Wisdom of the Heart The Teachings of Rabbi Ya'akov of Izbica-Radzyn

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  • Ora Wiskind-Elper (author)
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About the Book

A new way of understanding traditional Jewish texts.

In this fascinating book, Ora Wiskind-Elper introduces us to a figure who was ahead of his time: the Hasidic leader Rabbi Ya’akov Leiner of Izbica-Radzyn. Her translations and interpretation of his writings present the Rabbi’s central ideas in a compelling form to modern readers.

Though Rabbi Ya’akov lived a full century and a half ago, his teaching weaves midrash, medieval commentary, Kabbalah, and Hasidic thought together to create an innovative perspective on long-established Jewish concepts. His works, known as the Beit Ya’akov fill four large volumes of commentary on the weekly Torah portions and the cycle of Jewish festivals—the traditional genre known as derashot.

In exploring the diversity of the sources Rabbi Ya’akov used for his reflections on Jewish life and spirituality, the author suggests he devoted uncommon attention to emotion, human, relationships, and gender issues. Thus, in many ways, Rabbi Ya’akov’s thought was extraordinary for its time and even for ours.

Wiskind-Elper’s insights touch readers on many different levels—intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically.


Ora Wiskind-Elper takes these texts seriously, presents intelligent and sensitive readings of difficult themes, and rigorously plumbs concepts and formulations that formed the basis of this approach within Hasidic thought.

—Jewish Book World

Ora Wiskind-Elper

Ora Wiskind-Elper is assistant professor at the Lander Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem and at Michlalah College, Jerusalem. She holds an MA in comparative literature and a PhD in Hebrew literature from Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Wiskind-Elper is author of Tradition and Fantasy in the Tales of Reb Nahman of Breslav, co-editor of Torah of the Mothers, and translator of numerous scholarly works from French, German, and Hebrew to English. She and her family live in Israel.

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