Following in their mother’s footsteps, Rabbis Yisroel and Osher Anshel Jungreis just published their first book (ArtScroll), Torah for Your Table, a collection of essays on the weekly parshah. Hineni founder and longtime Jewish Press columnist Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis compiled the essays, which were originally delivered as lectures at Hineni’s Torah classes.
The Jewish Press recently sat down with the book’s authors.
The Jewish Press: Why did you publish Torah For Your Table?
Rabbi Yisroel Jungreis (RYJ): My brother and I have been teaching weekly parshah classes at Hineni for many years, and our students expressed an interest in having our lectures published in book form so they can refer to them at their Shabbos tables.
Rabbi Yisroel Jungreis
Rabbi Osher Anshel Jungreis (ROAJ): I started teaching Torah classes at Hineni in 1993 and for years now I’ve noticed that people were really yearning for something tangible they could hold on to in life, and that is Torah.
Many people tell me that while riding on the subway or bus to work every morning they’d like to review my class but other than their written notes have nothing to refer to. So I thought gathering these lessons in book form would be a good idea.
Rabbi Osher Jungreis
Since most of those who attend your Torah classes are non-observant, would you say you wrote this book mainly for them?
RYJ: We wrote this book with a great love for all of Klal Yisrael irrespective of backgrounds and I think it will enhance Torah learning for Jews on all levels of observance.
Rabbi Elya Svei, zt”l, rosh yeshiva in Philadelphia, once said that when a person davens he is speaking to Hashem, but when a person learns Torah Hashem is speaking to him. We all want to hear Hashem’s voice in our lives.
ROAJ: This book not only discusses the parshiyos in depth; it also explores how Torah concepts relate to our day-to-day life. We discuss how a person can really improve his life and become closer to Hashem, and that’s something that is universal and applies to those from diverse backgrounds.
Many Jews, especially observant Jews, often tell me that although they gain a great deal from advanced shiurim, they find themselves searching for a personal connection to Hashem, which they can deeply feel each day of their lives.
Your mother often speaks and writes about chevlei Moshiach, the difficult era preceding Moshiach’s coming, and the need for Jews to return to Hashem. What are your thoughts on this topic and do you address it in your book?
RYJ: This concept is mentioned on numerous occasions in the book. The Gemara in Meseches Sotah says that in the times before the coming of Moshiach, many strange phenomena will occur. All we need to do is look around, listen to the news, observe the frequency of hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. to know that this is very true.
People are looking for something that will give them stability and a sense of permanency because they’re nervous and anxious about their future. The Gemara says the greatest antidote to fear or the power of the yetzer hara – the evil inclination – is the study of Torah, and we’re seeing people coming back to Hashem on a scale that we never imagined.
ROAJ: We know the prophecy that in the days before Moshiach, young children are going to bring their parents back to Hashem. Throughout our generations it was always parents who were leading their children on the proper path, but today it’s just the opposite. We want young people to read and learn from this book and share it with their elders.
Is there a parshah insight from the book particularly appropriate for this time of year?
RYJ: In parshas Noach, Noach and his family are confined to the tevah, the ark, facing a great nisayon. Inside the tevah was a “tzohar,” which according to Rashi means either a window or a diamond. The lesson inherent in this is as follows: Even when we’re going through a crisis, we must always look out our windows to see what we can do to help others. If we do so, that window of opportunity will transform into a precious jewel, a diamond that will brighten our lives and the lives of those less fortunate.
ROAJ: The tevah that Noach and his family lived in served a double function. It protected Noach from the great flood and it also allowed him to grow spiritually. I think that is a relevant message to this generation because there are so many influences around which are impacting us negatively.
Not only do we need to protect ourselves from outside influences with the cloak of Torah but we also need the Torah, at the same time, to uplift ourselves to a higher level of spirituality.