June 18, 2024
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Rabbi Steven Pruzansky Launches ‘Repentance For Life’ as the Yomim Noraim Approach

Highlighting: “Repentance for Life” by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky. Kodesh Press. 2021. English. ISBN-13: 978-1947857704.

On Monday evening, August 23, a delighted crowd at Bnai Yeshurun welcomed their rabbi emeritus, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, as he launched the publication of his latest book, “Repentance for Life.” Published in 2021 by Kodesh Press, with CEO Rav Alec Goldstein and his wife Caroline, CMO, present at the event, the book is a tour de force of over 500 pages. It includes many footnotes providing extensive sources as well as multiple quips and clever comments.

In a meaningful touch for community readers of the volume, each of the 18 chapters is dedicated by a Bnai Yeshurun family in memory of a beloved relative.

When asked about his objective in writing this current work, Rabbi Pruzansky responded, “I wanted to share the thoughts on teshuva that I had transmitted during the 26 years that I was privileged to serve as the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck. Frequently, at the conclusion of my Shabbat Shuvah Drasha, people would come up to me and say, ‘You must publish this!’ So now I have!”

In his introduction to “Repentance for Life,” Rabbi Pruzansky shares the method he used in compiling the material for the new book. “Months (sometimes even a year) in advance, a topic related to teshuva would suggest itself to me, and then I would begin to learn, study and research that subject in all its dimensions. Frequently I would pare down the text so as not to try the patience of the congregation. Repentance is a rich, diverse, and life-altering topic, and each drasha would explore a different nuance of repentance. The profundity of our Sages’ insights often astonished me and the multiplicity of approaches to any given theme underscored the centrality of teshuva to the Jewish experience.”

Rabbi Pruzansky shared that teshuva entails more than just feeling guilty, begging for forgiveness and moving on. It is life transforming and when done properly makes us better, wiser and more thoughtful people. There are 18 essays in the book that encompass many of life’s issues and challenges, and repentance is at the core of all of them—ranging from happiness, the ways of peace, love of Jews and the land of Israel to forgiveness, children, suffering, the world to come and fear of sin.

Regarding the Torah scholars that he cites in the book, Rabbi Pruzansky shared, “I have always tried to incorporate an extensive range of Jewish thinkers, and so we will encounter here the profound thoughts not only of my revered rebbe, Rav Yisroel Chait, shlit”a, but also of Rav Yosef Ber Soloveichik; Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook; Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto; Rav Yitzchak Hutner; Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, zichronam livracha; and from more recent times, Rav Shlomo Aviner, shlit”a. I do not doubt that any innovative thoughts that are included here arose only because of the ideas, explicit or implicit, in the writings of these outstanding thinkers.”

In the course of his presentation, Rabbi Pruzansky posited that teshuva requires process and structure. Before Rosh Hashanah we engage in teshuva peratis (personal and introspective teshuva), during which we consider why we are here on earth, what our personal role is and what Hashem wants from us. During the aseret yemei teshuva (10 days of repentance), we shift to teshuva kelalit (expansive repentance), in which we consider the larger picture of what we can do to make the world a better place, and as members of God’s chosen people, how we can spread God’s name in the universe. In every generation we have challenges to our survival such as Fascism, Communism and the like. In our generation our challenge is not physical annihilation but spiritual diminution. Our challenge is to walk proudly with Torah in hand and inculcate this pride in our children and their children for generations to come. Living in Israel and watching the land fill up and the crane becoming the national symbol of growth and expansion, Rabbi Pruzansky sees true movement forward toward true geula and the belief that blessed times will be upon us soon.

Since making aliyah in 2020, Rabbi Pruzansky has resided in Modiin with wife, Karen, and in proximity to three of his children and their families. He currently serves as Israel region vice president for the Coalition for Jewish Values and as senior rabbinic scholar at Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah in Modiin. Rabbi Pruzansky writes extensively on topics of Jewish interest and has lectured in more than 25 countries. Prior to his current book, Rabbi Pruzansky authored the two-volume “Tzadka Mimeni: The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility” (Gefen Publishing House, 2014 and 2018), “A Prophet for Today: Contemporary Lessons of the Book of Yehoshua” (Gefen, 2006) and “Judges for Our Time: Contemporary Lessons of the Book of Shoftim” (Gefen, 2009).

“Repentance for Life: Ubacharta Ba’Chaim” can be purchased at Judaica stores as well as online through Kodesh Press, New York. 
Visit www.kodeshpress.com.

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