Monday, February 20, 2006
NOSSON SLIFKIN- Third Focus
Long before any controversy surrounded any of his books, I was an avid reader of Nosson Slifkin’s books.
At the time I was trying to build a respectable library of Jewish books, focusing on the Artscroll and Felheim/Targum catalogues.
I needed some seforim (Jewish books) with D’var Torahs (words on the Torah) and while browsing I encountered only few titles that seemed very interesting.
I wanted another perspective, a different genre of D’var Torah than the ones that are used continually and without much originality at Sheva Brachos (feast after wedding) and Shabbes tables.
That’s when I came across “Second Focus” by a then little known Nosson Slifkin.
The cover was simple and the title left something to the imagination. It was a refreshing change from standard titles like “the … on Chumash” or one using the word ‘light”.
I promptly ordered a copy online and when looking up the Parsha (weekly Torah portion) of the week, I went ahead and read the entire book.
For once I saw an author who attempted to see the events unfolding with a very contemporary perspective, his anecdotes to illustrate a point didn’t involved Rebbes from another era, but Baal Teshuvahs, actual events and even pop stars.
Imaginative headings such as “BT Extraterrestrial” or intriguing ones as for e.g. “Cover Up at Roswell” make the anticipation of reading Nosson Sliflin’s take on the Parshah almost more enjoyable than the reading itself.
He tackles some hard questions and answers them frankly, leaving cliché apologetics aside.
“Yes women are discriminated”, he writes. But don’t take that at face value, read the entire article and see how he develops his ideas and thoughts intelligently, often citing sources one wouldn’t associate to the issues at hand if the sources hit them on the head. But then the table unfolds and you’ve gained a magnificent insight on the Torah.
This book originated on a weekly email list, and on some Parshah’s , right along Nosson’s D’var Torah are responses and criticisms from readers. It’s mighty refreshing to see an author who doesn’t mind publishing disagreements on his work in his own book!
Second Focus, follows “Focus”, the first volume, but this last one has been out of print for years. Fortunately while browsing in Boro Park a while ago I finally got my hands on a copy.
Last Shabbes I reread Second Focus, and as the previous times I enjoyed it immensely and found some great ideas to base my D’var Torah’s on.
I have bought every book Mr. Slifkin had written and they always made for fascinating, stimulating reads.
“Nature’s Song” remains one of my favorite Judaic books to his day.
It’s an elucidation on Perek Shirah, a little known medrash recited by some people every day.
The book explores the meaning and relation every element and animal has to its attributed passuk (verse).
It’s truly a fascinating book uncovering mysteries an insights about life and nature.
I don’t have sufficient scientific, nor Torah, knowledge and understanding to judge whether a ban on the more controversial books was necessary or not.
I do however find the manner it was decreed and carried out to be unjust.
As Mr. Slifkin writes on his website, when the ban was announced none of the signers gave him a chance to explain and didn’t deign to take his calls.
My interest in blogging has started with seeking information about the whole affair.
Then it was a hot topic and every Blogger had something to say.
I reread “Second Focus” Shabbes, and suddenly I have the urge to read “Nature’s Song” again as well.
BE WELL AND GUT VOCH
He was honest and that is what he sorely need now.
I happened to have read his Science of Torah book..even though it was a take off of Gerald Schroeders books.
(in particular 'nature's song' looks really interesting, it'd be nice to know a bit more about Perek Shira)
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