I hope you too had a wonderful Rosh Hashanah.
The honor of writing the first Our Shiputzim post of the year goes to the one and only YZG (aka “Mr. S.”) – known to veteran readers for his Solomonic wisdom, his erudite halachic discourses, his ability to replace gas oven ignitors, and his previous book review.
Take it away, YZG!
“When God is Near: On the High Holidays”
“When God is Near: On the High Holidays” is an incredible collection of sichot (talks) that were delivered by Rav Yehuda Amital zt”l - one of the two founding Roshei Yeshiva of the world-famous Yeshivat Har Etzion and a renowned Jewish thinker of the previous generation - over the course of 40 years.
The sichot, which were given during Elul and the Yamim Nora’im in the yeshiva, were collected and adapted by Rav Amital’s son, Rav Yoel Amital, a ra”m at Yeshivat Shaalvim.
Koren Publishers recently released an English translation of the collection. Since I received a review copy of the book just before Rosh Hashanah, and since I want to publish the review before Yom Kippur – i.e. while it’s still relevant - this review will be fairly short.
Many of the nearly 50 sichot were published elsewhere – in particular, on Yeshivat Har Etzion’s website. However, this is the first time that they appear together.
Each of the sichot offers a glimpse at Rav Amital’s unique style and worldview, and the book’s essence is captured by the younger Rav Amital’s introduction. As he writes:
“My father’s sichot are distinguished by their ability to penetrate the heart while at the same time appealing to the intellect.”
For example, one of the sichot on the Slichot prayer provides food for thought by explaining why prayer involves praising God as well as making demands and requests of God. Rav Amital’s intriguing approach gives meaning to Slichot in particular and prayer in general.
One of Rav Amital’s primary themes is that this time of year is about finding ways to improve ourselves - both in terms of our service of God and also in terms of our service to the Jewish community as a whole. I also appreciated his insights on the Biblical sources used to develop his ideas.
I highly recommend this book. Not only will it make the Yamim Nora’im more meaningful, it will greatly enhance the reader’s understanding of what God expects of us.
Note: I was not paid to review this sefer, but we did receive a review copy from Koren Publishers.
Great job and thank you, YZG!