Books For Life Newsletter
Volume 1, Number 2


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Dear friends,

Shalom U-vrakhah! Welcome to issue number 2 of "Sefer Ha-Hayim - Books for Life" Newsletter. For those who have just joined us, I have founded a new publishing house named Yashar Books. Among its first projects is the publication of this newsletter. Each issue will feature news, ideas, and insights from and about the world of Jewish books. I hope that you enjoy Books for Life and ask that you send me feedback on how to make this a more enjoyable and informative newsletter.

Thank you,

Gil Student
President, Yashar Books

Find out more about some of the other people at Yashar Books at http://www.YasharBooks.com/AboutUs.html


Vol. 1, No. 2


TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Musings on Buying Books
2. Pull Up a Chair in the Reading Room
3. The Yashar Books Ethics Series
4. Author Profile
5. Forthcoming Books


1. MUSINGS ON BUYING BOOKS

Kohelet 12:12 "And more than that, my son, be careful, making many books without end..."

The Targum Yerushalmi translates this verse as encouraging writing books. "...be careful to make many books without end..." This is also how R' Sa'adia Gaon explains this verse. R. Yitzhak Sorotzkin (Rinat Yitzhak, Kohelet, ad loc.) connects this to the statement in Sefer Hasidim (530) that one who receives the gift of a Torah insight but does not share it with others by writing it down is guilty of stealing that insight.

However, R. Yonah Ibn Janah in his Sefer Ha-Rikmah (beginning of ch. 2) argues at length that "hizaher - be careful" is always about something that one should not do and never an exhortation to do something. Additionally, he suggest that "making" books in Biblical Hebrew never means writing books but, rather, acquiring them. Thus, the verse is a warning not to buy too many books. Ibn Ezra briefly offers the same explanation, and it seems to find an echo in Midrashim as well. Perhaps it is a caution against extra-biblical books or simply a warning that too much information will overwhelm a person. (See Da'at Mikra, Kohelet, p. 77 n. 14)

This explanation, though, is quite surprising. The exact opposite view is found in other areas of rabbinic thought. The Mishnah in Avot (1:4) states "Yose ben Yo'ezer of Tzereidah said: Make your house a gathering place for scholars" which R. Hayim Volozhiner (Ruah Hayim, ad loc.) explains includes creating a library of Torah books. By surrounding oneself with the works of scholars, one makes one's house a gathering place for them.

Perhaps more importantly, the last commandment listed in the Torah is the obligation on every man to write a Torah scroll. The Rosh famously ruled that in today's age, when people do not learn directly from a Torah scroll but from books, the commandment is to acquire Torah books from which to learn. Whether that is in addition or instead of writing a Torah scroll is a separate issue. However, what is clear is that normative halakhah holds that one fulfills a biblical obligation by buying books of Torah from which to study. (See the Tur, Shulhan Arukh and commentaries to Yoreh De'ah 270)

Certainly contemporary practice, which is frequently a good gauge for which of two halakhic views has been accepted, is that in this age of mass publication and widespread literacy owning Torah books is a worthy goal.


2. PULL UP A CHAIR IN THE READING ROOM

Come, step inside, pull up a chair, and find something interesting in our Reading Room: http://www.YasharBooks.com/read.html. It's your place on the Web to find quality Torah literature and Jewish media. The Reading Room features links to some of the most popular--as well of some of the undiscovered-- treasures of the Jewish Internet.

Listen to a shiur, pull out any volume from an online Shas or look up whatever you need from a virtual library of Jewish books. In the mood for a good shmooze... or a stimulating controversy? Check out our own Sefer Ha-Hayim Blog or one of the other featured Blogs and email lists.

If you need to relax after all that excitement, we even have links to online Jewish music!

Of course, you can also browse the latest selections from Yashar Books--including fascinating excerpts and profiles of our authors! Come visit soon. Want to "donate" a good Torah link to the Reading Room? Send us a message with your suggestions. We would love to hear from you!


3. THE JEWISH ETHICS SERIES

I just typed the search keyword "Scandal" into Google News In 0.27 seconds I got about 16,000 results!

