Title: Baderech: Along the Path of Teshuvah
By Rav Judah Mischel
Published by Mosaica Press
Although I am greatly appreciative of the opportunity that I’ve been given to be the editor of the book review section of The Jewish Press, I have faced one not entirely unexpected challenge. As I hear about all the new books being published, instead of getting to read them myself, I have to pass them on to different people to read and review. Still, there have been a few books that I’ve decided to review myself. One of them is Rav Judah Mischel’s new book Baderech: Along the Path of Teshuvah. Although I would have been tempted by anything written by Rav Judah, as he is commonly known, the combination of the topic and the author made this book irresistible to me.
In his introduction, Rav Judah describes teshuvah as “a process of both discovery and recovery,” before suggesting that it may be more accurate to say that “teshuvah is ‘uncovery’ – working through layers of klipah, slowly and effortlessly peeling off the coverings that separate us from whom we hope one day to become.” He concludes the introduction by informing us that this book is the result of a scrapbook of teshuvah that he has maintained for a long time, and that for him, “this is a work baderech, in progress.” One of the things that I have admired about Rav Judah for some time is how real and unassuming he is. As I read through the introduction, I knew that this book would be not just a book of ideas, but a presentation of Rav Judah’s unique neshama in word form.
After the first section, where Rav Judah talks about what it means to be on the path, something that is meant to always be the case, he moves on to the main part of the book. There, he uses the chassidic rebbe Rav Zusha’s idea that the Hebrew word teshuvah is actually an acronym for five pesukim (translations as they appear in the book):
Taf: Tamim tihiyeh im Hashem Elokeicha – Be sincere with Hashem, your God.
Shin: Shivisi Hashem l’negdi samid – I have placed Hashem before me, continuously.
Vav: Ve’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha – And you will love your friend as yourself.
Beis: Bechol derachechah da’eihu – In all your ways know Him.
Hei: Hatzneah leches im Hashem Elokeicha – Walk modestly with your G-d.
Each posuk gets its own section, with other pesukim, maamarei Chazal, chassidishe teachings, and stories to flesh out the ideas contained in each of these pesukim. Showing that indeed, we can learn about Hashem from everything and everyone, Rav Judah also includes some teachings, stories, and even poems from the secular world.
The book concludes with a section called “Something for the Road,” which provides the reader with ideas of how to process what they have read throughout the book.
This book contains something – no, many things – for everyone. Some teachings and stories will leave you smiling, while others will simply take your breath away. I only wish that all of them would have been annotated (although many are) so that I could look them up.
Before I conclude I must note that Mosaica Press, led by Shui Haber, has produced a beautiful book with a stunning cover. Mosaica Press continues to impress, by being a place where new authors can be discovered as well as by publishing deep works of Torah and scholarship.
Among the most important things Rav Judah does is that he does not treat teshuvah as something that we are only meant to do from the beginning of Elul through the Yamim Nora’im. Instead, he shows that it is an essential part of life, something which Chazal tell us Hashem brought into being even before the creation of the world. Although I am writing this review only weeks before Rosh Hashanah, Baderech is a book meant to be read from and studied throughout the year.