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The Book of Jewish Values: A Day-by-Day Guide to Ethical Living

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Rabbi Joseph Telushkin combed the Bible, the Talmud, and the whole spectrum of Judaism's sacred writings to give us a manual on how to lead a decent, kind, and honest life in a morally complicated world.

"An absolutely superb book: the most practical, most comprehensive guide to Jewish values I know." —Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of  When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Telushkin speaks to the major ethical issues of our time, issues that have, of course, been around since the beginning. He offers one or two pages a day of pithy, wise, and easily accessible teachings designed to be put into immediate practice. The range of the book is as broad as life itself:

• The first trait to seek in a spouse (Day 17)
• When, if ever, lying is permitted (Days 71-73)
• Why acting cheerfully is a requirement, not a choice (Day 39)
• What children don't owe their parents (Day 128)
• Whether Jews should donate their organs (Day 290)
• An effective but expensive technique for curbing your anger (Day 156)
• How to raise truthful children (Day 298)
• What purchases are always forbidden (Day 3)

In addition, Telushkin raises issues with ethical implications that may surprise you, such as the need to tip those whom you don't see (Day 109), the right thing to do when you hear an ambulance siren (Day 1), and why wasting time is a sin (Day 15). Whether he is telling us what Jewish tradition has to say about insider trading or about the relationship between employers and employees, he provides fresh inspiration and clear guidance for every day of our lives.

544 pages, Hardcover

First published February 22, 2000

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About the author

Joseph Telushkin

31 books141 followers
Joseph Telushkin (born 1948) is an American rabbi, lecturer, and best selling author. His more than 15 books include several volumes about Jewish ethics, Jewish Literacy, as well as "Rebbe", a New York Times best seller released in June 2014

Telushkin was raised in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Solomon and Hellen Telushkin. He attended Yeshiva of Flatbush where met his future co-author Dennis Prager. While at Columbia University, they authored Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism and Why the Jews?: The Reason for Antisemitism.

While at University, Telushkin was an active leader of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry. As part of his position, Telushkin visited the Soviet Union where he met with dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov. He was eventually listed by the KGB as an anti-Russian agent.

An Orthodox rabbi by training, Telushkin serves as a spiritual leader of Los Angeles’ Synagogue for the Performing Arts, founded in 1972 by Rabbi Jerome Cutler. He is an associate of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership and a former director of education at the non-denominational Brandeis-Bardin Institute. Telushkin is also a Senior Associate with CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and is a member of the board of directors of the Jewish Book Council. He has been on the Newsweek's list of the 50 most influential Rabbis in America since 1997.

Telushkin is the author of sixteen books on Judaism. His book, Words that Hurt, Words that Heal, inspired Senators Joseph Lieberman’s and Connie Mack’s Senate Resolution #151 to establish a National Speak No Evil Day in the United States, a day in which Americans would go for twenty-four hours without saying anything unkind or unfair about, or to, anyone. His book, Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People and Its History, is one of the best-selling books on Judaism of the past two decades. More than two decades after its publication, the book remains a foundation text for Jews, non-Jews, and prospective converts alike. The first volume of A Code of Jewish Ethics, entitled A Code of Jewish Ethics: You Shall be Holy, which Telushkin regards as his major life's work, was published in 2006. The second volume, entitled, A Code of Jewish Ethics: Love Your Neighbor, was released in 2009.

In 2013, Telushkin was invited by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres to speak before the commission in Geneva.

In 2014, Telushkin released "Rebbe: The life and teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the most influential Rabbi in Modern History" which appeared on all the major best seller lists including New York Times Best Seller list, Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly.

Telushkin tours the United States as a lecturer on Jewish topics, and has been named by Talk Magazine as one of the fifty best speakers in the United States. He wrote the episode 'Bar Mitzvah' on Touched by an Angel guest starring Kirk Douglas.

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5 stars
324 (62%)
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135 (26%)
3 stars
49 (9%)
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Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Michelle Jones.
54 reviews10 followers
July 30, 2010
I read this book over the course of a year. Give or take a few missed and a few catch up days I read one value each day. This book has had such a large impact on my behavior in lots and lots of ways. One of the most obvious ways is the way I deal with panhandlers and homeless people I encounter. If someone asks me for a dollar and I have a dollar I will now give it to them and I will look them in the eye and tell them to have a nice day. If I don’t have a dollar I’ll offer to buy them some food. The chance that the person might just be scamming me is not nearly reason enough to deny someone (and myself) an act of compassion.