It's already a media cliche that this past election was about values. William Safire once explained in his "On Language" column why public figures always talk about values, not principles: Values change with the times. Principles, on the other hand, are eternal. In our post-Enron/Global Crossing/WorldCom/ Arthur Andersen/Martha Stewart world, we desperately need a return to principles. Our society has lost its moral compass.

We are convinced the only pointer for that compass--the only source for eternal principles--is Torah scholarship. And in that spirit we are issuing The Jewish Ethics Series: a collection of books focusing on the fundamental concepts and practical applications of classical Jewish Ethics. The first in the series, "The Pursuit of Justice and Jewish Law: Halakhic Perspectives on the Legal Profession," was featured in Issue #1 of the newsletter. Other upcoming titles are "Moral Issues of the Marketplace in Jewish Law" by R. Aaron Levine, "Israel Salanter: Religious-Ethical Thinker" by Menahem G. Glenn and "The Right and the Good: Halakhah and Human Relations" (Revised Edition) by R. Daniel Z. Feldman.


4. AUTHOR PROFILE

Rabbi Yehuda Henkin occupies a unique position as an internationally recognized authority in halacha. Grandson of Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin zt"l, one of the greatest poskim in America in the 20th century, he studied privately with his grandfather and was ordained by him. He also has two degrees from Columbia University in New York.

Rabbi Henkin served as rabbi of the Bet Shean valley in Israel, and published his first volume of halachic responsa at the age of 36. He has authored four volumes of responsa Bnei Banim, a commentary on the Torah Chibah Yeteirah (included in volumes of Bnei Banim), and over a hundred articles in rabbinic journals and periodicals. In English, he has published Responsa on Contemporary Jewish Women's Issues (2002), New Interpretations on the Parsha (2000), and Equality Lost: Essays in Torah Commentary, Halacha, and Jewish Thought (1999).

Yashar Books is proud to be distributing in America the newest volume of Bnei Banim, along with a limited number of his previous three volumes. Rabbi Henkin is known for his forthright and unhesitant rulings on pressing and controversial topics, including on womens' issues and relationships with Christianity and non-Jews. In this fourth volume of response, R. Henkin continues in this path. Further details, including a complete table of contents and select excerpts, are available at http://www.YasharBooks.com/Bnei%20Banim.html


5. FORTHCOMING BOOKS

The Student's Guide Through the Talmud by R. Zevi Hirsch Chajes
publication date: January 2005
The Student's Guide Through the Talmud is the classic overview of the Talmud by the celebrated nineteenth century rabbi, Rabbi Zevi Hirsch Chajes (also known as the "Maharatz Chayes"). Translated and annotated by Rabbi Jacob Shachter, this landmark work of rabbinic scholarship divides the Talmud into two elements — Halakhah and Aggadah — and discusses the methodologies and histories of both, while offering fascinating insights into puzzling Talmudic statements. Rabbi Shachter's extensive footnotes are an invaluable tool for understanding the background of Rabbi Chajes' analyses so that even beginning students can gain access to this masterpiece of scholarship.

Between the Lines of the Bible:
Recapturing the Complete Meaning of the Text by Yitzchak Etshalom
publication date: May 2005
Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom is at the cutting-edge of Biblical scholarship. He utilizes the latest academic methodologies and styles to present both new and old insights in an exciting and innovative presentation. His method of analyzing patterns and literary trends in the Torah has taken the Israeli intellectual scene by storm and this book represents one of the first popular works of this nature in English. As modern as this book is in style and presentation, it is very traditional in its approach to faith issues. In the course of analyzing textual issues in B'reshit, the author debunks many of the arguments and methods of Bible critics by utilizing the very tools of modern literary Biblical analysis. This book will appeal to students of Bible and the weekly parashah — Jewish or non-Jewish, academic Bible scholars and those interested in issues confronting the faith of the Orthodox Jew.


For more information or to place orders, come to the Reading Room at Yashar Books, http://www.YasharBooks.com, 1548 E. 33rd St., Brooklyn, NY 11234, Phone: , Fax: ..., mailto:Info@YasharBooks.com.

Please join us. "Books for Life" is meant to be your newsletter. Send us your thoughts on our books or suggestions for new ones. From time to time, we will quote reader's letters.

Thanks again for joining us!

Gil Student


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