There’s a new book of insights for the yamim nora’im, authored by longtime Kew Gardens Hills resident and maggid shiur, Rabbi Ephraim Meth. The book, Life Lessons for the Yamim Nora’im, is available on Amazon.com. It goes from Rosh haShanah through Hoshana Rabbah, and addresses questions we often wonder about, but rarely articulate; for instance: Even if nuts have the same gematria as sin, we’re not eating sins – we’re eating nuts!
Rabbi Meth’s books have received haskamos from important rabbanim, including Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum of K’hal Nachlas Yitzchak and Rabbi Hershel Schachter and Rabbi Michael Rosensweig of Yeshiva University. The book’s ideas are based on classical and contemporary ba’alei machshavah, including the Shem miShmuel, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Shlomo Wolbe, and Rav Avigdor Miller. For example, one chapter explicates Rav Wolbe’s idea that “kol ba’ei olam ovrim lefaneycha kiB’nei maron” means single file, one by one – it is a call to affirm our individuality, our unique talents and aptitudes, during the Yamim Nora’im.
Rabbi Meth draws on life experience to bring the book to life. For instance, someone once gravely insulted him, and then apologized in an incomplete way. This led to the chapter “How to Accept an Incomplete Apology,” where Rabbi Meth notes that it’s embarrassing to apologize, so every apology, no matter how tepid, is an act of heroism. That chapter has two other strategies for how to bring ourselves to forgive people.
Rabbi Meth teaches halacha and Tanach at Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence, and his book’s style reflects his chinuch experience. Each chapter ends with a limerick that summarizes the chapter’s main points; this is meant, explains Rabbi Meth, to aid review and generate motivation for learning. For instance, the chapter “13 Tips for Giving Good Rebuke” ends with this: May from selfish rebuke we be spared. / And with praise may our rebuke be paired. / A joke; or a tale; / or soft question won’t fail. / And never rebuke unprepared. Indeed, Rabbi Meth’s students recall the gromens he composed around purim time to help them review what they covered in shiur.
What inspired Rabbi Meth to write this book? Last year, when he bought for his wife Rabbi Glatstein’s book on the yamim nora’im, she exclaimed, “Thank you! There’s so little out there in English on the yamim nora’im.” That inspired Rabbi Meth to commit to writing shiurim he’s been giving for the last decade, mostly in Queens venues: Rabbi Oelbaum’s shul, Young Israel of Queens Valley, Kollel Agra dePirka, Rabbi Abramov’s shul, Sha’arei Teshuvah, and Derech Outreach, among others.
In the book’s conclusion, Rabbi Meth waxes poetic: “One can hardly walk four amos without encountering reminders of Hashem, His love for us, and our joys and duties to him. When we walk with Hashem, every place of Earth is a veritable Eden.
”Yet the tasks of everyday life conspire to conceal this world of wealth from our consciousness. The only antidote is study. If in moments of tranquility, we train the eyes of our spirit to perceive in a Torah lifestyle the vistas of eternity, then some shadow of that blessed landscape is bound to remain when the tempest takes hold of us again. And, with fresh research and study, the shadow takes on greater solidity, more vibrant hues. It is my sincere hope,” he finishes, “that this book will enrich your religious experience, and in doing so, pave the path of the banished to garden where it all began.”
Rabbi Meth has other books available on Amazon too, such as “Mirrors and Apple Trees” on the lomdus and machshava of peru uRevu, and “The King Who Guards the Gate” on the lomdus and machshava of mezuzah.