Reviewed by Rabbi Ari Enkin, torahbookreviews.blogspot.com, February 8, 2019
Even more than in his previous book (“Esther Unmasked”) Mitchell First, a lawyer, once again treats us to lots of cool facts and bits of information that most people don’t often come across.
In this volume he focuses on “Hebrew, Holidays, and History”.
In addition to the Hebrew language, the Hebrew section includes entries relating to the liturgy. For example, there are great entries on the history of the Haftorah, with 4 or 5 theories on how it originated, how the Shema made its way into the Shabbat Mussaf Kedusha, and a history on the praying for one’s national government. Some of the words and terms that are analyzed include: hefker, brit, chalom, chatan, and, kallah, she’ol and a good number more including a presentation of the many foreign, primarily Egyptian, words in Tanach (and you thought that “totafot” was the only one!) Indeed, the study of different words and phrases makes up a major component of the book.
The “History” section includes a discussion on what exactly was Moshe’s speech impediment, archaeology and scripture, and how the “Hertz Chumash” became *the* Chumash for most of the 20th century.
The “Holiday” section sheds new light on concepts such as Yom Teruah, Maccabi, and the Jewish calendar. There is also some discussion on the Book of Esther, although his previous book is the “go-to” for more on that story.
There are four chapters, each with 10-20 entries, making each entry short enough to be inviting and enjoyed. With some sprinklings of humor, this work is extremely informative and some entries are, in fact, completely fascinating. I’m especially impressed with Torah books of quality that are written by learned layman rather than exclusively by rabbis. I’m not sure if “Factoids” does this book justice, but the information contained here is as fun to read as it is important. Definitely a worthwhile purchase. Yasher Ko’ach.