The Ohr Olam Edition of the Mishna Berura
Rabbi Binyamin Jacobson, Chief Editor
Reviewed By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
Whether it’s baalei teshuva, yeshiva graduates rusty on their textual skills, or simply those seeking to cover as much ground in as little time as possible, there is a tremendous thirst for advanced Torah texts in the English language. Indeed, in the last decade tremendous inroads have been made in this area. It would be remiss not to mention the most visible of such projects, namely, the Artscroll Gemara series, which has allowed so many people to enjoy the beauty and wisdom of the Talmud who would otherwise be unable to do so. And there are other such works, as well
Now, there is yet another advanced Torah text that has been made available to the English speaking public. Although not the first work of its kind, the Ohr Olam Edition of the Mishna Berura is certainly the best. Every word of the Shulchan Aruch, Rema, and Mishna Berura has been translated. The translation is crisp, clear, and creatively accurate, done in a manner that shows that the team of translators and editors had their constituents’ needs in mind. In a manner similar to the Artscroll Gemara, there is a grey bar showing the reader which parts of the Mishna Berura appear translated on the facing page.
Below the translation section is the “Notes” section (again, similar to the Artscroll Gemara) that helps explain the concepts and practical applications that are discussed in the Mishna Berura. The “Notes” also include rulings of many other authorities, such as the Kaf Hachaim, Aruch Hashulchan, Chayei Adam and many others. This allows the reader a welcome exposure to different customs and opinions. It also offers a glimpse into the evolution of Halacha and how regional and communal custom continue to affect the development of Halacha. The “Notes” are also intended to assist one in understanding the flow of the text and often adds pertinent details where needed including the Talmudic background for many of the rulings.
There is also a “Biur Halacha” section that summarizes many of the Biur Halacha discussions that expand and compliment the rulings of the Mishna Berura. Especially exciting is the English she’ilot uteshuvot section that features many of Rabbi Doniel Neustadt’s popular “Contemporary Halacha Discussion” essays. The chapter by chapter summaries at the back of the volume are an incredible tool for reviewing the basic halachot of each chapter of Shulchan Aruch and the accompanying rulings of the Mishna Berura. Finally, the drawings and illustrations throughout the volume are a welcome addition that greatly assists one in grasping many of the hard-to-visualize concepts and discussions.
The current volume of the Ohr Olam Mishna Berura contains nineteen chapters of Hilchot Shabbat (simanim 242-261). It is available in both large and small size formats. I found the larger size to be a bit too large and unwieldy while the smaller size was just right. This Beit Shemesh based production is an outstanding and handsome work that inherently inspires one to want to learn from its pages. It is a masterpiece rightfully assuming its place in the world of advanced English Torah literature. Your study of Orach Chaim and Mishna Berura will never be the same.
Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of “The Dalet Amot Halacha Series” (4 Vol) and is General Editor and Halacha columnist at Torahmusings.com. He welcomes books of a halachic nature for review on the Torah Musings website. [email protected]