Widen Your Tent – In Jewish Action
Widen Your Tent: Thoughts on Life, Integrity & Joy
Rabbi Shimon Shkop was one of the great roshei yeshivah of Europe. A student of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, he had a brilliant mind and clarity of expression that left a lasting impression in yeshivah study halls. When Reb Shimon’s yeshivah was forced to close during World War I, he wrote a two-volume sefer titled Sha’arei Yosher on the most difficult subjects in Jewish monetary law. This sefer incisively and insightfully explains the views of great halachic authorities throughout the ages, using Reb Shimon’s conceptual approach, a uniquely philosophical variant of his teacher’s Brisker method.
Sha’arei Yosher, now a staple of yeshivah libraries, contains an often overlooked introduction analyzing the commandment to be holy: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 19:2). What does God’s holiness have to do with our attempts to be holy people? How do we achieve this daunting task? Reb Shimon offers a characteristically unique and brilliant approach to answering these questions. According to Reb Shimon, the commandment to become holy “includes the entire foundation and root of the purpose of our lives.”
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.