Welcome to Torah Book Reviews! Torah Book Reviews is a blog for reviews of books on all Torah related topics. Publishers and authors are welcome to submit books, in Hebrew or English, for review on the site.
Books can be sent to me at: Rechov Nachal Dolev 31/15, Ramat Beit Shemesh, 99630, Israel. Email: rabbiari / hotmail / com
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The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures
The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures Dr. Michael J. Salamon Urim Publications / 141 pages
That the shidduch world has gone mad is not news to anyone,
but that there are competent and credible individuals within the frum world who
don’t fear tackling the issue, might just be. Dr. Michael J. Salamon’s “The
Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures” takes a frank look at what young religious
‘daters’ are going through. From the nauseating questions that parents and
shadchanim have no shame asking, to the real life shidduch experiences, this
book is full of shidduch stories that should have been written in a fiction
novel or a book of Jewish humor. Sadly, however, they are the true stories that
so many young men and women are experiencing.
One of the many things that I was pleasantly surprised to
see was that the author is not scared to encourage young men and women to meet through
social activities and mingling: “The more social exposure we have, the more
likely we are to find a temperamentally similar compatible partner.” While most shadchanim will certainly write him off as a heretic (if he’s
lucky), most are not aware that there is rabbinic support for this position, as
well. In a discussion on mixed seating, Rabbi Yehuda Henkin, a fearless, yet formidable
posek, writes in one of his volumes of "Bnei Banim" that single men and women who are seeking spouses should be
seated together at weddings and similar events.
And with this I retract what I
wrote...that at weddings it is proper to seat single men and single women
separately even if the married couples sit together. This is so with young men
and women who are not yet ready to get married. However, regarding those who
have reached that stage, to the opposite, it is a mitzva to seat them together
so that they get to know each other in a place where there is no concern for yichud
and each couple is not alone on a ‘date,’ as is done today.
The author fears no one and does not hesitate to say what
has to be said. After illustrating the problem with the shidduch scene, the
author arms parents and daters with tools, advice, and expectations that
they need before heading off into the shidduch world. For example, let’s look
at the “Ten Demandments” of dating:
In addition to issues of anxiety
we have adopted a parenting style that has been referred to as the Ten
Demandments. Parents are not necessarily the demanding ones, but parents have
often trained their children to be. Although we are not sure where they
originated, these “demandments” describe certain attitudes and behaviors of
many young men and women in the shidduch scene, what they are looking for and
how they intend to lead their lives.
The Ten Demandments are:
1. Thou shalt make me happy. It is
always your responsibility to see to it that I am happy.
2. Thou shalt not have any
interests other than me. I must be your focus constantly.
3. Thou shalt know what I want and
what I feel without me having to express it at any time.
4. Thou shalt return each one of
my sacrifices, no matter how minor, with an equal or greater sacrifice.
5. Thou shalt shield me from
anxiety, worry, hurt, or any form of pain or discomfort. Therefore, if I am in
pain it is always your fault and I have the absolute right to blame you.
6. Thou shalt give me my sense of self-worth
7. Thou shalt be grateful for
everything I do no matter how trivial.
8. Thou shalt never be critical of
me, show any anger toward me, or otherwise disapprove of anything I say or do.
9. Thou shalt be so caring and
loving that I need never take risks or be vulnerable in any way.
10. Thou shalt love me with thy
whole heart, thy whole soul, thy whole mind, and thy whole pocketbook, even if
I do not love myself.
Those of us who treat people psychologically
or medically or who follow social patterns are not quite sure where these
demands came from originally. Although we have modified them somewhat, they
indicate a narcissistic approach to life that allows young adults to defer
responsibility and create an environment of self-importance and grandiosity.
This childish, narcissistic attitude extends beyond the nuclear family to the
family that they seek to begin.
The only thing missing in the book is a strong response
to those in positions of leadership and influence who allow the shidduch problem
to ferment and exacerbate. Instead, the author focuses on helping to navigate the system.
He does not bother much with the troublemakers, or stoop to their level.
The book is a quick, easy, and worthwhile read that I
strongly recommend for anyone entering shidduchim. It is a book that everyone
will benefit from, regardless of whether you are right-wing yeshivish, modern
orthodox light, or Carlebach machmir. (and there is much discussion on this new
type of labeling system that has been created!)
Shadchanim have their place, but they do not hold the keys
to our happiness. Let’s not forget that only Yitzchak Avinu found his wife by
means of a shadchan. Everyone else in Tanach seems to have done just
fine without one.
Sexuality and Jewish Law
In his Sexuality and Jewish Law, Yaakov Shapiro, an ordained
rabbi and non-conformist Lubavitcher chassid, offers a thorough, unapologetic,
and uncensored presentation of everything relating to sexual activity and
All rabbinic texts that deal with sexual matters are cited along
with the interpretations and comments of all the relevant rishonim, achronim,
and poskim. There is also a full presentation of the various halachic opinions
and resolutions to the contradictions between them. The exhaustive endnotes are
essentially an additional book in their own right.
While the book is extremely well researched and impressive
in its scope, the author clearly has an agenda and bone to pick. As he writes in
the introduction, the book was born out of a bad experience and frustrations with
what he was being taught in chattan classes and the “one-sided” approach to
the laws of intimacy. The author seeks to put an end to the strain, fe…
The Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook
The Writing of a Jewish Mystcic
By: Rabbi Ari Ze'ev Schwartz
Gefen / 270 pp
I was wildly impressed with the Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook. After getting my hands on everything available in English over the years on Rav Kook's writings, this is the first, yes, the first, English book on Rav Kook that I was able to fully understand.
Although not a translation of any single work of Rav Kook (as most other translations are) The Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook contains important and inspiring excerpts from all over Rav Kook's writings. The book is divided into four categories. The first is "The Individual" which contains teachings on God, Torah, prayer, Teshuva, personal growth, and more. The second is "The Nation" which includes many of his (in)famous teachings on Zionism. The third is "Humanity" which includes a chapter on our relationship with other religions. The fourth is "Creation" which is a…
Nefesh Hatzimtzum Rabbi Avinoam Fraenkel Urim Publications I am at a loss for words to
describe how blown away I am by the magnitude of Avinoam Fraenkel’s Nefesh
Hatzimtzum. Nefesh Hatzimtzum is a translation and study guide to R’ Chaim
Volozhin’s Nefesh Hachaim. For those unfamiliar, Nefesh Hachaim is the “Shulchan Aruch” of hashkafa and philosophy. The concepts presented by R. Chaim are a basic platform to give us knowledge of the closest that is humanly achievable in relating to God and by extension, our ability to serve Him. Nefesh Hatzimtzum is simply outstanding. It is a
crisp and clear presentation of what has essentially been a closed book. Now
Nefesh Hachaim is not only accessible, but in Fraenkel’s two volume set (over
1600 pages!), one also enjoys the benefits of a spoon fed education on the
material. In addition to being the best
translation of Nefesh Hachaim that I have yet to see, volume one of Nefesh Hatzimtzum
includes the full facing page Hebrew text of Nefesh Hachaim, al…