Title: Birkon Mesorat Harav
Author: Rabbi David Hellman
Publisher: OU Press
For many, the recitation of birchat ha’mazon (grace after meals) is something they will do several times per week. Anything that can make that act more meaningful is certainly welcome and appreciated.
In Birkon Mesorat Harav, Rabbi David Hellman has edited a large selection of material from the Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt’l, which was compiled by Rabbi Daniel Besser.
The material gathered eloquently expresses how the Rav approached benching, in addition to his approach to Shabbat candle lighting, Kiddush, zemirot and havdala. As well as sheva brachot, brit milah and more.
As to the chapter titles of ‘Wedding Ceremony’ and ‘Brit Mila Ceremony,’ these are someone ironic, in that the Rav did not think these events were ceremonial in nature. He didn’t like the use of the term ceremony, given the overtones they brought, in addition to the fact that he did not see halachic actions as mere ceremonies, rather as ontological realities.
For those that want to understand the Rav’s halachic and lomdus approach, there is a section on those areas.
In the preface, Rabbi Menachem Genack writes that halacha, in the Rav’s analysis, transforms eating by means of a new institution, the se’uda. The realization of the idea of se’uda according to the Rav, can only occur when a person eats differently than the animal, and when they display uniqueness even with regards to the physiological process in which they much engage to satisfy demands of the body.
Also included are the specific halachic practices and customs of the Rav regarding topics in the book. Some of the interesting things include that the Rav maintained that all of the women of a household should light Shabbos candles; that a person may recite one of the blessings of the sheva berachot, even if he didn’t eat anything at the meal, and more.
The last few years have seen an upsurge in publication of writings from the Rav. This book is certainly a welcome addition to that.