Title: Can I Play Chess on Shabbas: The Do’s and Don’ts of Shabbas, Made Simple!
Author: Joe Bobker
Publisher: Gefen Publishing House
The ArtScroll and Feldheim halacha books are comprehensive, well researched, clear, practical and among the best that the two publishers have to offer. But I think they’d be the first to admit that their halacha volumes are not playful.
And I think Joe Bobker would be the first to find that description for his new book on the halachot (and much else) of Shabbas a compliment.
In Can I Play Chess on Shabbas: The Do’s and Don’ts of Shabbas, Made Simple! Bobker, the former publisher and editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Jewish Times, addresses Shabbas topics as diverse as how to warm up pre-cooked food, explanations of parts of the Shabbas davening, and Shabbas’ relationship to time and space. Most of the book speaks to halachic concerns, but plenty touch on philosophy and hashkafa, and some seems to be the whimsical preferences of the author, as when he gives bar mitzvah boy d’var Torah suggestions, and when he presents the challah recipe that he “borrows” from his wife, “the world’s second best cook after my mother.”
Even for the halachic questions (Can I Play Chess on Shabbas is written in a question and answer format), Bobker’s unique and fun approach makes the book such a delight. “Can I open beer bottle on Shabbas? Why would you want to? Try orange juice, it’s much better for you! But, if you insist ” Or, “Can I make ice cream for the kids on Shabbas? To make ice cream you must beat eggs. To beat eggs you need to use a beater. So no, you can’t make ice cream for the kinderlach on Shabbas.”
Sometimes Bobker is unequivocal (“When is Shabbas over? Seventy-two minutes past sunset”). And other times he provides several opinions, including Sephardic ones, which is a nice touch (“Can I add salt [to soup] on Shabbas? The Shulchan Aruch says no, the Mishna Berura says yes, on condition that the salt’s precooked. The Kaf Hachayin doesn’t say no, he says absolutely not!”). But he’s always entertaining and informative. (Footnotes on almost every page provide detailed sources.)
If other Shabbas guides and halachic compendiums have not hit the spot for you in the past, try Can I Play Chess on Shabbas – it’s constantly hitting several spots.