May 30, 2024
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Highlighting: “Essential Torah Words, Names, and Phrases” by Michael J. Weinstein. Independently published. 2024. English. Paperback. 556 pages. ISBN-13:
979-8879759877.

A few years after publishing “Ten Times Chai: 180 Orthodox Synagogues of New York City,” a photobook of 613 photos of the interiors of existing Orthodox synagogues in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx, and dedicating it to the 23 Holocaust survivors he met as a volunteer with the JCC of Greater Coney Island in Brooklyn (connect2ny.org), Michael J. Weinstein received a note from a friend with the words “mitzvah goreret mitzvah,” and had to Google the meaning, “one mitzvah leads to the next.”

Weinstein, a baal teshuva from Long Island, New York, whose official Jewish learning ended with Hebrew school in 1976, started keeping a written list with that phrase being the first at age 60. As he stepped up his learning from Torah-related books, he expanded his list to create an A-Z giant glossary of words, names and phrases from the Torah. During the same time, he researched his family tree and discovered his great-great-grandfather, Mordechai Weiss was a melamed, a teacher of Hebrew language and traditions in a cheder school in Podvolochisk, a shtetl in Galicia, an area during the Austria-Hungarian empire, and now modern-day western Ukraine.

The list of words, names and phrases expanded exponentially, and Weinsten created a “glossary of glossaries” for himself to learn as he worked as a director of investments at Oppenheimer & Co., and thought it was a little late to enroll in cheder, Hebrew high school, or a yeshiva. Using only Torah-related books, Weinstein compiled the list into “Essential Torah Words, Names and Phrases,” a 550-page book that includes a list of the 23 hakamahs, “letters of approbation,” he received from rabbis, many of them rosh yeshivas, no coincidence as it is the same number of Holocaust survivors to whom he dedicated his first book.

Photos of Jerusalem, used to separate one letter of the alphabet from the next, were taken by Weinstein during a trip to Israel in 2022. In the introduction Wildstein wrote, “My list is obviously incomplete and entirely subjective for what I considered ‘essential.’ For some readers my list might be considered “voluminous” and for others, just a mere drop of water in the vast ocean of Torah literature. However, if it can help one or more Jews connect to Torah, then God willing, I will have completed my task.”

Weinstein also dedicated his book to his great-great-grandfather and believes he is looking down from shamayim and saying yasher koach, “may your strength be firm,” and expressing admiration. The book is currently being sold on Amazon and direct from the author at [email protected].

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