An Original Mind At Beth Jacob

Rabbi Kalman Topp is giving a bunch of classes at Beth Jacob and he prepares original content for each one (just like the rabbis at Bnai David and the rabbi at YICC much of the time). Rabbi Topp is fluent in Hebrew and it is clear that he immerses himself in the sacred texts of the Jews.

He’s a primary text guy like the old fashioned rabbis. Marc Gafni, David Hartman in Jerusalem, Ari Kahn, Emmanuel Rackman, the top Talmud instructors at Yeshiva University, these are primary text guys. They deal principally in the primary texts of the Jewish tradition — Tanach, Talmud, commentaries.

Then there are the popularizers who seem to do most of their reading in English and then take the best of ideas they come across and put them into their own words. These are people like Joseph Telushkin, Dennis Prager, Norman Lamm, Steven Weil.

Primary text guys such as David Hartman tend to look down on popularizers such as Dennis Prager.

I place Rabbi Gershon Bess — the man behind the RCC — with the popularizers. Even though he immerses himself in primary text, he does all his publishing in English. I don’t believe he’s published a scholarly article in Hebrew. It seems weird to me that the most powerful Orthodox rabbi in Los Angeles, a charedi rabbi at that, does all his publishing in English.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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