Editor’s note: Every month, we hope to share with readers brief synopses of books whose titles caught our eye (hence the name of this column). Officially, one is not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but we can’t help ourselves; some titles (and the names of the authors beneath them) sound too good not to share with others.
Descriptions of the books’ contents derive from the publishers and the impressions of Jewish Press editors.
A compilation of e-mails Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin wrote to his family during his year eight years in prison, this book aims to inspire the public and offer practical tools for internalizing bitachon.
Titled Inside Out – Yomim Noraim, Zman Simchaseinu: Compilation of Divrei Torah and Personal Accounts, the book runs 448 pages long and contains Rubashkin’s thoughts on Elul, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, and Simchas Torah.
The book contains stories of Rubashkin’s time behind bars, but what is perhaps most remarkable about this book is that the overwhelming majority of it consists of Torah thoughts. In other words, while Rubashkin was languishing in prison, he filled his e-mails to his family, not with complaints and personal woes, but with inspiring Torah thoughts.
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As he set out on what was then a difficult and dangerous journey to Eretz Yisrael, the Vilna Gaon wrote a letter to his family full of Torah advice and practical guidance. (For unknown reasons, the Gaon ultimately returned home without having reached Eret Yisrael.)
This letter has been translated into English before, but now that it has been incorporated into an ArtScroll production, it will undoubtedly reach more homes than ever before. And it also includes stories and observations by a host of other Torah personalities that relate to the contents of the Gaon’s letter.
Any document from one of Jewish history’s legendary figures is interesting to read. But a letter from the Vilna Gaon – in which he, among other things, advocates hitting one’s children if they swear, curse or lie, and davening at home so as to avoid jealousy and lashon hara – is especially so.
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Someone once told Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, “G-d willing, we will move to the Land of Israel.” Rav Kook replied, “G-d is certainly willing. What counts is that you are willing.”
In Coming Home: Living in the Land of Israel in Jewish Tradition and Thought, Rabbi Dov Lipman – a former member of Knesset and an oleh to Israel from America – presents an array of classic Jewish sources on the primacy of living in the Land of Israel. The book, 160 pages long, argues that Judaism counts living in the Land of Israel among its highest ideals.
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Yoram Hazony is best known for The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel’s Soul. More recently, he published The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, which argues that the Torah contains serious arguments on basic philosophical questions that academics ignore despite their influence on the history of Western civilizations.
In this new book – his first “non-Jewish” one – Hazony asks in this age of Trump and Brexit: Should we fight for international government? Or should the world’s nations keep their independence and self-determination?
Hazony contends that a world of sovereign nations is favored by the Bible and is the only option for those who care about personal and collective freedom. Interestingly, he argues that the imperialist impulse produces hatred for all those who dare resist it, which explains Europe’s hatred for Israel, he says, which “stubbornly” insists on being the master of its own fate rather than submit to some international body.
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Jewish Living Simply Explained: Based on the Teachings of the Rebbes of Chabad briefly addresses over 100 topics, including the age of the universe, reward and punishment, and the purpose of a Jew.
Written by Rabbi Zalman Goldstein and Rabbi Michoel A. Seligson (author of the Complete Index to the Rebbe’s Talks), the book runs 184 pages and is based on the vast body of works of all seven Lubavitcher Rebbes, starting from the Alter Rebbe to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. It aims to both inform and inspire.