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HaMedrash V'HaMaaseh

Rabbi Yechezkel Libshitz (1864-1932) served as the rov of Kalish for a half century, and led the Agudas HaRabbonim of Poland till his death. A powerful orator, his derashos blended an older style of presentations from the pulpit with a newer, emerging one. The older style treated aggadic texts similarly to halachic ones, asking questions, pointing out apparent inconsistencies and contradictions. The topic was the text itself; little if any effort was made to directly address issues that were on the minds of the listeners. The newer approach was to comment on contemporary issues, and put them in a Torah perspective.

Libshitz’s monumental work, HaMedrash V’HaMaaseh , combined the two. Each week, he offered at least one (but sometimes two or three) long pieces in which he would take some theme touched upon in the parshah or haftorah and deal with it at length. (He also offered a topic in halacha, which demonstrated his accomplishment as a traditional talmid chacham and halachist. The two kinds of weekly treatment – one in each of the two universes of midrash and halacha – generated the title of his sefer .)

Libshitz’s thinking was wonderfully creative, and this series will hopefully capture a bit of his novelty each week. He was also a fierce critic of much of what was going on around him in a rapidly changing world of modernity and communal disruption after WWI. He is sometimes painful to read, in his description of communal dissension, abject poverty, the arrogance of the rich, and the wholesale abandonment of Torah by much of the population. Some of that will come across in this series as well.

Each week’ selection will capture some of his genius from a portion of his weekly offering. They are too large to attempt to distill entire pieces. As in previous series, my hope is to whet the palate of the reader so that he or she will be motivated to study the original.