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A well-researched and diverse collection of Jewish writings on our collective responsibilities to the planet.

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This anthology of essays, edited by Kahn, presents Jewish perspectives on the Earth and the environment.

While the concept of avodat ha-Shem (“serving God”) is central to the Jewish faith, Rabbi Kahn reminds readers in the introduction to this collection that avodat haaretz (“service of the earth”) is equally important. As he notes, “nature can teach us sacred lessons.” Divided into five parts and more than 30 individual chapters, the book begins with a theological reflection on how a spiritual relationship with God should guide our relationship with the Earth. Drawing specific examples from Scripture, the book’s second part reexamines religious texts in new contexts, yielding insights such as the way the Song of Songs unveils “a ritual journey of connection with creation” and how the Book of Job’s lessons on humility apply to nature. Part 3 explores how the physical environment serves as a setting in which humanity has encountered God, from ancient mountaintops to the modern-day “Shabbat Stroll.” Part 4 focuses on how the Earth shapes and informs the Jewish calendar. The book’s final section provides a more practical approach to Jewish environmental ethics, including concrete examples of sustainable eating practices, interfaith activism, and ways that synagogues can serve as “laboratories for the future” and model environmentally conscious practices. With more than four dozen contributors, the book is intentionally diverse in its perspectives; the authors represent views from across the Jewish denominational spectrum and include rabbis, activists, poets, and professors. Each chapter is accompanied by a wealth of endnotes and reference materials. While distinctly Jewish in its approach, the book is accessible to readers of all faiths, and many of its chapters include interfaith perspectives, including an entire section regarding Indigenous land acknowledgements. This impressive collection is a reminder that, in the words of contributor Karenna Gore (executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and daughter of former Vice President Al Gore), “it is not the earth that needs fixing; it is us.”

A well-researched and diverse collection of Jewish writings on our collective responsibilities to the planet.

Pub Date: June 1, 2023

ISBN: 9780881233858

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Central Conference of American Rabbis Press

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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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 19, 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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