That’s just one example, there are countless others. Seriously, I can’t overstate how much this book impacted me. And I learned a lot of Talmudic information from it as well so win-win.
Profile Image for Karen A. Wyle.
Author 21 books211 followers
December 4, 2014
I just about never do this -- but I'm reviewing a book I haven't finished (despite the "finished" date on this entry). I do so because:
(a) it's due back at the library, and
(b) this is a book one can read in snippets, and in any order.

Rabbi Telushkin gives us 365 short (no more than two pages) discussions of how to apply the principles of Torah, as explicated in the Talmud and illustrated in the Mishnah and Talmud, to everyday modern life. He does so with a clarity and humility that I found very expressive and informative. This would be a terrific gift for a young man or woman in the year or so prior to a bar/bat mitzvah -- or for any adult, any time, who is interested in applying Jewish tradition and learning in order to improve the moral quality of his or her life.
Profile Image for Les.
122 reviews9 followers
May 9, 2017
This book was recommended to me by a Jewish friend so I could better understand her faith. Each daily reading is a carefully reasoned guidance on correct action and attitude in a common situation in everyday life -- not just Jewish life but anyone's life in the world.

The lessons are grounded in Jewish teaching, but that is a tradition grounded in millenia of study and reasoning and interpretation of truely good and just action. I found little in it to contradict the life Catholics are supposed to live and much to cause me to reflect on how I live my own life.

I will be returning to this book for many years.
Profile Image for Ari.
680 reviews17 followers
July 7, 2015
I read this book both because I wanted an introduction to Telushkin and as someone looking for a beginner-level Jewish ethics how-to manual to recommend to folks studying for conversion.Telushkin offers the reader short, daily, thought-provoking essays that outline a number of lessons from both Torah and Talmud, in language that is understandable and with references that draw the reader to further research. This is a useful entry-level tool, and I suspect I'll be recommending it in the near future.
Profile Image for Kris.
480 reviews
August 23, 2011
There is an entry for each day of the year. When my kids were younger, I tried to read this with my family at dinner each night. We didn't make it through the whole year, but this book offered lots of conversation starters. At the end of a week's worth of entries, there is a list of questions to discuss on Shabbat. This is really a great book, and I'm putting it back on the dining room table!
5 reviews1 follower
October 10, 2012
If I ever dont know what the right thing to is, all I need to do is read one of these short stories and I am closer to the answer
93 reviews4 followers
January 7, 2018
In this age of many false values, I found it very refreshing to read "The Book Of Jewish Values". The author, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, makes his book very understandable. Many topics were covered such as how to deal in business, raising kind children, better ways to speak to people etc. Sadly, there are people that practice Jewish rituals, but they are not kind or ethical. Rabbi Telushkin shows that even if one does not practice all the rituals, he or she can still be an ethical person. Yes, words and actions do matter! If more people practiced these values, we would live in a kinder world. Finally, one can be any religion and still get much wisdom from reading this book.
11 reviews3 followers
October 22, 2020
I've been wanting to read this book for twenty years -- ever since I saw Rabbi Telushkin speak at my college. Life often got in the way, but I always had this book on my to-read list. Now, perhaps with the change in routine that has come with the coronavirus, I had a chance to check the book out from my local library. I am glad I did. It is a repository of wisdom tied together with mesmerizing anecdotes and common-sense advice about how to live one's life. I enjoyed the book so much that I plan to buy the book for my children to read.
Profile Image for Alison.
552 reviews28 followers
April 17, 2007
This book really helped me understand what Judaism is all about. Mainly I learned about its emphasis on ethical treatment of others--rather than the legalistic, hard-line emphasis on Torah law I had always been taught about (by people who had never studied Jewish thought). It taught me a lot about what integrity really means.
6 reviews
January 15, 2016
I love reading this book. It helps keep things in perspective and helps me keep my moral compass calibrated. I take it out every year during the Days of Awe.
Profile Image for Reid Boehm.
36 reviews
July 22, 2014
I will be reading and rereading for a long while. I love the author's tone and his wisdom.
34 reviews1 follower
December 6, 2016
Finished my second read through and found plenty of wisdom within. I probably mention something from this book on a weekly basis and really enjoyed the format of daily topics.
2 reviews
May 25, 2015
The best book I ever read about values. Many stories and examples on how to apply an entire value system in our daily life. It makes us wiser to take good decisions in our personal contacts.
Profile Image for Alan Zwiren.
55 reviews4 followers
May 31, 2020
This is one of many typical books from Rabbi Telushkin. The format is one of reading an ethic/value each day ending in summarizing the topics so that they may be discussed at the Shabbat table which I find to be an excellent structure for families. In addition, many of the weeks have a common theme stimulating broader discussions on Shabbat. However, as is with his many other books that I have read by Rabbi Telushkin, I have found the discussions extremely superficial, with repetition within the book and with his other books. In addition, many of the people he holds up as references have failed to be bastions of virtue and thus seem inappropriate in a book of values and ethics.

