kosher bookworm

Honeycombs: New commentary on the Amidah


Several years ago I introduced to this column the precious scholarship of a Canadian rabbi, Reuven Bulka. His many books and essays span the gamut of Jewish learning that surely deserves your continued attention.

This week I bring to your attention a joint literary effort by Rabbi Bulka and his learned young granddaughter, Rikki (Bulka) Ash, titled, “Honeycombs: The Amida Through the Lens of Rav Yonasan Eybshitz and Rav Yosef Hayyim of Bagdad” (Ktav, 2017). Rikki grew up in Woodmere and attended the Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls.

Despite it brevity — just 56 pages — this thesis presents a profound summary of the centerpiece of Jewish weekday liturgy.

Given my prior work concerning Rabbi Bulka, this essay is themed to introduce you to his “co-author,” Rikki Ash, who shared these thoughts:

“I have been writing for as far back as I can remember. As a first level reader, I formulated children’s stories —and even art — onto paper. I asked my grandfather, a well-known author, to publish it for me and he graciously photocopied and stapled together about 10 copies to appease my deepest wish.

“Almost 15 years later, it is all the more thrilling to have co-authored my first book with my grandfather, who has been an inspiration to me in so many ways and has always encouraged me to pursue my dream to write.

“After giving a summer chaburah on NCSY Michlelet on the topic of Shemona Esrei, my grandfather asked me if I would like to join him in his latest writing expedition on the very same topic. Even though we worked together from across two countries, Canada and the U.S., we managed to synthesize our ideas culminating in a finished product that we are both very proud of.”

In the introduction to this work Rabbi Bulka tells us the following concerning Rikki’s scholarship in this book:

“In this volumn, Rikki offers explanations of the words in Shemona Esrei that require clarification or that facilitate greater understanding. They are short and to the point. We have placed the Hebrew transliteration of the words Rikki comments upon in smaller italic font in the body of the translation, and then we offer her explanations immediately below the translated text.

“The main purpose of this volume is to present the Amidah to the reader based upon the formulation of Rav Yonasan Eybishitz in his classic work, ‘Ya’eros Devash’ [honeycombs].… Honeycombs is also, equally appropriately, the title of the entire book.”

In her introduction to the book, Rikki Ash explains:

“It is a privilege to have my name written adjacent to my grandfather’s on the front cover of this volume. … There is a wealth of information on the Amidah, and I have sifted through much of this knowledge to provide distinctions and short explanations of the problematic words of the Shemoneh Esrei.

“It is my greatest hope that readers will gain both from the understanding of the individual words of the Amidah, as well as from the overall idea behind the Amidah, as illuminated by ‘Honeycombs’.”

Rikki followed SKA with a year at Michlalah Jerusalem College. She holds two Bachelor degrees from Queens College, in psychology and history, and just completed her Masters degree at Azrieli Graduate School for Jewish Education and Administration.She is now a limudei kodesh teacher at her former high school, SKA, and teaches a class on teffilah in addition to other Judaic subjects.


“Reason To Believe: Rational Explanations of Orthodox Jewish Faith,” by Rabbi Chaim Jachter of Teaneck, was recently published by Menorah Books.

“Readers of all backgrounds and outlooks throughout the Jewish community will be amazed and reassured as the author openly raises the very questions that they themselves have been asking and as he provides an array of profound, convincing responses to those questions,” observed Rabbi Shmuel Goldin. 

This volume was made possible through the efforts of Rabbi Reuven Ziegler and publisher, Ashirah Yosefah.

Another new work, “A Bridge Called Prayer,” by Rabbi Yehonason Alpren (Mosaica Press, 2017), also deserves your attention and patronage. It is a very worthy companion to your siddur, with messages and teachings that will surely help to enhance your prayers.