Shabbat Parashat Miketz| 5764
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - A Bibliographical Note - About “Perakim B’Machshevet Yisrael”
Rav Yisraeli z.t.l. played many roles in the developing, Israeli religious society and broke ground in many areas. During the ‘50s, Rav Yisraeli taught Jewish Philosophy in the Medrashiat Noam Yeshiva High School. Realizing that no one work addressed the plethora of basic, philosophical, belief-oriented issues occupying the minds of the modern religious youth of the new state, he decided to rectify the situation. The result: “Perakim B’Machshevet Yisrael.”
“Perakim B’Machshevet Yisrael” is a collection of (complementary or conflicting) excerpts from the works of classical and more recent pillars of Jewish thought. It is arranged topically in 5 sections, containing 32 chapters of both age-old questions and ones of special interest to the day’s religious youth. To deal with the ever-changing challenges of society and its youth, new topics were added in subsequent editions. The sections deal with the following topics: 1. Belief in basic tenets of Judaism and the phenomenon of disbelief. 2. The purpose of the creation of the world and Hashem’s involvement in it. 3. The uniqueness of Am Yisrael and its Torah, the Torah’s impact, and study of various elements of the Torah. 4. Eretz Yisrael and the stages of Jewish history, from exile to redemption. 5. Additional topics, including Torah and science and the Torah response to Biblical criticism.
Each chapter in “Perakim B’Machshevet Yisrael” progresses chronologically. Starting with quotes from related p’sukim in Tanach and from Chazal, the work continues with longer quotes from rishonim, including the Rambam, Kuzari, and Ramban. These are followed by the ideas of more contemporary thinkers, including Rav Hirsch, Rav Kook and a large number and variety of others. Rav Yisraeli concludes each chapter with additional words of summary and/or perspective.
While the work can be used as an intellectually stimulating summary of Jewish Philosophy for any mature mind, that was not its principal purpose. Rather, it provided, for those who were brought up to believe the Jewish beliefs of their forefathers, a deeper basis to understand what those beliefs are and why the forefathers believed as they did. It was written with a realization that an emerging adult within contemporary society would have these beliefs challenged and that it is better to deal with issues within the framework of religious education than to sweep them under the rug and hope for the best.
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