Kosher Bookworm

Appreciating the teachings of our prophets


I am happy to note and bring your attention to the Mitoch HaOhel series of essays by the staff of Yeshiva University, “From Within the Tent: The Haftarot,” published by Maggid.

This comprehensive 745-page work contains a series of scholarly essays on every haftarah, written by a distinguished group of rabbis and professors from YU.

What makes this particular work most relevant to the Five Towns community is an essay written by Woodmere resident Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman, dealing with unique medical aspects relating to this week’s haftarah for Parshat Vayera.

Rabbi Reichman, one of America’s premier Jewish medical ethicists, is a Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he teaches Jewish medical ethics, and Attending Physician in the Emergency Department at Montefiore Medical Center. He holds the Rabbi Isaac and Bella Tendler Chair in Jewish Medical Ethics at Yeshiva College, and his research is devoted to the interface of medical history and Jewish law.

This unique background has enabled Dr. Reichman to truly synthesize our religious teachings with the latest in scientific and medical knowledge for the benefit of the entire Jewish community.

In his essay for Vayera’s haftarah, “The Resuscitation of Halachah: An Animated Discussion,” Dr. Reichman engages in an extended teaching as to the impact that Jewish law has upon some of the most sensitive areas in medical practice, namely cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, coronary bypass, artificial heart transplantaeetion, corneal transplantation, and posthumous insemination.

Two other topics are dealt with, briefly, that being the issue of a kohen becoming an organ recipient, and the ethical and halachic implications in the selling of human organs.

All of the above are brought together in the context of the narrative of this week’s haftarah and the story of the resuscitation of the son of the Shunamite woman by the prophet Elisha. A careful reading of the Haftarah text is suggested before reading Dr. Reichman’s teaching.

Dr. Reichman’s scholarly writings envelope a whole range of historical, legal, midrashic, aggadic as well as contemporary halachic responsa teachings together with some pretty hefty footnoting.

Among contemporary rabbinic responsa cited are those from the works of the Chasam Sofer, Rav Isser Yehudah Unterman, Rav Yechiel Weinberg, Rav Eliezer Waldenberg, Rav Moshe Feinstein, and Rav Chaim Regensberg, all of blessed memory; as well as the works of Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, Rav J. David Bleich, and Dr. Fred Rosner of Far Rockaway.

Also noted prominently are responsa by Rabbi Dr. Don Well of Cedarhurst.

Taken together with Dr. Reichman’s personal scholarship and mastery of both halachah and the relevant medical questions, this essay gives us an appreciation of the depth of learning that one can assimilate from both religious and secular aspects that go into the development of the sensitive human interactions that are represented in the Biblical plots and subplots presented to us in this week’s Haftarah.

Hopefully haftarot will be taught more widely in our schools and in the shiurim in our shuls. In addition, maybe the divrei Torah delivered weekly from the pulpit will increasingly encompass the texts and teachings of the haftarot and thus help encourage a deeper appreciation of these texts by our people, both young and old.

A version of this column was published in 2011.