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From house sales to kosher cheese - an accessible guide to topics in the Mishnah

Ner Eyal, Samson Raphael Grunfeld, Radan Publishing, £19.50

    This volume completes a huge project designed to make Jewish legal topics accessible to a thoughtful, English-speaking audience. Based on themes featured in the author’s column of the Jewish Press, Ner Eyal systematically covers all but the most obscure topics in the five latter orders of the Mishnah.

    The author (a son of Dayan Grunfeld, formerly of the London Beth Din) has advanced rabbinic ordination and is a Wall Street lawyer, specialising in mergers and acquisitions. Ner Eyal represents the confluence of considerable rabbinic scholarship and incisive legal skills to produce an extensive reference work of remarkable order and precision. He marshals a comprehensive range of classical and modern Torah sources to present a clear overview of the subjects at hand.

    Some of the chapters explain complex topics in accessible, layman’s terms.  Examples are levirate marriage, kosher cheese and mikveh.  More obscure issues are given a contemporary, sometimes personal, gloss. The gloomy subject of divine excision is examined through the lens of family birthday parties, whereas incarceration and court authority are tackled by examining the case of the 2002 Washington sniper murders.

    The broad range of themes means that most readers will find something of interest, although the financial topics such as the status of lost property, debt collection and house sales will find the widest appeal.

    The book contains little analysis and no halachic conclusions, but this is deliberate. Rabbi Grunfeld succeeds in demonstrating how Jewish law addresses a wide variety of contemporary and eternal topics but encourages the reader to consult with an expert for practical rulings.