This is a terrific resource for learning about the entire Hebrew Bible. It goes way beyond the five books of the Torah and covers the Writings and ProThis is a terrific resource for learning about the entire Hebrew Bible. It goes way beyond the five books of the Torah and covers the Writings and Prophets in detail, and is one of the only books I've seen that does this. It also lists the 613 mitzvot one by one, with an explanation. For getting a handle on the Writings and Prophets and browsing through all the mitzvot in one place, this book is invaluable.
However, due to the nature of its focus, it's denser and less varied then Telushkin's other huge masterwork, Jewish Literacy. That huge book is a pleasure to dive into and, even for its several hundred pages, read in a few sitting. Biblical Literacy can be a slog to get through and is probably better suited to the study of specific books, chapters, writings, etc....more
This book struck me as a kinder, gentler version of Kushkoff's "Nothing Sacred." Whereas Kushkoff calls for a completely humanistic Judaism (but refusThis book struck me as a kinder, gentler version of Kushkoff's "Nothing Sacred." Whereas Kushkoff calls for a completely humanistic Judaism (but refuses to call himself a Reconstructionist Jew), Schulweis allows an eternal/constant God to stay remain in Judaism. He covers similar ground to Kushkoff, including reframing prayer, ritual, miracles, conscience, the nature of God, and the revelation of the Torah in a manner understandable to skeptical modern sensibilities.
The big difference--and the one that made this book resonate far more for me, is that Kushkoff's discussion of Judaism centered on an all-or-nothing approach. In order to "modernize" Judaism, he called for jettisoning everything of an unprovable nature. Schulweis, however, sees Judaism--and modern Jews--as perfectly capable of living with contradiction and allowing modernity and the sense of the ephemeral to co-exist and inform each other. This middle approach seemed a lot more thoughtful to me, and a lot less angry, too. The book makes sense in the way that "God Was Not in the Fire" makes sense and I think it's a good companion read....more
I am of two minds about this book. It's a very Jewish work--it questions and struggles with Judaism, God, and everything related in order to find meanI am of two minds about this book. It's a very Jewish work--it questions and struggles with Judaism, God, and everything related in order to find meaning, which is at heart of Jewish scholarship. But it's also not about what it purports to be. Rushkoff calls the book "The Truth About Judaism." What it really amounts to is a thinly veiled call to turn Judaism into humanism.
Rushkoff's main idea is that the irreligious, largely humanist "lapsed" Jews of the 21st Century are really the most "Jewish" Jews, and that organized Judaism in all its movements has lost sight of Judaism's central tenets of monotheism, iconoclasm, and social justice. This is in diametrical opposition to works like "The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism," and "God Was Not in the Fire," which point out the dangers of not having a universal ethics (which humanism cannot provide) and the value of ritual and myth as promoting a sense of community.
At variuos points, Rushkoff expresses derision at observant Jews (in fact, he scorns all Jewry that isn't part of the highly humanist Reconstructionist movement), says that the concept of God is irrelevant, and announces that the end justifies the means as if it is an accepted tenet (ignoring that it was this very tenet that allowed every dictator in history to commit mass murder).
Rushkoff want Judaism repackaged as humanism, with God relegated to humansim's "quiet inner voice" that whispers right from wrong and derides everything else. He thinks that doing so leads directly from the Torah being a myth-laden document. He completely ignores that anyone could ever come to believe in God on their own, or that the "inner voice" of which he writes could be a subjective sense of God. If it isn't scientifically proveable, it's not part of Rushkoff's world view. He also contradicts himself many times (are the Jews a people or aren't they? It depends on the point Rushkoff is trying to make), and draws sweeping, occasionally ludicrous conclusions from tenuous "evidence" and then reports those conclusions as incotroverible fact.
To subtitle this book "The Truth About Judaism" took a lot of chutzpah. That is not what this book is about. This book is nothing more than one long rant from a lapsed Jew who can no longer conceive that others might actually believe--or have a right to believe--in God. There are spiritual homes which share his worldview. But mainstream Judaism doesn't have to throw God out with the mikvah water just because Rushkoff is disappointed that the Bible isn't factual....more
The question-and-answer nature of this book seemed to cover all the bases (and intuit all of my questions) about Jewish holidays and the Jewish life cThe question-and-answer nature of this book seemed to cover all the bases (and intuit all of my questions) about Jewish holidays and the Jewish life cycle. Definitely a reference book I want on my Jewish bookshelf....more
This book really lays out the details of becoming a Jew-By-Choice, from why others have made the decision, to what to expect from your rabbi and yourThis book really lays out the details of becoming a Jew-By-Choice, from why others have made the decision, to what to expect from your rabbi and your learning experience during your months of study, to the actual rituals of conversion, post-conversion celebrations, and your first year as a new Jew. Written from a liberal (Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist) perspective, the book is written for both prospective converts through marriage and those considering Judaism for personal reasons. It also discusses the disagreement with Orthodoxy over conversion (they, of course, won't recognize liberal conversions.) But unless you intend to marry in Israel or make aliyah (more there), who cares? Let Orthodoxy keep its prejudices, this book serves the American liberal Jewish convert very well....more
This book really helped me place Judaism in context with other major religious and philosophical schools of thought, and unexpectedly brought me to thThis book really helped me place Judaism in context with other major religious and philosophical schools of thought, and unexpectedly brought me to the point of understanding Judaism as a better viewpoint (in terms of morality and social justice) than all others. It was pretty breathtaking in doing so. It is, however, written from a distinctly conservative perspective. I don't agree with the take on intermarriage or (Dennis Prager's) near-mindless Zionism, but it was an informative book nonetheless....more
Kind of answers the question of Why Judaism? The answer is pretty much Why Not? The book demonstrates the importance of ritual and Jewish action as coKind of answers the question of Why Judaism? The answer is pretty much Why Not? The book demonstrates the importance of ritual and Jewish action as community-building and comforting elements of Jewish religious practice--whether or not you accept "stories" about God or reject the religious aspects of your Jewish upbringing. ...more
Breathtaking. A love story about Shabbat, written in the most amazingly respectful and reverent language that easily communicates the hallowed feelingBreathtaking. A love story about Shabbat, written in the most amazingly respectful and reverent language that easily communicates the hallowed feeling of the day, and why you might want to keep Shabbat, too....more