June 21, 2024
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Short, Meaningful Parsha Insights

Reviewing: ‘Shalom Rav: Insights on the Weekly Parasha’ (Vayikra /Bemidbar/ Devarim) by Rabbi Shalom Rosner. Maggid Books. 2021. English. 536 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1592645510.

As I was reading through ”Shalom Rav: Insights on the Weekly Parasha (Vayikra /Bemidbar/ Devarim)” by Rabbi Shalom Rosner, I thought of a quote from Mark Twain. He told an acquaintance that “I did not have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead.” As Twain knew, it is pretty easy to write long, meandering letters. But to write a concise letter is an art form.

Rabbi Shalom Rosner (rabbi of the Nofei HaShemesh community in Beit Shemesh) certainly has mastered the art of writing short yet highly meaningful Torah insights. In this new sefer, he has over 200 essays on the last three books of the Torah, all of which capture the essence of the parsha, and leave the reader with insightful ideas.

With Parshat Vayikra starting this week, which is the focus of this review, Rosner brings his insights to one of those most challenging books of the Torah to understand. Given the abstract nature of many of Sefer Vayikra’s topics, it can be a challenge to find a commentary that is both modern and insightful, yet true to tradition.

The essays in this book have been edited by Marc Lesnick, based on the ninth cycle of Rabbi Rosner’s Chumash shiurim. (Audio versions of these shiurim can be found at https://bit.ly/3rRSiKd.) Lesnick has done an excellent job of transcribing these shiurim and capturing Rosner’s unique style and insights.

What is remarkable about Rosner’s approach is the breadth of his sources, which span the entire range of Jewish thought. From the German rationalism of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch to the greatest of contemporary poskim in his use of Rabbi Asher Weiss, to the Hasidic masters, and more, the book is a mosaic of thoughts and ideas.

As to Sefer Vayikra, Rosner has essays on topics such as “Reconnecting to Hashem through Korbanot,” “Korban Toda: A Celebratory Public Admission” and “Thanks, Man as Subject and Object,” and more. His topics make for great starting points in a more extensive discussion.

As a student of Rabbi Rosner, Lesnick has written a brilliant book that his teacher can be proud of. And after reading ”Shalom Rav,” the reader is likely to find themselves added to Rabbi Rosner’s ever-expanding list of followers.


Ben Rothke lives in New Jersey and works in the information security field. He reviews books on religion, technology and science. @benrothke

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