Kosher Bookworm: A new appreciation of the teachings of our prophets


I am happy to note and bring to your attention the latest volume in the Mitoch HaOhel series of essays by the staff of Yeshiva University, “From Within the Tent: The Haftarot,” published by Maggid / Koren Books.
This comprehensive 700-page work contains a series of scholarly essays on every haftarah on the Jewish calendar, written exclusively by a distinguished group of rabbis and professors from Yeshiva University.
What makes this particular work most relevant to our community is an essay written by Woodmere resident Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman, dealing with some unique medical aspects relating to this coming week’s haftarah for Parshat Vayera.
Rabbi Reichman, one of our nation’s premier Jewish medical ethicists is an associate professor of emergency medicine and bio-ethics at YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a musmach of Yeshia University. This unique background has enabled Dr. Reichman to truly better synthesize our religious teachings with the latest in scientific and medical knowledge for the benefit of our entire Jewish community, both here and nationwide. The essay under review this week further proves this point.
In his essay for haftarah Yavera, “The Resuscitation of Halachah: An Animated Discussion,” Dr. Reichman engages us in an extended teaching as to the impact that Jewish law has upon some of the most sensitive areas in medical practice, namely cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, coronary bypass, artificial heart transplantation, corneal transplantation, and posthumous insemination.
Two other topics are dealt with, briefly, that being the issue of a kohen becoming an organ recipient, and the ethical and halachic implications in the selling of human organs.
All of the above are brought together in the context of the narrative of this week’s Haftarah of Vayeira and the story of the resuscitation of the son of the Shunamite woman by the prophet Elisha. A careful reading of the Haftarah text is suggested before reading Dr. Reichman’s teaching.
Dr. Reichman’s scholarly writings envelope a whole range of historical, legal, midrashic, aggadic as well as contemporary halachic responsa teachings together with some pretty hefty footnoting that will bring to you some of the most relevant learning ever put together on these topics as they relate to the relevant ancient prophetic texts.
Among the relevant contemporary rabbinic responsa cited are those from the works of the Chasam Sofer, Rav Isser Yehudah Unterman, Rav Yechiel Weinberg, Rav Eliezer Waldenberg, Rav Moshe Feinstein, and Rav Chaim Regensberg, all of blessed memory; as well as the works of Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, Rav J. David Bleich, and Dr. Fred Rosner of Far Rockaway.
Also noted prominently is the brief essay of Chicago’s Rav Regensberg’s work and responsa by Rabbi Dr. Don Well of Cedarhurst.
Taken together with Dr. Reichman’s personal scholarship and mastery of both halachah and the relevant medical questions, this essay gives us a deep appreciation not only of the superficial aspects of a prophetic reading but of the depth of learning that one can assimilate both from the religious as well as secular aspects that go into the development of the sensitive human interactions that are represented in the Biblical plots and subplots presented to us in this week’s Haftarah readings.
Among some of these names of rabbinic scholars familiar to our many readers are:
Rabbis Hershel Schachter, Saul Berman, Daniel Feldman, David Fohrman, Shmuel Hain, Menachem Leibtag, Michael Rosensweig, Meir Soloveichik, Mordechai Willig, and my dear long time friends, Rabbi Dr. Hershel Fried and Dr. Yaakov Elman.
Hopefully this work will help to inspire the popular teaching of the haftarot in both our schools and in the shiurim in our shuls. In addition, maybe the divrei Torah delivered weekly from the pulpit will increasingly encompass the texts and teachings of the haftarot and thus help encourage a deeper appreciation of these texts by our people, both young and old.
Among other excellent resources for the teaching and learning of the haftarot can be found in the websites for Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rabbi Menachem Leibtag, Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein and especially Rav Moshe Lichtenstein’s extensive series that can be found at