Books For Life Newsletter
Volume 1, Number 5

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Dear friends,

Shalom U-vrakhah! Welcome to Issue Number 5 of "Sefer Ha-Hayim - Books for Life" Newsletter. In this issue you will rediscover a book that has been a sought-after classic since it was last released 45 years ago!

The launch of the "Open Access Project" online learning community has drawn attention from media, scholars and the scientific community. If you haven't taken part yet, see below for how to get involved.

Plus, Yashar in the news: They didn't print my picture (they used Rabbi Slifkin and the lion instead), but I did make the New York Times. And stay tuned to find out how I was appointed Chief Rabbi....

Thank you,

Gil Student
President, Yashar Books

Find out more about Yashar Books at

Vol. 1, No. 5


1. Classic Guide to Talmud Reissued After 45 Years
2. Excerpt: "The Students' Guide Through The Talmud" by Rabbi Zevi Hirsch Chajes
3. Giving Away Books Online
4. Yashar Speakers Bureau
5. All the News That's Fit to Blog
6. No More Camels


The classic guidebook for students, scholars and novices now available to a new generation.

"The Students' Guide Through The Talmud" by noted Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Zevi Hirsch Chajes ("Maharatz Chayes"), translated by the late Chief Rabbi of Northern Ireland Jacob Shachter, has been released by Yashar Books. The classic work outlines the history of the Talmud and formulates the nature, extent and authority of Jewish scholarly tradition. Rabbi Elazar Hurvitz, Professor of Biblical and Talmudic Literature at Yeshiva University, said, "During my experience of over 40 years teaching, I found that this book gave to my students a broad understanding of the total spectrum about the development of early rabbinic literature in Halacha and Aggadah."

The "Guide" includes surprisingly contemporary analyses of many statements of the Talmud and explains their methodology and rationale. The translator has added extensive footnotes so that even a novice will be able to follow. "The Students' Guide Through The Talmud" gives new insight into the inner workings of the Talmud and, as Rabbi Shalom Carmy, Assistant Professor of Bible and Jewish Philosophy at Yeshiva University, said, "continues to speak to the 21st century student."

2. EXCERPT FROM "THE STUDENTS' GUIDE THROUGH THE TALMUD" by Rabbi Zevi Hirsch Chajes. Rabbi Chajes answers why, in the Haggadah, we do not immediately reply to the Four Questions with Rabban Gamaliel's statement that "Whoever does not say these three things..." in which the questions are answered. From The Students' Guide through the Talmud, pp. 198-200:

With regard to the questions found in Num. R. and Deut. R., and in Midrash Tanhuma and the Pesikta Rabathi, with which these books often begin their homilies, namely the halachic dissertations which are introduced with the words 'There is a ruling that an Israelite, etc.,' or with the words 'May our teacher instruct us', and followed with Aggada, we cannot trace the use of a similar formula in the Talmudim (Babylonian or Palestinian), except once in the Babylonian Talmud... [The halachic question is asked] and the Aggadist goes on to indulge in sophistry, changing one subject for another until he closes his homily with the words 'and as for the question which I have been asked...' and answers it...

The chief object, however, of the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmudim was to enlighten us either on halachic or legal decisions or upon matters of aggadic or ethical character. For this reason the redactors of the Talmud (except in once case) did not embody such a form of teaching in the Gemara, but dealt separately with the homiletical expositions in relation to the particular purpose for which they were needed, and separately also with the halachoth...

But it was not so with the Midrashim, which were not recognized as being for the teaching of halachoth, or for the publication of legal rulings needed for actual practice. In these Midrashim, the Rabbis at times left us their homilies either introduced with the words: 'There is a ruling that an Israelite, etc.,' or with the words: 'May our Teacher instruct us,' as indeed homilies were introduced when delivered to the masses in those days.

