Photo Credit: Gefen Publishing House

Title: The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility Volume 2: Vayikra, Bamidbar, Devarim
Author: Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
Publisher: Gefen Publishing House



The famous Talmudic dictum of shivim panim la’Torah notes that there are seventy facets to the Torah. It’s meant to show that far from being monolithic, the Torah has 70 different interpretations. In truth, as the infinite word of God, the Torah certainly has many more interpretations than 70.

In The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility Volume 2: Vayikra, Bamidbar, Devarim, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky has written a fascinating book with a focus on the concept of personal responsibility, and how that notion is engrained within the Torah.

The is a dense 500-page work with over 150 brief and pertinent essays. After reading them and gleaning R’ Pruzansky’s cogent insights; I thought of the observation from Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. He said that if he were to add to Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Faith, his 14th principle would be that the values and legal constructs of the Torah are timeless, and have absolute relevance to every generation and location. In every essay, he shows that everlasting relevance to the many messages in the Torah.

The word snowflake is a term for a person with among other things, an unwarranted sense of entitlement. Pruzansky writes of the Jew as the counter-snowflake, and in essay after essay, he stresses how the notion of personal responsibility is so essential to proper Jewish living, that lessons can be exacted from every Torah portion.

In a recent blog post of his, R’ Pruzansky wrote that most American Jews today are, sadly, unaware of the Torah’s morality, conflate it with secular progressivism at its worst, or reject it in whole or in part. In the book, he shows both the Torah’s morality and sense of human responsibility. It’s only through those responsibilities, that a person can achieve their own individuality.

With numerous essays for every parsha, this is a rich work of deep and relevant insights. As the weekly Torah portion starts Sefer Vayikra in a matter of days, this is most worthwhile book to add insights into the weekly Torah readings.


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