Like Seeds of a Pomegranate is a unique collection of Rabbi Yisroel Besser's interactions  with religious Jews on all ends of the spectrum. Determined to remind ourselves of the special People that we are, Rabbi Besser set out on a journey across the world meeting roshei yeshiva, fishermen, Israeli prisoners, renowned musicians, and so on. The result is a book of stories overflowing with acts of kindness, love of Torah, and sanctification of God's name.

 

We were intrigued by Rabbi Besser's accounts and curious to hear more about his experiences and thoughts while writing this book.

 

Why did you decide to write this book?

I felt that there is a certain imbalance on the websites and blogs, where much attention is given to those observant Jews that break the law or display poor judgment in their personal conduct, but there is no voice that broadcasts the opposite. There is a steady diet of amazing stories, stories that underscore what makes us good, and way too much of the other type. A person is influenced by what he reads, and even within our own communities, people were buying into a lot of what they’re reading online. I felt it important that the other side of the story be told as well- we’re a good People.

 

What are the top lessons you learned in researching, meeting and learning about important Jewish personalities?

The key to any article, but especially those involving leaders, is to make sure to retain their trust. Trust is paramount of these people and it’s crucial that they can be confident that you will not take them out of context or misquote them. We live in an era of sound-bites, and it’s a challenge to come away with real, substantial messages.

 

Who surprised you the most?

Sholom Rubashkin. It’s beyond how he continues to radiate emunah and simchas hachaim in circumstances such as he finds himself. I cynically believed that it wasn't for real, that he was in denial - but having met him several times, I can say that this man, who spends much of his time in a tiny 6x6 cell and is cut off from family, friends and company, who has little by way of food or worldly pleasures, is truly serene. 

 

Which Jewish figure of the past 200 years would you liked to have met? Why?

Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld. Though it’s probably a strange answer, since he only passed away 23 years ago, I feel cheated that I didn't meet him. Having authored a biography on him, I feel like I 'know' him, but deep down I wonder if the book gives over the right sense of the person – I’d love to meet him and ask him so many questions.  

 

Sometimes it seems that today we read about “gedolim” and they can appear as super power figures who are so far beyond us because they seem so perfect. What do you think of this phenomenon? Did this influence your writing of the book?

Not at all. Anyone who has been fortunate to meet real gedolim sees their human side first; real gedolim shine in that respect. They may have accomplished much, but every human being is still struggling in some areas - otherwise they wouldn't be here, their job would be done. Their attraction, in most cases, is because they 'get it,' the challenges facing ordinary people, those far from their levels. 

 

Check out Like Seeds of a Pomegranate here!