Book Review — Something Old, Something New: Pearls from the Torah

Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran, whose half century of accomplishments in Jewish education, the rabbinate, writing and kashrut are legendary, has just published a jam-packed collection of essays on the weekly Torah portion, entitled Something Old, Something New: Pearls from the Torah. Aside from being thick enough to provide loads of new and creative great divrei Torah for any occasion, spanning the entire Chumash and beyond, and aside from exuding brilliance and depth, Rabbi Safran’s delightful new book brings to the English-reading Jewish world some very unusual and refreshing features, making this book one of a kind.

Something Old, Something New: Pearls from the Torah is not a mere compilation of essays. In this millennial generation, for better or worse (worse, in my opinion!), most readers have neither the time nor patience for essays. Nor is the book a standard commentary. Although there is always room for more commentaries, anyone who knows Rabbi Safran is aware that his productions are consistently outside of the box (in a very good way) and downright superlative. As such, Something Old, Something New: Pearls from the Torah is a masterful work of synthesis, in which traditional Torah texts and concepts are deeply plumbed so as to yield insight and very practical advice about human relations, current events and problems in the modern world. When subject to the perspective of Torah and brought into the Torah’s realm, the things which concern people most suddenly become clarified, and an illuminated path to navigate through the mazes of modernity is laid out, welcoming all to enter and be enriched with life lessons that engender spiritual growth and fulfillment.

Rabbi Safran’s new book also creates a radiant synthesis of Torah commentaries, in which Midrashic exegesis, interpretations from Rav Soloveitchik, other great roshei yeshiva and Chassidic rebbes of recent and older generations, quotes from contemporary scholars, pundits and respectable bloggers, and explanations from classic Torah commentaries and a stunning array of less-studied sources, are all brought together to generate insights that are totally original and compellingly true.

Something Old, Something New: Pearls from the Torah does not shy away from the controversial, as it addresses President Trump’s Mideast policy, contemporary parallels to the incident of the Golden Calf, the Torah’s perspective on “alternative facts,” hot-button issues in the Orthodox community, and much more. And deep concepts about true happiness, faith, getting along with people, selfishness, superficiality, responsibility and countless more facets of the human condition are beautifully developed for very practical application in real life – not vague pontifications, but concrete and actionable advice.

The writing style in this book is exciting, light and extremely captivating. NEVER boring, stale, dry or a burden to go through. It is the opposite of sermonic and is very atypical.

Something Old, Something New: Pearls from the Torah is also loaded with amazing stories, all colorfully told with stirring emotion and excellent humor.

For something really refreshing and eye-opening, Something Old, Something New: Pearls from the Torah is an absolute must-read.

About the Author
Rabbi Gordimer is a kashruth professional, Chairman of the Rabbinic Circle at Coalition for Jewish Values, a member of the Rabbinical Council of America, and a member of the New York Bar.