As the Tisha B’Av fast comes to an end, hear Rabbi Nosson Scherman share thoughts for the last hour of Tisha B’Av. Listen to “ArtScroll on the Air” with Nachum Segal, this Thursday night, AM 620 in the NY/NJ area from 8:00-8:30 PM and also on www.nachumsegal.com.
Many people find the days leading to Tisha B’Av a fitting time to study and reflect upon the Holocaust, the terrible churban of contemporary times. Certainly, books on the Holocaust place us in the somber, mournful mood so appropriate to this sad season. But more: while difficult and often heart-wrenching, many accounts of the Holocaust can give us the strength to deal with Jewish suffering. We cannot comprehend the tragedy, but we can gain inspiration from the greatness that many Jews showed in the face of their ordeals.
ArtScroll/Mesorah has a large number of books dealing with many different facets of the Holocaust. Just a small sampling:
Sparks of Glory: This groundbreaking work was published decades ago, and has just been re-released after being out of print for many years. As timely now as it was upon its first publication, it is a compilation of incredible tales of spiritual heroism told by survivors in the DP camps directly to the author, Rabbi Moshe Prager. The original Hebrew was published before the Eichmann trial, at a time when Holocaust victims and survivors were looked upon as “sheep going to the slaughter” – to be pitied, perhaps, but not respected. This work was one of the first to show the spiritual strength and resistance that Jews exhibited under the most horrific conditions.
Live, Remember, Tell the World: The author, Leah Kaufman, was only nine when she and her family were driven on a death march. Somehow she lived, and, all alone, remained true to her parents’ faith in Hashem and love of His Torah. An inspiring, almost unbelievable memoir.
Shoah: A Jewish Perspective on the Holocaust: Two distinguished Torah scholars, Rabbis Yoel Schwartz and Yitzchak Goldstein, took on the daunting task of dealing with the hashkafah of suffering, as seen through the prism of the Holocaust. A truly remarkable work of Jewish thought.
There is no tragedy in the history of the world that has been marked for so long, by so many, and with such depth of feeling, as the destruction of the Temple. Year after year, generation after generation, exile after exile, the Jewish People have remained faithful to the memory of the Temple and the mourning that marks its two destructions.
ArtScroll offers a large selection of books and tapes that help us today, more than 1900 years later, understand and mourn this greatest of losses – and anticipate the rebuilding that awaits us. A sampling:
The ArtScroll Kinnos: If anything captures the tragedy of the Churban, it is the Kinnos, the elegies composed to lament the Temple’s destruction. This translation and commentary makes the Kinnos accessible and meaningful, and includes the full prayer service for the entire Tisha B’Av, with every part of the service in its place – like a “machzor” for Tisha B’Av.
Kinnos for Tisha B’Av, 2 CD set, by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman. The famed author, rav and popular lecturer explains the Kinnos in his own inimitable style.
The ArtScroll Eichah (Lamentations) translated and with commentary by Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz: Written by the prophet Yirmiyahu, the heartbreaking words of Eichah touch our hearts and spirits. The flowing translation and illuminating commentary, drawn from Talmudic and Rabbinic sources, with an Overview by Rabbi Nosson Scherman, captures the beauty and tragedy of the original. One of the first works ArtScroll ever published, this became an instant classic.
Tisha B’Av: Text, Readings, Insights by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer and Rabbi Shimon Finkelman: An inspiring collection to enrich the day, this classic work includes historical background, insights into the Churban, and selected laws and customs.
Rav Schwab on Iyov: Though most Torah study is forbidden on Tisha B’Av, Sefer Iyov, the Book of Job, may be learned, as its theme of human suffering makes it especially appropriate for this day of Jewish pain. Rav Shimon Schwab, zt’l, one of the foremost Torah scholars of his day, explains the profound words of Iyov in terms we can all understand.
