Sholom Noach Berezovsky (1911-2000) is responsible for one of the great books of our time.  I doubt that he wrote it as books are typically written.  As is the case with many rebbes, it's likely that his Torah thoughts and writings were collected and put together by his students in book form.  

In any case, the titles of great Jewish books always outlive the names of their authors.  The life of the author and his name become increasingly paltry, insignificant, and ultimately completely forgettable as compared to his Torah thoughts -- encapsulated in the title of his book -- which are a reflection of the mind of God and thus eternal.  


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The book that is a compilation of Berezovsky's Torah thoughts is called Netivot Shalom or “Paths of Peace.”


Reading Netivot Shalom is a most sublime and peaceful experience.  Netivot Shalom is popular in every yeshiva, from ultra-Orthodox to national-religious.


Once, when I read a few select paragraphs from Netivot Shalom to a friendly rabbi, he said “it’s like honey” and I understood what he meant at once.  


There is a pervasive sweetness here.  You know if you could somehow secure yourself within the words of Netivot Shalom, you would lack for nothing.


You read each page with the unshakable conviction that the author is talking about you.  


Sometimes, the truths he sets down are uncomfortable.  Your own spiritual maladies, which he defines as though he has personal, intimate knowledge of each, are always accompanied by their antidotes or cures.


In Netivot Shalom, immoral thoughts, all the more so when acted upon, are at the heart of every spiritual malaise.  The remedy to spiritual malaise, or just a lack of spiritual vigor, is Shabbat.  


Many times he quotes the sages as follows:  “Even idol worship is atoned for and forgiven through Shabbat observance.”


In Netivot Shalom, every word of Torah takes on a highly personal and most urgent meaning.  The reason the Ten Commandments are written in the second person singular (the singular “you” verbal forms in Hebrew are different from the plural “you” forms and the singular is used in the Ten Commandments) is because each of us has tendencies that could easily lead us into violating them, albeit in individual ways.  And that does not mean we would violate them literally but certainly could violate the spirit of them.  

Though few or none among us has the capacity to murder, most of us have a tendency to elevate ourselves at someone else’s expense -- even if only in thought -- an act of self-aggrandizement and diminishment of the other that is akin to murder.  

And then there is theft.  In Hebrew, deception is known as   גניבת הדעת,  which literally means “stealing the mind.”  You may not wear a mask and steal valuables at night yet you are just as guilty of theft each time you fool someone into thinking you’re someone that you’re not.
 
Nothing that happened in Jewish history is remote from us.  During Purim, you are threatened with annihilation.  At Pesach time, you are among the multitudes leaving Egypt.  On Shavuot, you receive the Torah on Mount Sinai.  In Netivot Shalom, this sense of being there is extended beyond the holidays so that every movement, every breath, is imbued with a calm and comforting intimacy with the Divine.

There is something more, something especially precious to a Jew, which is articulated with warm assurance in Netivot Shalom.
This something more is the possibility of self-purification.  To live a life of purity is the highest aspiration of the Jewish soul, to return to its pristine condition prior to coming down here, prior to its encounter with the harsh and compromising reality of life on Earth, to return to a state of being inseparable from God even in the midst of earthly trials and temptations.

Netivot Shalom, carefully internalized, will result in performance of the most mundane acts of everyday life with restraint, holiness, and joy.   







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