By Yehuda Ceitlin, COLlive Editor
Few people on the West Coast can match the high voltage enthusiasm of Rabbi Mendel Cohen, the energetic Director of Chabad of Sacramento, capital of the state of California.
The only names that come to mind are Head Shliach Rabbi Shlomo Cunin and now-former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. All three would be seen each year at the Menorah lighting at the steps of the state capitol competing on who would dance the hora with more might.
Another of Cohen’s traits were revealed this week as Kehot Publication Society placed on its bookshelves his 400-page work called “Margalit Menachem” (which translates as “The Pearl of Menachem.”)
It appears that in addition to running his shul, Hebrew school, Mikvah, JLI chapter and summer camp, Rabbi Mendy Cohen found the time to analyze the differing views of the Rambam and the Ra’avad.
“The Rebbe strongly encouraged Shluchim to write chidushei Torah (discover novel and original ideas in Torah) and allow the Torah to be molded by their distinct and inimitable characteristics,” he told COLlive.com.
Indeed, the Rebbe told Shluchim in 1983: “There are some who excuse themselves. They say ‘I am preoccupied spreading Judaism and running educational institutions… how can I possibly put it all aside and publish innovative Torah thoughts?’
“To this I respond: Not only will publishing innovative Torah thoughts not detract from your activities, to the contrary, the printing of Torah journals will aid the spread of Judaism. It will aid your financial state of affairs and pull you out of debt.”
Did it help Chabad of Sacramento with its fundraising and balancing a budget?
“I’m still waiting,” Cohen told us with a smile.
Until that miracle is fulfilled, he hopes Torah learners worldwide will enjoy volume one on chapters Mada, Ahava and Zmanim in Mishne Torah – fruits of 8 years of labor and research.
(Most of these chidushim were printed over the past decade in the bi-weekly Haoros Ubiurim journal, edited by Rabbi Avraham Gerlitzky.)
He thanked his wife Dini, his parents Rabbi Eliyahu and Rochel Cohen of Montreal, uncle and aunt Rabbi Naftali and Feiga Astulin, Rabbi Cunin and Rabbi Mordechai Farkash of Seattle, WA, for their encouragement and support.
The book is dedicated to his late father-in-law Reb Yossel Mochkin and his grandfather Reb Tzemach Gurevitch (some of their memoirs are printed in English at the conclusion of the book).
WHAT TRIGGERED THE BOOK
The idea and inspiration for writing the book came from a note by the Rebbe about the dispute between the Rambam and Raavad at the end of the Book of Mada, end of the laws of Teshuva, “and in other instances.”
Intrigued, Rabbi Cohen set out to explore and discovered that the underlying theme that pervades each dispute of the Rambam and the Raavad is their philosophical approach:
The Raavad is the “super-rationalist” who feels that G-d’s revelation to Moshe was the ultimate.
Whereas the Rambam is the “rationalist,” arguing that by having G-d permeate and become understood by Moshe’s mind, Moshe had reached the ultimate.
Cohen says he wants learners “to appreciate why the Rambam and Raavad will sometimes quibble about seemingly trivial verbiage that appears to have no practical ramification.”
The book, he says, will also “help us to recognize why the Rambam can, at times, take both a lenient and stringent approach to the very same subject matter.”
How? For the answer you’ll have to purchase the hardcover available now at KehotOnline.com