A Jewish writer takes an educational journey through the feasts and fasts of the religious calendar.
Former 60 Minutes producer Pogrebin (One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I've Learned About Everyone's Struggle to Be Singular, 2009, etc.) embarked on a rigorous program celebrating, for a full year, the grave holy days and happy holidays her faith prescribes, even those that eschew electronic devices. Living a year by the prayer book, she found personal possibilities and universal implications, beginning her year of learning one autumn with the theological New Year. That was quickly followed by a fast day recognized only by the most observant. Then came a solemn Yom Kippur, a major fast day and the most serious day of reckoning. The author also chronicles days appealing to the senses, days celebrating the reception of the Holy Law, and more minor fasting days. There’s a proto-Earth day and a day for masquerading to commemorate an escape from annihilation. For Passover, the author attended a feminist observance. The most important holiday comes not annually but weekly: the day of rest when all manner of work and all mundane concerns are set aside. Regarding the ancient holidays, there are reorchestrated and new ones to commemorate the establishment of the state of Israel, its lost defenders, and the Holocaust. For the book, Pogrebin, a bit of a religious tourist, traveled to various synagogues and consulted scores of rabbis and scholars—though none in the Orthodox right wing of Judaism. She offers homilies, elaborate similes, and other illustrative figures of speech that will engage like-minded readers. The text, however, won’t enjoy ready acceptance with those who do not find room in the tradition for touchy-feely sentiments, such as “mindful walking” or “mindful sweating.” The graceful value of Pogrebin’s tract is the deep faith and rich vitality evident in her up-close and personal Jewish year.
A sentimental journey through Judaic practice and thought.