Widen Your Tent: Thoughts on Life, Integrity & Joy
Based on Rav Shimon Shkop’s Introduction to Shaarei Yosher
by Rabbi Micha Berger
We so often study a book and simply skip its introduction. And yet, introductions are often where authors lay out their view of the world, the grand “big picture” they see the work fitting into.
In the introduction of his magnum opus, Shaarei Yosher, Rav Shimon Shkop outlines his view of the purpose of Judaism, our lives, the nature of holiness, and what it means to be a good person and in the “image” of G-d.
His vision is one that speaks to us today.
In this unique work by Rabbi Micha Berger, we use Rav Shimon Shkop’s teachings as a guide to provide direction and give meaning to our own lives.
Chapter 1, comprising Rav Shimon Shkop’s introduction to Shaarei Yosher in the original Hebrew and in English translation, is available on-line for free download, here.
In an interview with Nachum Segal on the radio show “JM in the AM“, the author discussed the book’s goals as well as touching on some of the points made in it. You can listen here:
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About the Author
Rabbi Micha Berger’s mentor at Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, Rav Dovid Lifshitz, ignited in him a dream to infuse Jewish observance with love, Mussar, and grounding in Jewish Thought. To that end, Rabbi Berger established The AishDas Society. AishDas assists synagogues and institutions develop meaningful programming and has been hosting the Avodah discussion forum for over twenty years. Rabbi Berger has also taught for The Mussar Institute since its inception. He has spoken to audiences of a variety of backgrounds about Jewish Thought, Mussar, and the siddur. His work has been described in Hamodia, Yated Neeman, and OU Radio, as well as mentioned in Jewish Action and The Jerusalem Report.
In Widen Your Tent, Rabbi Micha Berger translates this introduction and provides a lengthy expansion and commentary on Reb Shimon’s ideas so that contemporary readers can understand the full context and scope of Reb Shimon’s ethical project. To Reb Shimon, holiness lies not in withdrawal from society and worldly pleasures, but in active involvement in community. If every single act in our lives is dedicated either directly or indirectly to helping others, we will be set apart—holy, as God is holy.
This attitude does not limit the relevance of ritual commandments or focus on the self. Rabbi Berger invokes the teachings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe and many others to explain Reb Shimon’s approach to mitzvot and musar. In this book—full of Talmudic examples and conceptual explanations, comfortable to yeshivah students yet accessible to novices—Rabbi Berger details a complete worldview built on determined self-improvement, dedication to excellence in Torah learning and devotion to communal service. Widen Your Tent excites the intellect while challenging the reader to become a better Jew.
- Rabbi Gil Student, Reviews in Brief, Jewish Action Magazine (OU), Summer 2020
Rabbi Micha Berger has prodded our consciences for decades, demanding that we examine our avodah, our service of G-d, more critically and intelligently. When Rav Yisrael Salanter did the same in launching the Mussar Movement that changed the course of Jewish history, he insisted on proving that his positions flowed from a close reading of the most important texts of Torah Judaism. Rabbi Berger follows that lead, showing us how to extract exquisite meaning from the brief words of a modern Torah giant – Rav Shimon Shkop. His core message – that the development of the Torah personality demands widening circles of embrace of more and more people – is exciting and liberating.
- Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein, noted author, editorialist and speaker
Harav Micha Berger, an extremely erudite talmid chacham, has written an extraordinary work, called “Widen Your Tent”. It is an elucidation of an almost unnoticed introduction, to … Shaarei Yoshor, by Hagaon Harav Shimon Shkop zt”l…. [W]hich is a deep and inspiring work of mussar. Rabbi Berger takes each sentence, explains it, showing the depth and practical application of each point. Rabbi Berger also gives us great insight into the various approaches to the integration of the technicalities of the law with the soul of the Torah. This is a highly unusual and remarkable work. The reader will gain much insight and inspiration from this work. It will also open our eyes to the care and attention with which one ought to give to the words of great men!
- Rav Aharon Lopiansky, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva of Greater Washington
Had the introduction been printed as an independent work, Sha’arei Yosher would likely be one of the great mussar sefarim. Perhaps its lack of recognition is that just as people often bypass haskamas, they also bypass introductions, forwards and prefaces.
Berger has written a most helpful guide for the contemplative reader who wants to get back on track, or perhaps even get on the track for the first time, to a more meaningful relationship with their creator, and to understand their purpose in life. This is a deep and meditative book to which people should certainly listen.
- Ben Rothke, book reviewer, The Jewish Link of New Jersey (click here for full review)
Rabbi Berger has translated, explained and expounded on the הקדמה and created an insightful and thought provoking ספר מוסר. I found this ספר מוסר remarkable, and am sure it will prove illuminating and inspiring to those who study it.
- Rav Kalman Epstein, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva Sha’ar haTorah – Grodno, Queens, New York, and grandson of Rav Shimon Shkop
See also some customer reviews on Amazon:
This is THE book I’ve always wanted to read:
One that explains what our purpose is on this planet – and better yet – how to go about reaching that purpose.
The author explains how to relate to yourself, to others and to life in general and takes you on a journey to greatness.
I’m looking forward to reading the book again and again.