OU Press, the publishing division of the Orthodox Union, announces the publication of Chumash Mesoras HaRav – Sefer Vayikra, edited by Dr. Arnold Lustiger, the third volume in this series which compiles the insights of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik as a commentary on the Chumash.
In this volume, Dr. Lustiger has again succeeded in creating a seamless commentary out of a diverse array of material, including dozens of printed books in Hebrew and English, unprinted lectures, and audio recordings. Sefer Vayikra, perhaps the most difficult of the books of the Chumash, provides a fertile ground for the Rav’s trademark combination of lomdut — analytical Talmud study — and philosophical acumen. Those familiar with the Rav’s teachings will recognize themes and patterns in this work; all will find new theories and original concepts they have never been previously encountered.
The following two excerpts exemplify the Rav’s rich and nuanced ideas. Here, the Rav employs a foundational principle to explain the sin of Nadab and Abihu (Vayikra 10:1):
The Jewish way requires us to fashion our lives according to God’s discipline, as illustrated by the word “ve-tzivanu, He commanded us.” The reason we perform the mitzvah is absolute surrender to God’s will. Eventually, we must progress from that surrender to a profound spiritual experience that encompasses our entire being…The transgression of Nadab and Abihu, whom the Torah describes as sanctified, was that “they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them.” The divine command and our discipline in obeying that command are the only healthy routes to religious inspiration.
In the following passage, the Rav again finds a deep insight in the language of the verse regarding the punishment for one who consumes blood (Vayikra 17:10), “and I will cut him off from among his people”:
If man wants to defeat death and scoff at nihility, he must somehow elevate himself above this order of meaningless existence and come close to the order of eternity. To gain a pass to everlasting reality, he must represent God…This is possible only if the individual Jew includes himself in Knesses Yisrael, the community which was burdened at the dawn of history with the divine logos and ethos, God’s word and ethical system… Only when the individual joins this community may he lay claim to a deathless existence. Only through identification with the origin may one gain eternal life.
The Chumash Mesoras HaRav: Vayikra joins the previous volumes on Bereishit and Shemot as a classic commentary on the books of the Torah. Other recent OU Press publications include the United Kingdom’s former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’ popular Covenant & Conversation – Leviticus: The Book of Holiness; Rabbi Sacks’ Lessons in Leadership: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible, a collection of divrei Torah on the parashah connected to the theme of leadership; and Between the Lines of the Bible — Genesis: Recapturing the Full Meaning of the Biblical Text by Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom, who advocates a rediscovery of the “plain sense” meaning of the Biblical text.
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