The Torah legacy of Rabbi Nosson Scherman


Mesorah Publications recently published a unique compilation of essays that originally appeared as overviews to an Artscroll English commentary to the Book of Bereishis, all authored by one of the greatest commentators on our holy teachings in our times, Rabbi Nosson Scherman. This volume, titled “The Majesty of Bereishis: A deeper understanding from Creation to Mitzrayim,” provides meaningful interpretations to the opening chapters to the Chumash and the history of the Jewish people.

This week’s essay is my personal take on the legacy of Rabbi Scherman, a Torah giant, eloquent writer and interpreter of our faith and, most important of all, a decent man.

Rabbi Scherman is a native of Newark who at age ten became a dormitory student at Brooklyn’s famed yeshiva Torah Vodaath, an institution from which he was to be ordained a rabbi. He also continued his studies for 11 years at Beth Medrosh Elyon, the post-graduate division of Torah Vodaath, a period in which he established a close relationship with the yeshiva’s roshei hayeshivah, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, and Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr, both of sacred and blessed memory. He was destined to continue these relationships to the end of their lives and it was these two relationships that would define his career in Torah to this very day.

In 1971 Rabbi Scherman became the menahel of Yeshiva and of Mesivta Karlin Stolin where he was to serve for the next six years. That’s when I met him, while I was a member of Brooklyn’s Community School Board 20. We were able to assist students in his yeshiva who lived in my district to obtain various services they were entitled to by law. Rabbi Scherman’s manner of administration wasas a model of honest administration that was deeply appreciated by those who worked for and with him. He was to serve as a role model for many others who followed in his path for years to come.

In late 1975, Rabbi Scherman began a new chapter in his life, one that changed Jewish learning and the Jewish world.

Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, zt’’l, invited him to write an introduction on Megillas Esther. Originally, it was intended to be only a singular volume tribute to Rabbi Mair Fogel, z’’l, a dear friend of ours and a devoted teacher in my school district whose sudden passing in the prime of his life shook us all to the core.

The response to the book and its ‘’overview’’ essay by Rabbi Scherman was stunning. It went through several printings and sold over 20,000 copies, an unprecedented achievement for an Orthodox publication at that time.

For Rabbi Scherman, this act of chesed for his dearly departed friend was to redefine his life’s work and professional career forever. Under his supervision, just about all the Bible, the entire Talmud and related works were to be translated into fluent English with commentary designed for both rabbis and laypersons from all walks of life. This holy task remains the great legacy of Rabbi Scherman’s holy work.

To this day, Rabbi Scherman serves as the general editor of Mesorah Publications. In its early years he was best known as the author of scores of “ Overviews” which provided eloquent wide-ranging perspectives on the deep and underlying messages contained in the Torah and prayer texts. His translations and commentaries on the Chumash witnessed a press run to date exceeding one million copies

“The Majesty of Bereishis,” whose text is taken from the overviews of that initial commentary, will, in my opinion, serve as a constant companion to any edition of Sefer Bereishis for the many years to come. 

In closing, let me make personal reference to Rabbi Scherman’s continued sacred work, his personal project, a complete translation and commentary on the Prophets and Writings, a work that will serve to promote these works for regular study in our homes, our schools and our shuls.