Title: Bedtime Reading for Briskers
By Rabbi Ephraim Meth
Published by Feldheim, 259 pages
In the era of post-Temple diaspora, the laws of the korbanot are among the most difficult textual topics for many Jewish people to connect to. In the absence of an altar, a High Priest, and the other elements of the Temples of the past, how are we meant to learn from, and find meaning in, the rituals and laws of the korbanot?
Rabbi Ephraim Meth combats this contemporary Jewish predicament in his newest book, Bedtime Reading for Briskers. This book pairs each weekly Torah portion with a textual lesson about the laws of korbanot and a modern application within halacha or values for living a Jewish life, a methodology aligned with the teachings of the Rema in Toras haOlah, Rabbi Samson Rephael Hirsch in his commentary on the Torah, and the Sefer haChinuch. Each corresponding chapter is relatively short, ranging between approximately two to five pages each, but Rabbi Meth utilizes these few pages to provide comprehensive explanations of both the relevant halachic concept and its modern application.
In his introduction, Rabbi Meth begins: “I used to think that the more hours I learned, the more Torah I would understand. Now, though, I believe something different. The more I use my time rightly, the more I will understand.” This book is not intended to be used only during a designated time in a fixed place such as the study hall. While it is well-suited to such a setting, the light, easy readability of the book renders it also suitable for bedtime reading. With the easy-reading quality of the book and the tradition of Brisker scholars being devoted to studying the laws of korbanot, the title Bedtime Reading for Briskers was born.
Rabbi Meth focuses each chapter through a clearly stated central question toward the beginning of the section, which the chapter proceeds to address. Examples of this central question include: “Why do seemingly harmless sins, such as eating pigul [a non-kosher form of meat], or nosar [another non-kosher form of meat], or eating a korban while impure, receive so severe of a punishment – kareis [approximately, the Jewish version of eternal excommunication]?” (in Mishpatim) and, “Why does the Torah care specifically for the right hand? And, are there any exceptions to the right-handed requirement?” (in Acharei Mos). In a book that works to succinctly connect hilchot korbanot, philosophy, and modern halachic applications, these questions greatly aid the author in helping the reader focus on the topic at hand.
While the book has a chapter corresponding to each Torah portion, readers will find, as the author himself humbly admits, that the contents of the chapters are often only tangentially connected to the Torah portions. Additionally, the contents of the book, at times, seem to assume that readers are already more familiar with hilchot korbanot than they may actually be. Nonetheless, I found that Rabbi Ephraim Meth’s Bedtime Reading for Briskers granted me newfound perspectives and connections to topics within the laws of korbanot as a Jewish person in the post-Temple era, and I hope that other readers will have the same illuminating and uplifting experience.