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Item #: S332
Books That Have Made a Difference
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When it comes to books, history gets the final vote on what becomes a classic. The Mesilat Yesharim and Toldot Yaakov Yosef were so controversial, they were banned and burned in their times - only to be revered in future generations. The Mishna Brurah, in contrast, enjoyed both instant success and lasting success, while the Ohr Yisroel is largely unknown today, yet its ideas shaped yeshivos worldwide. Books can make a tremendous impact on the world, but only time can tell the breadth and nature of their influence.
Rabbi Wein explores four masterpieces of Jewish thought - the controversies they stirred up and their triumph over their critics.
Mesilat Yesharim - Because of his Kabbalistic teachings, critics hounded the Ramchal for his entire short life, making sure his writings were never read. Yet centuries later, his definitive work Mesilat Yesharim became the cornerstone of the mussar movement. Likening this word to a great maze, the Ramchal lays down the foundation of righteous behavior - the map we need to navigate through the outer trappings and find the path to truth.
Toldot Yaakov Yosef - This seminal work on Chassidus was so revolutionary in its day that it could not find a publisher and had to be printed by an underground press. While its deep yet accessible interpretations of Torah and Tanach cannot fail to impress, it minces no words in its criticism of the rabbinate. The whirlwind conflict between Chassidim and Misnagdim comes to life as Rabbi Wein tracks the dynamic history of this subversive book.
The Mishna Brurah - Since the Shulchan Aruch, many compendia of Jewish Law were published, but the Chofetz Chaim's contribution represented a sea change in approaching Halacha. More than any of its predecessors, it established seforim as the ultimate authority, rather than individuals. Rabbi Wein weaves through the fascinating progression of Halacha and shows how the shailos of the Chofetz Chaim's age mirror the shailos we grapple with today.
Ohr Yisroel - Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, founder of the mussar movement, wrote no seforim himself, but his main disciple, Rabbi Yitzchok Blazer, preserved his rebbe's legacy with his classic work, Ohr Yisroel. Exposing the character flaws of Jews individually and societally, the mussar movement incited vehement controversy in its day, only to conquer the yeshiva world in later years. Rabbi Wein melds together a biography of Rabbi Yisroel Salanter with the history of the movement he inspired, giving a glimpse into a little-known but highly influential sefer.