Change & Renew­al: The Essence of the Jew­ish Hol­i­days, Fes­ti­vals & Days of Remembrance

Rab­bi Adin Stein­saltz; Daniel Haber­man, trans.; Yehu­dit Shab­ta, ed.

  • Review
By – February 10, 2012

The incred­i­bly eru­dite R. Steinsaltz’s lat­est con­tri­bu­tion to Jew­ish thought is a com­pendi­um of essays that focus on the inher­ent per­son­al, spir­i­tu­al mean­ings of Jew­ish cel­e­bra­tions and com­mem­o­ra­tions through­out the year. Exam­ples of the themes that the author devel­ops that focus on a person’s state of mind and emo­tion­al make­up are: recre­ation of the self, par­al­lel­ing recre­ation of the world on Rosh HaShana; the essences of each of the Ush­pizin (spir­i­tu­al guests who vis­it the Sukkah) are to be found with­in our­selves; and the erad­i­ca­tion of Amalek as some­thing that must take place with­in every indi­vid­ual. Draw­ing from a vast array of sources that in addi­tion to tra­di­tion­al ref­er­ences from the Writ­ten and Oral Tra­di­tions, include mys­ti­cal and Chas­sidic lit­er­a­ture, R. Stein­saltz reveals aspects of Jew­ish obser­vance which direct­ly address those seek­ing deep­er mean­ings in their lives through Jew­ish obser­vance. Atyp­i­cal top­ics addressed include Ordi­nary Days,” i.e., the spir­i­tu­al dimen­sions of days not asso­ci­at­ed with any par­tic­u­lar com­mem­o­ra­tion, as well as spe­cial Chas­sidic cel­e­bra­tions such as the 19th of Kislev and the 3rd of Tam­muz. R. Steinsaltz’s com­mit­ment to the State of Israel is reflect­ed by the inclu­sion of three essays address­ing Yom HaAtz­maut and Yom Yerusha­lay­im. The book is a con­stant source of new insights and stim­u­lat­ing per­spec­tives regard­ing the occa­sions mak­ing up the Jew­ish year, which rou­tiniza­tion and rep­e­ti­tion can some­times threat­en to ren­der unre­mark­able and devoid of deep mean­ing. Bibliography.

Yaakov (Jack) Biel­er was the found­ing Rab­bi of the Kemp Mill Syn­a­gogue in Sil­ver Spring, MD until his retire­ment in 2015. He has been asso­ci­at­ed with Jew­ish day school edu­ca­tion for over thir­ty years. R. Biel­er served as a men­tor for the Bar Ilan Uni­ver­si­ty Look­stein Cen­ter Prin­ci­pals’ Sem­i­nar and he has pub­lished and lec­tured exten­sive­ly on the phi­los­o­phy of Mod­ern Ortho­dox education.

Discussion Questions