By Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin, Editor of COLlive.com
The new book series “Inside Time” can be seen as a contemporary embodiment of the Talmudic instruction that rabbis ought to teach and guide their communities about upcoming Jewish holidays.
While the directive was said to occur 30 days before each holiday and focused on communicating the laws and customs of the holidays, these new books provide a deeper and year-round exploration of the Jewish calendar.
Authored by the acclaimed writer, Rabbi Yanki Tauber, the 3 volumes are a journey through the soul of time as defined by the Torah and illuminated by Chassidic thought, particularly by the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
Each volume examines the essence of time and its origins in the primordial phases of creation; the cycles and systems that characterize it and define the trajectories of our lives; and the particular time-qualities that are brought into focus by the festivals and special dates of the Hebrew calendar.
The first volume includes 28 essays exploring the essence of origins of time, and the time-cycles that define the trajectories of our lives – the day, the week, the month, the year, the sabbatical and jubilee cycles, and the 19-year cycle of the Jewish calendar.
The second volume examines the unique time qualities of a six-month period of the Jewish year. Its 39 essays explore the inner significance of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, Simchas Torah, the month of Cheshvan, Chanukah, the month of Teves, Tu B’Shvat and Purim.
The third volume includes 46 essays exploring the last 6 months on the Jewish calendar, starting from the month of Nissan with Pesach and the seven-week counting of the Omer. It continues with Pesach Sheini, Lag BaOmer, Shavuos, the Three Weeks and Tisha B’Av and the month of Elul.
The majority of the content is based on the Rebbe’s talks over the years at 770 Eastern Parkway and was originally written by Tauber for the “Week in Review,” a weekly digest of the Rebbe’s teachings published by Vaad Hanochos Hatmimim / Meaningful Life Center.
What could have been added to those lucid essays –especially in the book version– are some of the timeless Chassidic tales that would have completed the illustration of the Jewish calendar. They would have added color and a unique warmth to the otherwise an esoteric and intellectual journey.
A useful and complete glossary appears only in the end of the third volume, but the compression is rewarding. Throughout the 3 volumes, words in Hebrew are italicized and terms appear with a dotted underline. 35 pages are dedicated to succinctly explaining the ones the book didn’t expound on.
“Achashveirosh” was the ruler of the Persian Empire in the 4th century BCE, “Aggadah” are the “non-legal Torah teachings” and “Baal Teshuvah” is a person who returns to G-d in repentance, with an addition that “the “baal teshuvah movement” has been a widespread phenomenon, beginning in the 1960s.”
They are similar to the definitions of words and subjects that on be found on the Judaism website Chabad.org where Tauber served as chief content editor from 1999 to 2014. He is currently working on The Book, a new translation and anthologized commentary on the Chumash.
“Inside Time” is like a gemstone deposit that requires exploration to come up with the precious jewels. In its 944 pages, there are a few articles on every subject that can be read in no particular order. Read them all and you will appreciate the Jewish calendar in a whole new light.
The essays about Shabbos discuss the meaning of rest, working and the prohibition of carrying on Shabbos. But stick around to Tish B’Av chapter and you will discover how “Cholent expresses our profound yearning to escape galut even as we acknowledge it as the most fruitful epoch of our history.”
When the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, instructs in his Shulchan Aruch to learn “the practices that should be done” before each holiday, he also notes that part of that lesson is to learn “the ways of Hashem.” “Inside Time” does that with clarity.
Inside Time: A Chassidic Perspective on the Jewish Calendar, by Yanki Tauber, Meaningful Life Center, 944 pages (3 Volumes). Purchase at Jewish book stores or at meaningfullife.com