The Jewish Eye
Great Jewish Letters
Great Jewish Letters
A Collection of Classic and Inspirational Writings of Torah Personalities
By Rabbi Moshe Bamberger
Mesorah Publications, Ltd., 2009
Reviewed by Boris Segel - February 19, 2010
Great Jewish Letters is a handsome coffee-table style book that contains some of the most inspirational and compelling letters written by some of the worlds greatest Jewish scholars from the geonic period (about 690 C.E) onward. In all, Rabbi Moshe Bamberger has compiled examples of letters from more than 120 Jewish sages, and he has provided graceful English translations of each letter contained in this momentous volume.
Filled with lavish illustrations and photographs, this book is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the soul. The letters have been organized thematically, covering such topics as ethical wills, Torah study, faith, surviving turbulent times, responsa, the Holy Land, bereavement, communal affairs, Jewish women, Mussar, and much more. Each letter is preceded by a short biographical sketch of the letter's author, and when available, a picture of the author. Bamberger has included explanatory footnotes where relevant, and excerpts of the letters, in Hebrew, are also included.
Some of the Gedolei Yisrael whose writings appear in this book include the Ba'al Shem Tov, Rabbeinu Moshe ben Nachman (Ramban), Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rabbi Yoseph Dov Soloveitchik (the Beis HaLevi), Rabbi Klonims Kalman Shapira, Rabbi Mordecahai of Oshmina, Rabbi Moshe Isserles (the Rama), Rav Hai Gaon, Rabbeinu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam), Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna (the Vilna Goan), Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter (the Imrei Emes) and many, many more.
Great Jewish Letters is a book that you will read, and reread, many times over, each time coming away from the book with greater insights. It is a wonderful compendium of inspirational letters, one that is especially important to an English reading audience who might not otherwise have access to this timeless reservoir of knowledge. This is a book that should be added to every private and public library, and it is essential reading for anyone with an interested in Jewish history or Torah thought, or who simply wants to revel in a unique form of literature - the informative letter written between a parent and a child, a teacher and a student, or simply between friends.
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