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Home From the Rabbi From the Rabbi - June & July 2016
From the Rabbi - June & July 2016 PDF Print E-mail
Summer is here and many of us will take the opportunity to catch up on some reading.  Jews are known as the People of the Book, and so here are some suggestions for some (reasonably light) non-fiction summer reading on a Jewish theme.

For some history there is Thomas Cahill’s “The Gift of the Jews”, part of a series of books by Cahill on how relatively small nations had outsized influence on the progress of civilization.  The book traces how a marginalized desert tribe (that would be us!) influenced Western civilization’s most deeply held beliefs about God, justice and human nature.  In particular he traces how the Jews changed the world from one that believed that time was an unending cycle and human existence merely part of this cycle to one in which time had a beginning and an end and human action made a difference to the world.  

For those interested in learning more about Israel a great start is Thomas Friedman’s “From Beirut to Jerusalem”.  While it is an older book much of what it sets out about the nature of the region and its conflicts stay broadly the same and Friedman describes his travels through the region in a way that is entertaining and insightful.  For a more up-to-date view of the Middle East there is Aaron David Miller’s “The Much Too Promised Land”.  Miller, a key player in the peace process for three administrations, traces the ups and downs of the peace process and the inner workings of the key players involved.  

On a more philosophical level Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, has written many wonderful books but two stand out.  “The Dignity of Difference” explains the importance of pluralism in religion and how we can effectively coexist with other religions by not just finding the similarities between faiths but by better understanding how to appreciate our differences.  On a similar theme, his most recent book “Not in God’s Name” explains the roots of the religious violence that plagues us in terms of sibling rivalry between faiths that mistakenly believe that God’s love is a zero sum game.  Closer to home, there is Rabbi Roseman’s most recent book “Of Tribes and Tribulations” in which he answers significant questions (the tribulations of the title) ofJewish life such as what it means to pray, the nature of covenant and who wrote the bible.  

We have had the pleasure as a congregation to hear a couple of times from Dr Joel Hoffman and his two most recent books “On the Bible’s Cutting Room Floor” and “The Bible Doesn’t Say That” are wonderful and engaging reading.  In the first he describes some of the fascinating books that didn’t make it into the Bible and in the second he looks at 40 different mistranslations and misconceptions that have caused us to misunderstand the Bible.  

Finally a couple of personal favorites. For those who like pirate stories, how about the Pirates of the Caribbean with Jews! In his book “Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean” Edward Kritzler traces the true swashbuckling history of Jews who, in the aftermath of the expulsion from Spain in 1492, took to the open seas and made alliances with other European powers to to gain riches, ensure the safety of Jews living in hiding, and exact revenge against the Spanish for sending them into exile.  And for those, like me, who enjoy comic book superheroes there is Arie Kaplan’s “From Krakow to Krypton” an amazing history of how the Jews created and influenced not only the comic book industry itself but many of the most significant comic book characters we all know and love from Superman to Spiderman, Batman and the Fantastic Four and many others.  

Have fun over the summer and enjoy reading some (or all!) of these great books.  



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