April 15, 2024
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Notes on a Few Interesting Sefarim

Our daily communal prayers commence not with liturgy contemplating the greatness of the Creator, or verses of His praise—instead with the baraita of Rabbi Yishmael and his 13 hermeneutic principles. By starting prayer with this aspect of the Oral Law, it serves to highlight its importance to Jewish life.

Yet, with the centrality of the Oral Law to every Jew, there are aspects of it that many people do not consider or appreciate. In “The Oral Law: The Rabbinic Contribution to Torah SheBeal Peh,” Rabbi Chaim Schimmel has updated his book, which he first wrote about 50 years ago.

Here he provides a history of the oral law and how rabbinic legislation has shaped Jewish law.

For those looking to understand how the oral law works, was developed, and how the various rabbinic enactments and pronouncements interact with it, Schimmel’s book is an excellent resource.

A few months ago, hundreds of thousands of people gathered around the world to celebrate the 13th Siyum HaShas of Daf Yomi.

Yet, for many of those who made their way through the 2,711 pages of the Babylonian Talmud, they may not know just how the Talmud originated and developed.

In “A History of the Talmud,” author David C. Kraemer provides the reader with an overview of the development of the Talmud Bavli.

An interesting observation Kraemer makes is that the 16th century, when the Talmud was being burned and banned, corresponded with a rise of interest in the Zohar, which offered a means to fill the gap with the absence of the Talmud.

While I have my disagreements with parts of the first half of the book, where Kraemer tries to underplay the importance of the rabbinate, the second half provides an excellent overview of the development of the Bavli and its impact.

For events that run efficiently, there are often things going on behind the scenes that people may not be aware of.

A perfect example is the Jewish wedding. There are myriad halachic details that the person busy at the shmorg may be oblivious to.

In “Birkat Rivka,” Rabbi Mordechai Djavaheri provided an overview of the intricacies of the Jewish wedding ceremony.

In this monograph, Djavaheri details what is going on behind the scenes at the reception, ceremony, and post-ceremony sheva brachot. He also throws in a number of short divrei Torah that one can use in the event that they are asked to speak.

By Ben Rothke

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