Eyes to See: Recov­er­ing Eth­i­cal Torah Prin­ci­ples Lost in the Holocaust

Rab­bi Yom Tov Schwar­cz; Avra­ham Leib Schwar­cz, trans.
  • Review
By – September 28, 2012

Rab­bi Yom Tov Schwar­cz is a Holo­caust sur­vivor, a com­mu­nal rab­bi, and a Tal­mu­dic schol­ar who began his life in the infa­mous Pol­ish town of Oswencim (lat­er renamed by the Nazis as Auschwitz). But even more impor­tant than all of those cre­den­tials, Rab­bi Schwar­cz is a liv­ing wit­ness to the tra­di­tions and glo­ry of pre­war East­ern Euro­pean Jewry. 

It is in that spir­it that Rab­bi Schwar­cz wrote this vol­ume, as a record of the val­ues of that lost era. Orig­i­nal­ly appear­ing in Hebrew, this new­ly trans­lat­ed edi­tion is divid­ed into 11 parts and 40 chap­ters, writ­ten in the style of rab­binic eth­i­cal works. The 11 parts of this book include: The Unique Impor­tance and Ben­e­fits of Uni­ty in Our Gen­er­a­tion,” Recap­tur­ing the Unique and Extra­or­di­nary Aspects of Jew­ish Char­i­ty,” Rela­tions with Non-Obser­vant Jews,” Rab­bini­cal Lead­er­ship: Its Qual­i­fi­ca­tions and Respon­si­bil­i­ties,” Truth in Torah: Pro­mot­ing Gen­uine Sages and Reject­ing Sub­stan­dard Torah Schol­ar­ship,” and What Halacha Says About Torah Study and Par­nasah.”

Read­ing this work, it is clear how much of the memet­ic tra­di­tion of pre-war Jew­ish val­ues has been lost. Whether it is Rab­bi Schwarcz’s readi­ness to learn from non-Jews, his rejec­tion of the cur­rent wide­spread pop­u­lar­i­ty of long-term Kol­lel study, or even his empha­sis on Jew­ish uni­ty, this vol­ume chal­lenges its read­ers to recon­sid­er what tra­di­tion­al Judaism has to say about itself and the world around it.

Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D., serves as asso­ciate super­in­ten­dent of the Asso­ci­at­ed Tal­mud Torahs of Chica­go, direc­tor of its Mor­ris and Rose Gold­man Com­put­er Depart­ment for Jew­ish Stud­ies, dean of Ida Crown Jew­ish Acad­e­my, and rab­bi of Con­gre­ga­tion K.I.N.S. of West Rogers Park (Chica­go).

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