Tisha B’Av with Bina, Benny, and Chaggai Hayonah by Yaffa Ganz: A beloved children’s author introduces young readers to Tisha B’Av, giving them an understanding of the Beis HaMikdash that we lost and the Redemption we all await. With lovely four color illustrations and charming characters that educate as they enchant the children.
“Rebbe,” the sulky young man said, avoiding his teacher’s eyes, “you talk about teshuvah, you say a person can change, but you don’t really believe it. You think Yom Kippur only works for you, not for anyone else.”
Dov Haller, a young teacher in a New York high school realized, with a start, that his angry student was correct.
This teenager was sulky, but he was also observant. He’d noticed the look on Rabbi Haller’s face when the name of a certain student who’d been caught shoplifting some years before was mentioned. Though the student had confessed and had changed his ways, the memory of his lapse was still following him, as the boy’s astute friend realized. “It’s all about labels,” he told Rabbi Haller. “You mess up once; you keep the label forever.”
Years later Rabbi Haller, now a bestselling author, remembered the scene and, with the courage to tackle sensitive issues that characterizes him, decided to examine the problem of stigma and labeling. A Promising Past, Dov Haller’s newest novel, centers around Ezzy Markstein, who, like that real-life student so long ago, “messed up” once – and cannot live down his failure.
The best fiction comes when imagination meets reality, when a core of truth combines with the novelist’s eye and pen. Rabbi Haller incorporates true personalities and events even in his wildest flights of imagination – and that’s makes his novels so readable.
This same combination of reality and imagination fuels another can’t-put-down novel: The Network by Nachman Seltzer. At first glance the two books couldn’t seem more different: A Promising Past takes place in contemporary Torah-observant society, The Network’s non-stop action travels the globe, involving neo-Nazis, Mossad agents, yeshivah students and the Vatican. And yet in The Network, too, there is that core of truth. “The Network is about what is happening all around the world,” says Nachman Seltzer. “Anti-Semitism is real. The question I’m trying to answer is: Where does it begin?” Though the plot twists leave the reader breathless, Rabbi Seltzer insists that he’s reflecting reality. “People think it can’t happen,” he says. “If I would have told you that a few Arabs in planes would bring down the World Trade Center, no one would have believed that either. Events like these can happen – and sometimes do.”
Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, Ramban (Nachmanides), wrote what is considered the most important commentary on the Chumash after that of Rashi. But as brilliant as it is, as important as it was in the development of Jewish thought, for many English speakers it remained, quite literally, a closed book – inaccessible because of the author’s concise style, his frequent and sometimes obscure allusions, and his classical Hebrew, which was difficult even for those well-versed in the language. Those who courageously delved into the Ramban tended to focus on certain well known pieces, but the commentary in its entirety was rarely studied, even by the Torah-observant public.
With the publication of the first volume of ArtScroll’s Ramban on the Torah five years ago, the closed book began to open wide for the English-speaking public, and tens of thousands of readers discovered the magnificence of Ramban’s thought. To convey Ramban’s commentary required an international team of Torah scholars: translators, editors, and readers who ensured that the final product was both faithful and clear. The translation followed the innovative and enormously successful style of the Schottenstein Talmud and the Sapirstein Rashi: an original Hebrew phrase, followed by a literal English translation in bold-face type, followed by an “elucidation” that explained in greater detail just what the words were meant to convey. In addition, most paragraphs are preceded by an “introductory comment,” that introduces the reader to what Ramban is trying to tell us.
In the past five years, six volumes of this extraordinary work have been issued: two on Sefer Bereishis, two on Sefer Shemos, one on the entire Sefer Devarim and, the most recent, one on the entire Sefer Bamidbar. (The final volume, on Sefer Vayikra, is in preparation, and will be available next year.)
In the weeks to come, as the Torah portions of Sefer Bamidbar and Sefer Devarim are read, thousands will gain new insight into the words of the Chumash, as they learn – and, yes, understand – the immortal words of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, through the pages of the ArtScroll Ramban on the Torah.