One may also note that the Passover Haggadah,[1] the compilation of which is thought to have taken place during the time of the Temple, as recorded in the Mishnah, Pes. 10, 4,[2] also introduces subjects with questions in the same way as the Midrashim of the earlier days. At first the children are made to ask four questions about the difference between this (the Passover) and other nights, and then the celebrant begins to narrate the succession of events and to expound the Exodus and various passages in the Scriptures relating to this subject, and finally he turns back to reply to the question which had been put to him. So, for example, in reply to the question: 'Why are we eating this matzah?' he says: 'Because the dough of our forefathers did not have time to be leavened.' And there are similar replies regarding the Pesach (sacrificial lamb) and the maror (bitter herb). In this way the familiar difficulty which is raised as to why the narrator does not proceed at once with his proper answers to the questions on the reasons for the eating of matzah and maror is met, if we bear in mind the above elucidation of the methods adopted by the Tannaim and Amoraim in their homiletical discourse, as we have seen them exemplified in connection with the question referred to above (Shab. 30a), viz. that their way was to pass from one subject to another related to it, until they came back finally to reply to the main question asked.

[1] The ritual recitation for the Passover Home Service. Its name is derived from the word higgad'ta 'and thou shalt tell'. Ex. XIII, 8, and it includes the narration of the Exodus.

[2] Where first mention is made of the ritual and where R. Gamaliel is reported (Mishnah 5) as saying that 'one who has not said (i.e. not understood the spiritual implications of) these three words, Pesah, Matzah, and Maror has not done his duty'. The opinion is held by many scholars (see J.E. VI, 141) that this R. Gamaliel was the first of that name (who lived during the Temple) because he speaks of the Passover lamb. But even according to the view held (Weiss, Dor, II, 74) that he was R. Gamaliel II the mere fact that R. Gamaliel II speaks of a familiar ritual proves that the Haggadah was already in existence before his time. The proof however which the author has probably also considered was R. Tarfon's statement (Mishnah 6) in connection with the order of the Haggadah. R. Tarfon had lived during the Temple time (See Jer. Yoma III, 7). See also glosses on Nid. 6b by the author.


The "Open Access Project" now offers the full text of "Israel Salanter: Religious-Ethical Thinker" online. Rabbi Jeffrey Saks, director of ATID, wrote in his "Lamed" news blog on Jewish education: "Yashar Books is doing something bold.... They're giving books away for free online. Their 'Open Access' project just uploaded the entire text of a new biography, Rabbi Israel Salanter: Religious-Ethical Thinker. Check it out."

Making good on our promise to offer full texts of books online, the Open Access Project -- -- made the full text of the $24.95 hardcover edition available for free download. Within two weeks, more copies were downloaded than were originally printed of the book!

Are we crazy for doing this? Quite possibly. But we are convinced that people who like this book will want to buy a copy for their library so they can enjoy it for years to come. Those who wish to do so can buy it at their local bookstores or online.

We want people to share the ideas. We are convinced that an open give and take of ideas will create the right atmosphere for more learning... and more book buying. We call on all our readers, scholars and thinkers everywhere to join as "Idea Ambassadors" and spread the word about The Open Access Project to friends and colleagues. (And to buy books!)


Need an interesting guest on your radio show? Need an inspiring speaker for your shul or organization? The Yashar Speakers Bureau is a new service that features such authors as Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman, Rabbi Michael J. Broyde, and Rabbi Aaron Levine of the Yashar Books Jewish Ethics Series. Our noted writers and lecturers can discuss topics of interest to Orthodox and non-Orthodox as well as non-Jewish audiences. They will be available for talks at synagogues, communal and student organizations, JCC's, universities, as well as radio and TV programs. To arrange for one of our authors to address your group or appear on your program, please send an email to: or call (800) ... .


The biggest growth area on the internet currently is the weblog, or blog. The format is one of date-stamped observations on whatever topics the author chooses, easily read and archived for future reference. There is also usually a place for readers to comment and share their own thoughts. See here for more about blogs --

Visitors to the Yashar Books website have no doubt seen the Sefer Ha-Hayim Blog, which discusses books published by Yashar --

I also have another blog, one that is personal and reflects only my individual musings and not Yashar Books' or its authors' positions. That blog has become somewhat popular in certain groups (see here where I'm humorously called the Chief Rabbi of the blogosphere --
). Feel free to visit it at and make sure to leave a comment if you have anything to say.


We have run out of copies of "The Camel, the Hare, & the Hyrax," by Rabbi Nosson Slifkin. Try eBay!

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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