Tuesday, July 02, 2013

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Review: The Soul of Life

The Soul of Life by Rabbi Chayyim of Volozhin is a new translation of Nefesh HaChayim, translated by Rabbi Eliezer Lippa Moskowitz.

As the translator says in the introduction, Rabbi Chayyim’s work focuses on man’s nature and purpose, how prayer is an expression of that nature and purpose, how – while the nature of the Infinite Creator is essentially unknowable, His manifestation in creation carriers with it a mandate for mankind, and how involvement with Torah is the fulfillment of man’s purpose and the vehicle of his connection with G-d.

It is the Vilna Gaon’s response to Chabad’s Tanya, and filled with kabbalistic and mystical insights that give a theological foundation to Judaism.

This translation is a completely new work that differs significantly from previous translations.  First it includes and translates ALL portions of Nefesh HaChayim, specifically including the kabbalistic portions. 

The second, the translator annotates confusing words and concepts, providing an explanation of difficult concepts and obscure words and/or sourcing ideas, concept and words themselves.  He does an excellent job explaining both concepts AND pointing to sources – not as in saying “book/sefer such and such, chapter such and such”, rather giving a source passage and context.

The translation is a modern English translation, presenting Hebrew words (where used) transliterated as phonetic English – the same technique I prefer and use on this blog.

The book is a soft-back paperback of 644 pages, and includes a full Hebrew copy of Nefesh HaChayim in the back.

The translator did a wonderful job, and I highly recommend it for those looking for Jewish philosophy, theology and approaches to G-d, man’s purpose and the soul.  It further provides a very interesting contrast between the Litvish and Chassidic approaches to these topics.

I really enjoyed it, the translator’s approach making it as easy a read as such material can be.  I highly recommend it.

Purchasable via Amazon.com.

Note I received a copy from the author for review.


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