Three Brief Reviews

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by R. Gil Student

In the Spring 2024 issue of Jewish Action, I review the following three books:

  • Gan Shoshanim, vol. 1, 3rd ed. (Hebrew) by Rabbi Menachem Genack
  • Isaiah and His Contemporaries by Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Jaffe
  • Covenant & Conversation: Family Edition, 2 vols. by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Gan Shoshanim, vol. 1, 3rd ed. (Hebrew)

One of my teachers once said that one should learn Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot, including his list and brief explanation of the Torah’s 613 commandments, at least twice: once before you complete the Talmud, when Sefer HaMitzvot helps you gain an overview of the entire Torah; then again after you have completed studying the Talmud, when you can fully appreciate the Rambam’s nuanced writing and ideas. 

That is how I felt rereading and relearning Gan Shoshanim, vol. 1, by Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher and rosh yeshivah at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. He first published this collection of Torah essays in 1992, in memory of his mother who had passed away the previous year. I remember greatly enjoying the essays in the book, through which I became acquainted with many different texts, laws and concepts. Almost every essay contains an insight from Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, of whom Rabbi Genack was an extremely close student. Through Gan Shoshanim, I learned about the different areas of the Talmud from the Rav, with Rabbi Genack as my guide.

Now, over thirty years later, and after growing close to Rabbi Genack as one of his students, I study the sefer from a more mature perspective. I can discern the artistry with which Rabbi Genack structures his articles, the rhythm of his questions and answers, the effortless flow of his insights and explanations. Rabbi Genack is a master of both the Brisker method of Talmud study and its style. The Brisker method, the conceptualization and categorization of halachah, has been discussed and analyzed by many. Rabbi Genack follows that approach, asking questions on a text and then invoking the Rav’s teachings in other subjects, building on them to solve the questions at hand. That is Brisker content.

The Brisker style…

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About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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