The Orthodox Union and its Mesorah Commission, devoted as they are to the life and teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik z”l, the Rav, last week celebrated the publication of the latest two volumes in its Shiurei HaRav series with a well-attended reception at OU headquarters in New York.
The books deal with the Talmudic tractate Gitin, on divorce, edited by Rabbi Noam Gordon; and with the Yoreh De’ah section (dealing with kashrut) of the Shulchan Orech, edited by Rabbi Elyakim Koenigsberg.
The General Editors of the series are Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) of Yeshiva University as well as OU Kosher halachic decisor; and Rabbi Menachem Genack, Chief Executive Officer of the worldwide OU Kosher Division. Both Rabbis Schachter and Genack are noted disciples of the Rav.
To date, four books have been published in the series, with two more projected. The books are culled and edited from the extensive notes kept by the Rav’s talmidim. They bring his shiurim to a new generation in an organized and accessible way, complete with annotations and references to other commentaries throughout Talmudic literature. Previously published were volumes on Tractate Challah and mitzvot connected to the Land of Israel, by Rabbi Kenneth Schiowitz; and on mourning and Tisha B’Av, by Rabbi Koenigsberg, who is also the author of the newly published volume on Yoreh De’ah.
At the reception, OU Honorary President Julius Berman, Chairman of the OU Mesorah Commission, lauded Rabbi Genack, who 20 years ago, when the Rav was still living, developed the idea of a series of volumes on his teachings, and overcame all obstacles to get the series underway. The result to the present day has not only been the four hard-covered volumes of the Shiurei HaRav series, but in addition a soft-cover journal, Mesorah, which now encompasses 22 issues. Mr. Berman revealed that there are plans to reprint the Mesorah issues in hard-covered volumes, arranged according to topic.
“But for the dream of Rabbi Genack and the desire to move forward, none of this would have happened,” Mr. Berman said.
Commenting on the series and the two new volumes, Rabbi Genack declared, “Sometimes a book is meant to go beyond being a book – and to have an input on the neshamot (souls) of Klal Yisrael (the Jewish people). What Rabbi Gordon and Rabbi Koenigsberg have accomplished is of enormous impact.”
Rabbi Gordon, a distinguished Talmudic scholar living in Israel, attended the Rav’s shiurim although he wasn’t a RIETS student. Rabbi Gordon explained, “The talmidim of the Rav I am familiar with are desirous of giving over his Torah to the next generations. They want to transmit both the content – the learning – but also the experience of the Rav – to make it like being in his presence.” He noted “a certain thrill” when the Rav made a presentation, his elucidation “of what was perforce in the dark recesses of one’s own mind, what you couldn’t think of, but which the Rav made clear.” This volume is intended, Rabbi Gordon said, “to capture both the content and spirit” of the Rav’s teachings.
Rabbi Koenigsberg, a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University, was Rabbi Genack’s student; now he is Rabbi Genack’s son’s teacher. As noted, he has compiled two of the four volumes. Rabbi Koenigsberg declared, “It is so hard to replicate the Rav’s clarity of language and thought,” adding, “We are here to celebrate the Rav himself – his life and Torah.” He noted that through the Shiurei HaRav series, “even those who never heard the Rav’s Torah first-hand, can become vicarious talmidim of the Rav through his shiurim and share all his Torah study. This is one of the benefits of this volume: to make the Rav available to a new generation.”
In a surprise appearance, Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS, reminisced about how the Rav prepared his lectures, expending enormous energy on every shiur — in fact, Rabbi Charlop said, “on every word.”
The volumes are $15 apiece (two for $12 apiece) with $6 per order additional for shipping. To order call 212-613-8242, or mail order to Shiurei HaRav, Orthodox Union, 11 Broadway, New York, NY 10004. Make checks payable to Orthodox Union in U.S. funds. Allow up to four weeks for delivery.