Accessible and thought-provoking, clearly written and notable for Morinis’s ability to soft-pedal his own struggles, even...



One man’s search for enlightenment through “Mussar,” a Jewish spiritual movement that focuses on mindfulness and ethics in everyday life.

Walloped by a midlife crisis brought on by a failure of both his business and personal ethics, Morinis turned to his roots. Before writing his dissertation on Hindu pilgrimage, before studying with the Dalai Lama, before traveling to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, he had been—and still was—“the little Jewish kid from the suburbs of Toronto.” Looking for answers in a book on Jewish thought and practice through the ages, Morinis happened upon a section on Mussar, and was captivated by its seeming contrariness to the spiritual wisdom he’d absorbed over years of study: Mussar eschews the pursuit of calm and tranquility in favor of an involved approach toward employing ethics and mindfulness “in the midst of the bustling marketplace” of life. A few years of intense study, first alone, and then with Rabbi Yechiel Yitchok Perr, led Morinis into this attempt to distill the lessons of Mussar in ten lessons. In chapters with headings like “The Gate of Growing,” “The Gate of Holiness,” “The Gate of Good and Evil,” and “The Gate of Working in the World,” he addresses the very broad concepts of the philosophy, mostly by relating how Rabbi Perr addressed the author’s questions about such issues. Each chapter is followed by an extremely simple exercise that can help the reader explore Mussar in daily life.

Accessible and thought-provoking, clearly written and notable for Morinis’s ability to soft-pedal his own struggles, even though his work—part self-help, part memoir, part religious study—is still mere lagniappe for those hungry to gain a deeper understanding of this strain of Jewish spirituality.

Pub Date: March 12, 2002

ISBN: 0-7679-0645-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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