Teaneck, NJ – Having tackled topics such as philosophy, self-esteem, stress, spirituality, depression and chemical dependency, renowned author, psychiatrist, lecturer and Rov, Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski MD turns his attention to the yomim noraim with the newly released Artscroll publication entitled Twerski on Machzor Rosh Hashana.
“I am addicted to writing,” confessed Rabbi Twerski in an exclusive interview with VIN News. “Having finished my last book, I needed something to write about and I came up with the idea of writing a machzor companion for Rosh Hashana. The davening is so beautiful, but while there are translations of the actual words, there is not a lot of substantive explanation about the tefilos themselves.”
In addition to having authored well over sixty books, Rabbi Twerski’s list of credits is long and impressive. Highly lauded as both a psychiatrist and a Rov, the 81 year old Rabbi Twerski is a descendant of the Chernobyler and Sanzer dynasties and can trace his lineage back to the Baal Shem Tov. A noted lecturer and highly respected public figure, Rabbi Twerski founded and served as medical director at the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, served as clinical director of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine and founded the Shaar Hatikvah rehabilitation center for prisoners in Israel. His ability to integrate Torah views into the many issues being faced by today’s society have earned him worldwide respect and his many contributions have earned him numerous awards and accolades from both the Jewish community and the secular world.
Addressing both the themes and tefilos of the day, Rabbi Twerski offers inspiration into every facet of Rosh Hashana, with stories and divrei Torah on selected portions of davening arranged in the order they appear in the machzor, delivered with the typical Twerski flair.
“In his earlier works on Chumash, Siddur, Mesilas Yeshorim, Haggadah and Pirkei Avos, my father brought a richness, a flavor, a geshmakeit to the holy words of Torah and the greats who wrote these epic works,” said the author’s son, Psychologist, Rabbi Bentzion Twerski. “What was often seen as unreachable was delivered to our table, ready to eat. This is how my father ran his home, his life, his career and was an essential message from the Baal Shem Tov and on: to bring the power of Torah and Tefillah to the masses. His use of stories, parables, and deep insight has inspired many.”
The paperback book is sized to be easily slipped into a tallis bag, in order to infuse the reader with inspiration during davening, a task that can sometimes prove to be challenging, according to, Rabbi Bentzion Twerski.
“One of the precious privileges that every Yid has is the invitation to speak to Hakodosh Boruch Hu daily. The content of our tefillos may appear to be simple, but it is really deep and complex. Understanding the daily tefillos is an undertaking, one that challenges us because it is routine. Especially on Rosh Hashanah, when we have ever more reason to invest in our tefilloh, we should have more knowledge, understanding, and insight in what we say. The depth of “piyutim” is massive, and every effort to learn about the machzor is a major accomplishment.”
For Rabbi Twerski himself, perhaps the highlight of the Rosh Hashana davening does not occur on Rosh Hashana itself, but actually hours before the onset of the yom tov.
“It says in the Talmud that one day can be considered as an entire year. Another Gemara in Pesachim states that part of the day can be considered an entire day. By combining those two concepts, it is possible that the last few minutes before Rosh Hashana can possibly represent an entire year. Therefore, the last mincha of the year, although it is the standard weekday mincha, has the potential to compensate for any tefilos that weren’t davened properly during the entire year.
“My father was the chazzan for mincha on Erev Rosh Hashana and there is no way to comprehend the power of that final weekday mincha if you never heard my father daven for the amud. There were times during Mincha that you could hardly hear my father’s voice for the crying. His davening was so inspiring that anyone who hadn’t prepared himself to do teshuva during the month of Elul could do so adequately just by hearing my that one tefila.
“When my father finished mincha he was hoarse and you could hear people in the Shul saying how that one davening was so inspiring and heartfelt that it was certain to bring a good year.”
Rabbi Twerski is quick to point out that Rosh Hashana does not commemorate the first day of creation, but instead corresponds to the sixth day, the day that mankind was created and as such, is the ideal time for introspection, to review our personal achievements within the past year and set goals for continued growth in the coming year.
“Rabbi Twerski’s treatment of the Rosh Hashanah machzor is a feast of wisdom and insight, with anchor points to make the entire service richer and more focused,” said Gavriel Sanders, Public Relations Consultant for Artscroll. “More than going through the motions, Rabbi Twerski’s new book will take the reader through the emotions of the Day. For decades, Rabbi Twerski has specialized in cultivating a person’s inner spiritual landscape – a careful process of character weeding and seeding. This wonderful new book carries on that course, with an intensity appropriate to the Day, the King, and the coming year.”
Rabbi Twerski expects to relase a companion volume, Twerski on Machzor Yom Kippur, in September 2012.