The teachings of an 18th-century rabbi are explored in this hybrid translation, commentary, and reference book.
Born in Pintshov, Poland, in 1696, Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeshitz delivered teachings that have influenced generations of Jewish scholars, but they have been obscured in the public eye due to a lack of translations from the Hebrew and his esoteric writing style. After a serendipitous encounter with Barber, an internationally acclaimed rabbi and motivational speaker, Eybeshitz’s descendant Julie Gerber was inspired to produce an English translation of her ancestor’s rich body of work. This collaboration between Barber and Gerber resulted in the 2021 book Pearls of Wisdom, which offered English readers an unfiltered translation of the rabbi’s oeuvre. Recognizing the difficulties that many lay readers may have in grasping Eybeshitz’s writings, Barber offers this sequel to the general public, which is a more accessible translation of the rabbi’s works accompanied by a wealth of contextual and religious commentary. The book begins with a brief look at the life and legacy of “a charismatic rabbi, an expert on Jewish law, a master Kabbalist, a prolific writer, a peacemaker, and so much more.” The bulk of the volume focuses on the “Torah Giant’s” thoughts on topics that span from angels and divine communication to fish and tefillin. On wealth, for instance, Eybeshitz cautions: “Money doesn’t just go into a person’s pocket or bank account; it also goes to a person’s head.” On the Exodus story where God sends manna for sustenance, the rabbi reminds readers that although “we no longer have food falling from heaven…that shouldn’t stop us from marveling at the tremendous acts of kindness that God bestowed on our forebearers.”The 112 concise chapters follow a similar pattern, interspersing translations of Eybeshitz’s writings with Barber’s commentary. Eschewing precision for accessibility, the author’s translation focuses “more on the spirit and ideas” of Eybeshitz than “on a more literal” approach. Each section ends with a modern-day application of the writings. At almost 350 pages, this work is not designed to be read in a single sitting but ideally a chapter at a time, as readers are encouraged to meditate on the teachings and their implications for contemporary life. The author of multiple books on Jewish history and spirituality who has received both Rabbinic Ordination and Judiciary Ordination, Barber is an ideal translator and commentator, merging an expertise on complex spiritual teachings with a keen eye toward their applicability. For rabbis and academics, this is a sound reference tool backed by more than 300 footnotes that demonstrate a full command of the relevant literature. Alternately, Barber’s writing style excels at making the esoteric accessible, and he crafts a practical work that will appeal to lay readers, who are eased into complicated topics with ample context and commentary. This user-friendly approach extends to a glossary, the volume’s topical organization, and brief introductory chapters that provide important contextualization. Despite the book’s emphasis on contemporary relevance, there are some subjects left unaddressed, including LGBTQ+ issues, reproductive rights, and systemic racism. There is still much of value in this inspirational volume, particularly its reminder to look beyond people’s “superficial faults to the core of their beautiful soul.”
A well-researched, accessible guide to an important but often overlooked Jewish thinker.