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Thursday, September 17, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: TORAH FOR YOUR TABLE - A personalized guide to the essence of the Torah


BY: RABBI YISROEL JUNGREIS and RABBI OSHER ANSHEL JUNGREIS
Compiled By: Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Book Review by: Guest Contributor, Fern Sidman
There is no doubt that the times that we live in are fraught with innumerable dangers. For the Jewish people, it is a particularly horrifying juncture in the annals of our history, as we witness an exponential rise in anti-Semitism and the continued demonization of Israel; while the world remains eerily silent. On a collective scale, our nation is faced with the escalating and alarming scourge of intermarriage, assimilation and youth alienation. Our personal lives have taken on an ever increasing load of financial challenges and emotional stresses that often result in families being torn asunder. From time immemorial, the indefatigable Jew has faced similar, if not infinitely worse scenarios in terms of our personal and national survival, yet has continued to prevail over all pernicious forms of adversity. The question has often been asked, "Given their history, how could the Jewish nation possibly survive and even triumph?"

In order to keep us afloat and exhilarated for the upcoming new year, Artscroll Publications has released an exceptionally enlightening and incredibly inspiring compendium of Torah insights, entitled "Torah For Your Table", penned by brothers, Rabbi Yisroel and Osher Anshel Jungreis. If the surname of the writers sound at all familiar, these Rabbis are the sons of the internationally renowned Torah luminary, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, and it is she who has masterfully compiled all of her sons' Torah lectures into this impressive volume for use at home, school or synagogue. The authors have most befittingly dedicated this monumental work of intellectual and spiritual gravitas to their beloved father and mentor, the esteemed Torah scholar, Rabbi Meshulum HaLevi Jungreis, ZT"L.

It is in these pages of "Torah For Your Table" that the brothers Jungreis make it abundantly clear that the key to our survival as Jews can only be found in our unbreakable bond with our G-d and our consistent devotion to His Torah. History has proven that it was the stubborn insistence on the part of the Jew to study Torah, despite the punishments inflicted upon them by their tormentors, that served as our eternal life raft in the tumultuous waters of time. The authors tell us that the legacy of the Jewish people is inextricably tied to our ultimate blessing; our acceptance of the Torah at Sinai. Thus, Hashem has bequeathed to us a precious "road map" called the Torah, in order that we may successfully navigate the often uneven terrain of everyday life and in His munificence, has provided us with the exclusive source of our cherished and unique value system.

Our sojourn through the weekly Torah portions; from Bereishis through Devarim (Genesis to Deuteronomy) is brilliantly enhanced by the profoundly personal, highly original and erudite interpretations of both authors; while their cogent concepts remain traditionally predicated upon the teachings of our commentators and sages of blessed memory. Teaching Torah as it applies to each of us as individuals is no small task, but Rabbi Yisroel and Rabbi Osher speak to our hearts and souls by prodigously paving the path to a comprehensive understanding for students from all backgrounds and all levels of observance. It is apparent that the flames of Torah burn bright in this classic tome, as the passion, warmth and love that the authors have infused here can only be termed palpable..

This refreshingly honest book does not aim to sugarcoat Torah precepts that the world at large may find "politically incorrect" but rather offers a sagacious perspective on the salient and nuanced points in each parsha and how they personally relate to our lives. Citing a plethora of Midrashic and Talmudic sources, the subject matter covered here includes the veritable gamut of Torah related concepts such as the power of prayer, performing chesed, the establishment of a Torah true home, respecting our parents and teachers, designating time for regular Torah study, sensitizing ourselves to the needs of others and the critical importance of remaining ever vigilant concerning our conduct and speech, among hundreds of other timeless concepts.

Reminding us of the infamous words of King Solomon who said, "Death and life are in the tongue", the authors teach us that through the power of speech we have within our capability to create or destroy. "There are more commandments in the Torah in regard to speech than to any other mitzvah; seventeen negative and fourteen positive mitzvos", the authors teach us, adding the admonition, "Think before you speak and ask yourself, 'Will my words generate light or darkness, love or hatred, blessing or curse?' The choice is yours to make. Use your Divine gift of speech carefully and wisely, in the service of the Almighty."

Concerning the tenet of "Gemilus Chasadim" (acts of loving kindness) we learn that our proclivities for such kindness and largesse can be found in our spiritual DNA, as we are taught about the "Ark Rehab" that Noach endured. Of Noach and his family, the authors teach, "In the Ark they had to care for all the animals that G-d had commanded them to gather; backbreaking labor consumed them day and night. Yet through that labor they learned the meaning of chesed - reaching out with gemilus chasadim - one of the pillars on which G-d built His world."

We are also treated to especially poignant anecdotes about beloved members of the Jungreis family and how their living example of Torah precepts helped shape the character of the authors. They recall with great love, "Our bobbe, Rebbetzin Miriam Jungreis, a'h, was a true embodiment of this trait of chesed. Her life was one of constant giving, and even in her last days, as illness racked her frail body, she continued to organize chesed programs for needy Russian immigrants, explaining that if she could not offer help to others, her life had no meaning."

In our fast paced and harried existence, quality time for genuine communication with our families and friends has become severely limited. It would appear that the only time that we have to communicate is at meal time and the authors urge us to use the time we spend at our dining room tables wisely. Rather than engage in mundane chit chat, it is imperative to use our communication skills to impart Torah values to our spouses, children, extended families, friends and guests. Thus, the title of this book, "Torah For Your Table" is not intended as a stellar guide for exclusive use on Shabbos and Yom Tov but for each and every day of the week. Whether it be Monday morning breakfast, Sunday lunch or Wednesday night dinner, we must start off the new year in the proper manner. Throughout the weeks and months ahead we can savor the feeling of re-birth that fills our hearts on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur by making this invaluable Torah companion a staple item at our tables.

Moreover, this parsha book represents a most significant, historic and vital contribution to the corpus of books on Torah literature and its impact will certainly be felt in this generation and generations to come. No home, school, community center or synagogue library should be without it !! A must read for anyone seeking Torah knowledge !!

ORDER BOOK HERE: http://www.artscroll.com/Products/TYTH.html

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