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May 18, 2014

Book Review: Teach Them Diligently by Berel Wein

NOTE: I was not paid to review this book. It is an unbiased and objective review. If you have a book with Jewish or Israel related content and would like me to write a review, contact me for details of where to send me a review copy of the book.

Book Review: Teach Them Diligently, by Berel Wein

Teach Them Diligently, by [Rabbi] Berel Wein.. Rabbi Wein's brand new autobiography, hot off the press. Anybody has ever heard of Rabbi Berel Wein, or heard him speak or read any of his writings, would be excited to pick up this book. And so I was. And I was not disappointed. I loved it.

Honestly I was actually a bit surprised to see the book to be relatively small - it is just 161 pages long. I would have expected a book about Rabbi Wein's life to be packed with the most fascinating stories, enough stories to pack a good 700 or 800 pages of a book.

Then I started reading and realized this book is actually an autobiography and not a memoir. While a memoir is a subcategory of autobiography, an autobiography tells the story of a life, while memoir tells a story from a life - a memoir focuses on one specific aspect of the writers life, a specific period of time, and specific event, etc. while the autobiography is he story of the writer's entire life. I am sure of Rabbi Wein would write a book of memoirs from his yeshiva days, or from his time in Florida, or from his time in Monsey, or from his time in Jerusalem, or as a kashrut administrator, or as a rosh yeshiva, or as a lecturer or historian, he could surely pack in so many fascinating stories, that he could pump out a series of 700 page books. For an autobiography, though, he surely had to employ some brevity, or else the book would have gotten out of hand and never been finished.

Anyways, as soon as I started reading, already on the first page, I was hooked. Rabbi Wein's writing style is captivating, and connect that with stories from his fascinating life, peppered with personal musings and lessons, and you've got a great book.

Teach Them Diligently begins in Chicago, where Berel Wein was born, and describes his extended family. The descriptions of Chicago, the schools, the personalities, the community - for me it was particularly interesting. I was reading some history of my hometown. I was familiar with some of the names, some of the places, and others I had never heard of before. It starts in Chicago, but it moves to Europe, Florida, Monsey, Brooklyn, Jerusalem, and by extension many other places as well.

Berel Wein describes growing up, his schooling, the influences in his life. I find it amazing how clear his life direction was from such a a young age, though perhaps it only seems clear when being written from the perspective of having already lived that life. And despite that, he still went to law school and became a lawyer and went into practice (and then into business) because he had to make a living to support a family... and eventually he found his way to the life of the Rabbinate.

The book is peppered with stories of the people he met and got to know, such as the Satmar Rebbe, Chief Rabbi Herzog, Rabbi Kaminetzky, Rabbi Kotler, Rabbi Soloveitchik, to name a few that come to mind quickly, among countless others. However, it must be said, while Rabbi Wein hints at interesting backgrounds of famous personalities, such as people he went to [co-ed] school with who later became famous rabbis and Rebbetzins, this is not a "tell-all" book, and he does not actually reveal any stories about other people that might put them in compromising positions today.

The stories are fascinating, his life-story is fascinating, his family history is fascinating. I almost feel short-changed that he connected so strongly with teachers and other people who were such powerful personalities who became such major influences in his life, while I (and I think most people I grew up with) just went through school with good teachers, but nobody that really made a strong connection, nobody that really became a real influence, nobody that was such a strong and captivating personality. But maybe that was my fault. Maybe I wasn't open to it.

While "Teach Them Diligently" is the story of Berel Wein's life, it is also the story of American Jewry, especially in the first half of the 20th century. It is his very personal story, while at the same time it is extremely broad in its reach.

I finished Teach Them Diligently extremely fast because I almost couldn't put it down, once I picked it up. It draws you in, and you just keep wanting to know what happens next. Rabbi Weins style uses humor and wit, combined with his stories of both leadership, controversy, politics (can you imagine other rabbis trying to chase Rabbi Wein out of town?), success, failure... Teach Them Diligently is definitely a must-read for anybody familiar with [Rabbi] Berel Wein, but also for anybody interested in the Jewish community.

buy Teach Them Diligently on Koren-Maggid: on sale for $19.96

buy Teach Them Diligently on Amazon.com: $24.94

NOTE: I was not paid to review this book. It is an unbiased and objective review. If you have a book with Jewish or Israel related content and would like me to write a review, contact me for details of where to send me a review copy of the book.

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1 comment:

  1. All the good stories were already published in Vintage Wein, by Dr. James David Weiss.


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