Title: A Taste of Maharal
By Rabbi Doniel Baron
When pausing for a moment to think about the great luminaries of Jewish Philosophy over the last millennium the list would be quite lacking if one were to leave out Rabbi Yehuda Loew, more commonly known as the Maharal. The Maharal is undoubtedly the 16th century’s preeminent scholar of Jewish thought. Rabbi Loew, the Chief Rabbi of Prague, authored dozens of breathtaking sefarim over the course of his legendary life. His works span from the Chumash, Nach, Mishna, Gemara, the holidays, Jewish philosophy, mysticism, and everything in between.
The Maharal is classically celebrated for taking deep Kabbalistic and mystical ideas and bringing them down to Earth, composing them in a deep and beautiful style. He masks the traditional Kabbalistic terms in more the conventional Rabbinic Hebrew. The books of the Maharal are a treasure trove of Jewish thought, organized magnificently based on topic, yet with significant overlap with many principles and theories coming up time and time again in various sources. Access to Rabbi Loew’s works was limited to those who could to read, understand, and grapple with Hebrew texts. That is until now.
Rabbi Doniel Baron, senior lecturer at Aish HaTorah, and a disciple of Rabbi Moshe Shapiro, took upon himself the task of changing that. Rav Shapiro, the world renowned Ba’al Macshava in Yerushalayim, made it his undertaking to unlock the door to the incredible, yet difficult, sefarim and less commonly learned tomes, including none other than the writings of the Maharal. Rabbi Baron, in this groundbreaking sefer embarks upon a similar journey.
Rabbi Baron outlines the core ideas which the Maharal conveys, and in relatively short essays opens the readers’ eyes to the beauty of the Maharal’s Torah. Some pieces touch upon recurring themes and concepts that the Maharal mentions in multiple places throughout his books, others are unique pieces that are simply insightful and inspiring pearls of Torah. Rabbi Baron’s masterpiece is divided into nine sections: Adam, The Jewish Nation, Interpersonal Relationships, Exile and Redemption, Torah, Lashon HaKodesh, tefillah, Chazal and aggadata, and sechel, nefesh, and guf (Intelligence, Spirit, and Body).
Each section contains multiple chapters which delve into the depths of the Maharal’s wisdom on the topic at hand. The book is magnificently written in an easy-to-read modern English, while providing the Hebrew text in the footnotes. Having the original language below is incredibly helpful for the more advanced learner who wants to see and comprehend the primary text, as well as to the learner who is trying to advance their reading skills. This new sefer is truly transformative and will serve to open the eyes of the broader English-speaking community to the Maharal’s previously sheltered gems of Torah.
Rabbi Baron writes that “The Maharal reveals recurring themes in Chazal. The Maharal demonstrates how they are part of a single unified system of recurring patterns in truth. And in his unique style, the Maharal alludes to the practical message that lies within even the loftiest ideas” (Page 281). This statement rings true for the work Rabbi Baron has published about the Maharal too. Rabbi Baron covers many of the key tenets of the Maharal’s thought and brings them to the readers’ attention in a deep yet incredibly practical and impactful way. Often sticking to the text of the Maharal one might have thought this book is simply a translation, but it is much more. It is a guide, aiming to take the hidden treasures of the Maharal and make them relevant and alive. To take the deepest of messages and package them in a manner which is relatable to the readers daily life is an amazing task. There are short prompts and questions that are written under the title of each chapter, which help focus the reader’s attention to the major questions at hand, in what seems to be an attempt to assist the reader gather the fruits they are about to pick.
Rabbi Baron beautifully provides us with a ripe picking of some of the sweetest and most delicious fruit from the Maharal’s orchard. This sefer sets out to, and brilliantly succeeds, at providing more than a mere taste of the Mahral’s insights on the topics at hand. As an Amazon reviewer wrote, this is the “first time I’ve understood the Maharal.” This work was truly fantastic, I believe all readers would agree that they wish to future volumes come and open the gates of the Maharal’s brilliance to the broader English community. A major kudos to Rabbi Baron for embarking on this expedition of bringing the hidden jewels of the Maharal back to the forefront of the English-speaking Torah learning.