Also, from time to time, I have seen Rabbi Telushkin put forth a value that has no references in Tanach or Talmud. As a teacher of Ethics and Values, I do believe that his intentions are commendable; however, as a treatise on Jewish Values and Ethics, I believe he has a responsibility to demonstrate the source of such teaching. Perhaps there was a Jewish source for all he put forth but he did not share them all the time. As in his other books, Rabbi Telushkin does provide references for additional readings, though not as many as in other books. Overall, for those who are unfamiliar with Jewish Values and Ethics, this is an excellent introduction constructed in a "self-help" way to digest one concept daily. For those with more of a background there are much better sources of Jewish Values and Ethics to study.
Profile Image for Marcos Carmo filho.
118 reviews9 followers
December 31, 2021

Uma leitura improvável para um agnóstico criado numa família católica brasileira, esse presente de um amigo judeu ainda assim conseguiu se tornar um favorito, e o livro que mais presentei na vida. A despeito de suas raízes serem religiosas, o livro contém reflexões sobre caridade, bondade e autocuidado que considero valiosas para qualquer pessoa, independentemente de inclinações ou preconceitos religiosos.
Telushkin se tornou uma referência importante para mim, que certamente revisitarei bastante ao longo dos anos.

An unlikely read for an agnostic raised in a Brazilian Catholic family, this gift from a Jewish friend nonetheless became a favorite, and my own most gifted book. In spite of having religious roots, the book contains reflections about charity, kindness and self-care which I consider invaluable to any person, independent of any religious inclination or prejudice.
Telushkin became an important reference for me, which I'll certainly revisit through the years.

13 reviews
May 5, 2020
I read a day daily. A good gift for Rosh Hashanah because that's when the book starts for the year. The three most memorable blessings for me (which I already do in life but didn't know their singular importance) are:
Day 75 - Giving thanks for good excretory events.
Day 76 - Treating the developmentally disabled with courtly respect.
Day 129 - Walking your guests out past the door to the street.
Take a chance, get the book, treat it nice!
Profile Image for Jane De vries.
596 reviews6 followers
May 6, 2021
Of all the Jewish books I've read, and there are many, this has to be the best. I really like the format. A learning opportunity for every day of the year.

Telushkin combines spirituality with down-to-earth, understandable and practical approaches to the challenge of living. Who can disagree with that?
Profile Image for Lynda.
2,299 reviews111 followers
April 1, 2017
All I can say is that wish I had found this book 55 years ago.
290 reviews
April 22, 2017
I read this book a few sections at a time, and I suspect I'll be picking it up again soon to savor more of Rabbi Telushkin's insights about living a good life.
Profile Image for Deena.
1,339 reviews7 followers
Shelved as 'on-going'
December 24, 2018
Several times over many years I have intended to read from a particular book each day, but I've never actually accomplished it. At least one of these failed attempts was even another title by Reb Telushkin! However, this volume, a holiday gift from my dear Jojo, is actually set up for 365 days, 52 weeks. 2018 was a pretty crappy year, on the whole, and I am looking out for ways to make 2019 better. I'll include a daily reading in this book in my efforts.
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews

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