kosher bookworm: alan jay gerber

Teshuvah: A guide to responsible and effective repentance


I begin this year’s review of recent litertature themed to the high holiday season with an excellent work by Rabbi Immanuel Bernstein entitled, “Teshuvah: A Guide For The Mind And Heart During Elul, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur” (Mosaic Press).

Rabbi Bernstein is candid in his introduction:

“The aim of this book is to help guide the reader through the process of teshuvah, beginning with Elul, moving through Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of Teshuvah, and Yom Kippur. Additionally, there is a final section dealing with Succos as it relates to the culmination of the Yamim Noraim. As a rule, the chapters have been kept short in order to give each idea its ‘space’ and allow it to be pondered and absorbed. Certain fundamental ideas constitute recurring themes throughout the book. These are introduced in the earlier chapters, and are then revisited and developed in later sections of the book, adding additional layers of depth and understanding, and sometimes presenting new angles.

“The book draws on a wide range of sources from the treasury of sefarim and drashos that have been devoted to the topic of teshuva and the Yamim Noraim over the centuries. Each source adds its unique tone and color to the discussion, so that the final picture that emerges of these special days is one that is both rich and multilayered.

“The title of this book is simply ‘Teshuvah,’ and it is my hope that the theme of return and homecoming resonates throughout its chapters. There are no magic shortcuts to teshuvah. Real teshuvah requires confronting certain issues that we would otherwise be more comfortable ignoring; additionally, the Yamim Noraim contain many elements that are extremely serious. Yet throughout all of this, the beautiful vision of once again being able to be at one with G-d and at home in His world should give us the encouragement to take care of everything that stands between us and achieving that goal. 

“Indeed, from the very first shofar sound of Rosh Chodesh Elul, we are sending out a signal to G-d, a message that says: ‘Father, we have much to do and plenty to work through in the coming days and week, but we are coming home’!”

When reading this gifted work please take note of the plethora of detailed and informative footnotes, notes meant to further enrich your understanding of the text and the author’s learned message.

If there is just one book that you wish to buy for this holiday season, this work by Rabbi Bernstein is worth your patronage and gift-giving to friends and loved ones, as well as a welcome addition to your shul library.


With the recent passing of the great scholar and talmid chacham, Rav Shear-Yashuv Cohen, zt”l, I wish to bring to your attention the introduction that Rav Cohen authored a few years ago to an updated edition of the biography of Harry Fischel, one of the founders of Yeshiva University, authored by the late Rabbi Herbert Goldstein, Rav Cohen’s late father-in-law, and further updated and augmented by the distinguished scholar and historian, Rabbi Aaron Reichel. The book is entitled, “Harry Fischel: Pioneer of Jewish Philanthropy” (Ktav, 2012).

Rav Cohen was the former chief rabbi of Haifa, chairman of the board of the Harry and Jane Fischel Foundation, president of Machon Harry Fischel, and co-founder with Rav Kook, zt”l, of the Ariel United Israel Institutes for Training of Rabbis. Given the imminent change in the leadership of Yeshiva University, this work will provide a good perspective as to what good, sound and responsible communal and educational leadership, as seen by the example of Harry Fischel, can bring to the enhancement of the quality of Torah Ummada-based education for our youth in the many years to come.

And, from the Baltimore Jewish community, we have an excellent work by Rabbi Moshe Eisenmann entitled, “A Machzor Companion: Themes of the High Holidays Machzor,” that can serve as an excellent source of spiritual inspiration to further enhance your tefillot.


Please take note of a new essay by the distinguished writer and blogger, Rabbi Gil Student, entitled, “Are House Minyanim Kosher?” ( Rabbi Student has bravely and responsibly touched upon a delicate and controversial issue.

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