In Search of Torah Wisdom: Questions You Forgot to Ask Your Rebbi
By Rabbi Yisroel Miller
Rabbi Yisroel Miller’s In Search of Torah Wisdom: Questions You Forgot to Ask Your Rebbi is a refreshing example of principled pluralism. He is a Litvak, a Lakewood-trained yeshivah devotee, unafraid to state his views but also uninterested in fighting. He will stick to his confidently held opinions but will do it pleasantly, so we can all live together in harmony.
In this book, Rabbi Miller discusses philosophical issues of communal importance, some of the touch points of controversy. He neither shies away from them nor uses them as opportunities to denounce others. Instead, he eloquently explains how an intelligent person can accept da’at Torah, reject banned books, embrace Torah over science and treat Biblical figures as saints (among many other topics).
Rabbi Miller adopts the views of the mussar yeshivah, unsurprising given his background. He sees Torah as the center of life, both as a subject of study and a focus of life. He advocates secular education, but only when it strengthens faith or leads to a career. While song-filled, joyous prayer inspires many, Rabbi Miller attributes a higher value to sober, serious prayer. Refreshingly, Rabbi Miller espouses a theory of chumrah (stringency) that acknowledges its inherent danger and therefore requires careful guidance from a wise mentor. I don’t agree with much of what Rabbi Miller writes, but I greatly respect his gentle steadfastness. The best books are those with which you disagree, that challenge you and force you to respond.
Rabbi Gil Student writes frequently on Jewish issues and runs TorahMusings.com. He is a member of the Jewish Action editorial board.