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His running commentary to Luzzatto's text is lucid and informative, helping contemporary readers discover how this influential work can continue to guide and inspire us today."—Louis E. Stone provides the tools for the reader to easily and independently access Luzzatto's great classic."—Jewish Book World Great book, not to be read like a novel, could be used as a devotional, a book to be reference as a great resource for spiritual growth, I got more out of this book ever expected.It is definitely a book to be studied not just read.The title evokes the Biblical Patriarchs, "Yashar" (in English Bibles, usually Jashar) being a word regarded as their special epithet in glosses on Biblical references to a mysterious "Book of Yashar" (Sefer Ha-Yashar, Joshua and 2 Samuel ). Perhaps partly because the title implicitly attributed such deep significance to the communal norms (you too can emulate Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! It actually became preferred, even required, reading, in the Rabbinic schools of nineteenth-century Lithuania, which were very much in favor of the life of conscious, thought-out, obedience to Heaven, and, although not opposed to mysticism, were very much set against its public discussion.And not just opposed to publicity for the usual "Secret Teachings of the Wise" reasons.He thinks the situation an extreme case of the more typical bifurcation of consensus legal-ethical and controversial theological positions in some types of traditional Jewish writings, although not the most extreme.
I have seen it listed with the Hebrew and English in different orders in the title, and sometimes as by Kaplan alone.(The dust jacket of the Aronson edition gives Luzzatto's first name as Moshe, a better transliteration, but not the one used inside.Along the way, he founded a fourth Movement in American Judaism, Reconstructionism.Beyond being Jewish, and learned (and having entries in the "Oxford Dictionary of World Religions"), they don't seem to have all that much in common.Some other translations are in fact listed as by Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, and there are other transliterations.At least one version announces its allegiance to the Eastern European view of the book by giving the title in Ashkenazic pronunciation, as "Mesillas." The Italian-born author probably would have found that a little odd.)Kaplan was a committed rationalist, an admirer of American Pragmatists (among others) as well as a Talmudic scholar.
He is best known as the founder of the modernizing Reconstructionist movement (to re-order Jewish life and thought in America; not to be confused with Christian Reconstructionists, who appear to favor re-ordering American life on theocratic lines).