post about “Imagination Verses Intellect-Not What You Think“, I purchased the mp3 of this shiur.  As you may guess, it was excellent (in fact, there hasn’t been a shiur from Rav Weinberger that I haven’t heard, live or as an mp3, that hasn’t “hit me”).
Just to expand what Dixie Yid so beauifully posted, I transcribed a little more.  Any mistakes are mine.
Rav Weinberger says:
There is one of the most unbelievable opening sentences to anything that was ever written.  Rebbe Yisrael Salanter, the first sentence in the Igeres Hamussar.  “Ha’adam asur b’muskalo“, listen carefully, it’s a sentence for life.  But not like they have in jail.  A sentence for life to live with, to be free.  “Ha’adam asur b’muskalo, v’chofshi b’dimyono.”  In English, man is imprisoned by his mind, assur meaning imprisoned ,by what he knows, by his knowledge, by his neshama.  V’chofshi b’dimyono, but his dimyon, imagination, his delusions of his guf, free him and give him the impression that he can make any choice that he likes. 

My thanks to Dixie Yid for posting the orginal text of the shiur.  Igeret HaMussar is available in English here.  The mp3 can be purchased here.

Sunday’s Salanter Selection

Photo from here

Dixie Yid posted the following based on Friday’s shiur from Rav Moshe Weinberger, rav of Cong. Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY.

Imagination Versus Intellect – Not What You Think

From Rav Weinberger’s Shabbos shiur this morning:

Rav Yisroel Salanter in Igeres Hamussar: “ha’adam asur b’muskalo, v’chofshi b’dimyono.” “Man is imprisoned by his intellect and free in his imagination.”

Rav Weinberger’s explanation: A person’s intellect and soul, to whom G-d’s reality is blazingly obvious, one is bound (“asur”) to do what is right and avoid what is wrong. To the intellect/soul, one can no more look at an inappropriate image than he could stick his hand in a fire or cut himself with a knife.

But the force of the imagination/fantasy/body makes a person feel “chofshi b’artzeinu,” free to do right or do wrong. But that feeling is pure dimyon, fantasy.

“Asur b’muskalo” is why a person says he “can’t” eat on Yom Kippur, and “chofshi b’dimyono” is why he feels it’s not so pashut that you can’t conceal income on his tax return.

IY”H may we all be zoche to attain the feeling of “I can’t” when it comes to doing anything against Hashem’s will!

Even with R Zvi Miller’s excellent translation (with some commentary) on Igeres HaMussar by Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, I have always had trouble since 1991 really understanding those opening words of Igeres HaMussar, until now.
Yashar Koach to Dixie Yid for not only attending the shiur, but posting this teaching!!!
The shiur is available for purchase here.

25th of Shevat- Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter

The following words  have been on my mind for the past two months.  They were written by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman, in the introduction to his translation and commentary of Messilas Yesharim, The Path of the Just:

The greatest problem we Jews have to contend with today, though its not recognized as such yet, is the loss of our memories and dreams.  We have forgotten who we are, what we do, where we would like to be, what our unique national power and genius is, and what it is that makes us continue to go forward in history.

Once we had character and vision.  If we go lost or sidetracked, we had only to close our eyes and hear ourselves again, and we would go right on course to the goal we had recognized (and either followed or openly disavowed but recognized nontheless).  But we have lost this.  Like a singer in the midst of a great din and rumble, we cannot hear our keynote, and we are dumbfounded.

Indeed, dumbfounded, or numb.  Many are living a vibrant life of observant Judaism, while others are floating from day to day, from Shabbos to Shabbos.  It’s been 128 since Reb Yisrael left this world.  It is easy enough to point fingers, write blogs, and bemoan the current state of the observant life.  The fact that, as least for me, there is a desire to strive for an absence of mediocrity is due to R Yisrael Salanter.

For a biography please see this.

Rockin’ two of my favorite seforim on the iTouch

A few weeks ago I discovered that you can go to Apple’s App Store and get (for free) Mesillas Yesharim for the iPhone, iTouch, and iPad.

The Mesillas Yesharim app is pretty straightforward, letting you chose either Hebrew or English.  The English translation is fairly basic.  Of course, if you really want to learn the sefer in English, I strongly suggest finding a copy of R Yaakov Feldman’s excellent translation and commentary (I recently, after searching for a few years, found a copy at a reasonable price and it’s like I’m learning the sefer for the first time again).  A full review of this app is available at

I also, using the built in pdf reader in iBooks, was able to put the original English translation of Rav Hirsch’s The Nineteen Letters on my iTouch.  To upload it on your device, simply download it onto your computer, then import the pdf into iTunes (use the “add a file” option) and it will load and default under “books”.  Then just plug in your iToy and drag the “book” to your your decice (the same way you would drag a song, album, playlist, or shiur) and sync.

Chovas HaTalmidim: Back for the Attack

Originally translated and published in hardback in 1991 (and paperback in 1995) by Aronson, Feldheim has just republished a new edition of Chovas HaTalmidim by Rav Kalonymous Kalman Shapiro zt”l, the Piaseczna Rebbe.  Feldheim is offering a fantastic intro price of only $19.99 for this volume which is over 640 pages.
It seems that from their website, Feldheim plans to reprint many of the Rebbe’s works in English.

I’m guessing that this is similar to their republishing of R Daniel Korobkin’s translation of the Kuzari.

While I happen to own the original verison of A Student’s Obligation, I’m looking forward to the new edition, since I believe it will have the Hebrew, as well (I’ve been bugging my seforim store about this since before Chanuka).
I cannot even begin to explain how moving and influential this sefer has been to me.  Originally published in 1932, the lessons with it seem as if they are written for us, today.
I have previously blogged about the sefer’s introduction here.