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Thursday, November 29, 2007
Guest Posting - Seforim Recommendations You Might Not Have Considered
I began learning Divrei Yoel (by the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, zt"l) before I got totally involved in Chabad. On the other hand, I learn it now, if anything, more than before.
The basic outline of any piece out of Divrei Yoel is like this: 1. First, the Rov asks a bunch of questions, normally starting with a question on an actual passuk, or a Rashi. Sometimes, he will go straight to Midrash after quoting the possuk, and ask a question on the Midrash. Then, he'll ask a number of other questions on the parashah(sometimes related to the first question, but more often not). Sometimes, one of the questions will be based on a Yismach Moshe, or a Kedushas Yom Tov. Sometimes one of the questions will be based on a Zohar.
Then he answers the questions. Usually, in order to answer the questions, he has to go into some Gemarra. Standard themes are: qualities of a Tzaddik, the importance of strict and loving observance of the mitzvos, etc. Then he'll use the Gemarra to frame the way you look at the possuk. In so doing, he usually answers the secondary
questions. Finally, with the new perspective that he has employed (based on the Gemara, and developed through answering the other questions) he tackles the original question.
He rarely has an uplifting "yehi ratzon" and almost never comes out and says "the practical lesson for us is" or "as far as our Avodah is concerned" etc. The message is usually clear from the drosho. If you give it over and feel the need to explain the "message," you're sort of like explaining the punch line of a a good joke... the explanation is never as good as the punch line.
You see him employ this style in his seforim about Zionism. Whatever points he wants to make, he seems more comfortable making them through making droshos on midrashim, Gemarros, possukim, etc. He brings everything together, but the real strength of his words are in the droshos.
One of the things I really like about his droshos is that they really are a workout on the mind. You have to juggle a number of topics all at the same time (because there are so many loose ends at the beginning, and he deals with all of them)
I have 2 other favorites that might surprise you. One is the Tosher Rebbe. His seforim (all called by the name Avodas Avoda) are amazing (There is a set of 2 that is on the Parashah in Loshon Kodesh; there is a set of 2 on the Parashah in Yiddish, and one sefer that goes according he the parashah, but is really a book of addresses that the Tosher Rebbe gave on or around Yartzheits of various tzaddikim, usually Motzei Shabbos). He usually asks one or two questions on the parashah, and then gives a very geshmake answerwithin a few pages. In the meantime, he usually explains some oranother concept in Chassidus, calling on traditional Chassidus seforim. Then, he'll go for a few more pages giving over some practical mussar based on whatever point dominated the drosho. He aims straight for the heart, and has a real power. He has a real following. Many Admorim visit the Tosher Rebbe. The Kosover Rebbe spends Shabbos Chazon by the Tosher Rebbe, and brings many of his Chassidim with him.
The other is the Shomer Emunim, R' Aharon Roth. His main sefer iscalled Shomer Emunim. I don't know how to describe it other than tosay that he has a very powerful approach to Yiddishkeit. He doesn't mince words. And he has very high expectations. Amazing! He neverwrote anything on the parashah, though some students put together somevertlach that came from a variety of sources and arranged themaccording to the parashah. I find that sefer hard to follow, because Idon't think his teachings were intended to be turned into sound-bytes like that.
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Incidentally, 21 Kislev is coming up. That's the day that the Satmar Rov escaped from the Nazis. Satmar Chassidim celebrate 21 Kislev as Chassidishe yom-tov of sorts.
If you think these Torahs are amazing to learn - I am old enough to remember seeing Satmar Rebbe ztz'l deliver his droshos - hours long, extemporeneous - frequently falling into deep devaikus during the drosho - go to Williamsburg - they still sell tapes of some of his droshos.
All the seforim of R' Arale are amazing - and come across with the same strength as Shomer Emunim - see especially Taharas Hakodesh and Shulchan Hatohor.
I find it hard to understand the Satmar Rov on the tapes. I can understand more contemporary gedolim in Yiddish, but the Satmar Rov's Yiddish is just tough to follow, particularly when he becomes emotional (which, as you said, happens frequently). So I must admit that I envy both your experience actually seeing the Rov, and your ability to understand.
As for the Shomer Emunim, I also have Shulchan HaTahor and Taharas HaKodesh. The section towards the end of Shulchan HaTahor on Seder HaShulchan (a section that brings the proper nusach of eating -- believe it or not) is really sobering. If you truly do what the Shomer Emunim wants, you end up doing a lot of learning and davening, and very little eating (which I think is the point). Like I told DixieYid (thanks, by the way, for publishing my e-mail), he expects a lot of us. I call it sobering because ideally, whether or not we do all of the things that he suggests (I don't, and I don't know anyone who does), that's the attitude you truly should have about eating. Think about that the next time you pick up some granola bar or potato chips! :-)
I haven't heard them but I've seen shiurim online on Shulchan Hatohor here Click on "categories" and then pick from the list
Wow! What a great read! Thank you so much!
Thanks again for sending me those recomendations for this post. I think that it was very helpful to a lot of people.
You and Anonymous Friend are very fortunate that you can understand Yiddish to one extent or other. Growing up with only English, it has been enough of a challenge just to understand Hebrew to learn these seforim!
My rebbe says that when he was a child, his father used to take him to see the Satamar Rov every year on Hoshannah Rabbah. He said that even though he did not fully understand what the big fuss was, at that age, he saw that everyone there began to cry and bawl when they saw the Satmar Rov and he looked at them. Because of his age, he really didn't understand why everyone was crying but he did as well.
It sounds like he was a tremendous Tzadik and it's a shame that I am too young to have had the opportunity to at least see him (ditto with never having gotten to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt"l).
Thanks for the link!
Amen, thanks Anonymous Friend!
Once we're on the topic of language. Does anyone have a particular hebrew- english dictionary they recommend for learning seforim?
For seforim like gemara, tosafos, midrash, or seforim quoting any of the above, I think the Jastrow is still the most helpful to me. The newish Feldheim Aramaic dictionary just hasnt' been very helpful to me.
For kabbalistic terms that I'm not familiar with, kabbalahonline.org is helpful: http://www.kabbalaonline.org/staticpages/glossary.asp
"Once we're on the topic of language. Does anyone have a particular hebrew- english dictionary they recommend for learning seforim?"
I agree with Dixie Yid that Jastrow is essentially the most helpful, although so is feldhiems Practical Talmudic dictionary. The Alcalay (the big 5 sometimes 3 volume set) has alot of useful things you wouldn't find otherwise. They all have there strengths and weaknesses. I found the new Hebrew Aramaic English one difficult as well, I think because they list alphabeticly by "significant" letter and not the shoresh nor the actual spelling. I have nevertheless found words I was unable to find otherwise.
Get them all if you can, but I would probably start with Jastrow.
The fact of the matter is- the backdrop of all these seforim is the most basic chassidishe sefer of them all- T A N Y A. (I am not a Chabadnik)
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