"DOWN-TO-EARTH JUDAISM: Food, Money, Sex, and the Rest of Life" by Arthur Waskow

"DOWN-TO-EARTH JUDAISM: Food, Money, Sex, and the Rest of Life"

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A sincere but overly idiosyncratic guide for those who are disenchanted with more traditional Judaism. Waskow, author of 12 books (most recently Becoming Brothers, 1993, with brother Howard), continues his career-long ""Godwrestling"" in this latest attempt to remake Judaism. The rabbi winnows through millennia of biblical and rabbinical teachings to find a few grains in the mountains of chaff. He envisions an ideal post-rabbinic Judaism that is ""feminist, holistic, eco-centered, body-affirming, yet deeply rooted in the Jewish past, both affirming and affirmed by most of the Jewish people."" The results can often be satisfying, in a fuzzy, feel-good kind of way. Where traditional dietary restrictions fail to be meaningful for many, Waskow suggests that Jews focus on ecologically sound foods and manufactured products. In the author's brand of Judaism, an adaptation of ""ecokashrut"" could either coexist with traditional kosher laws or replace them. Waskow would also like to see a sense of spirituality reemerge in the use of money. Among the concepts that point the way is the Tzedakah collective, a means by which laypeople pool charity monies and decide together how to spend them. Less benign are Waskow's musings on sexuality: Not only does he see no reason to prohibit premarital sex, but he sees no religious or ethical problem with extramarital sex and open marriage when conventional marriage becomes too restrictive. In the post-AIDS era, it is difficult to take Waskow seriously when he lapses into an ""if it feels good, do it"" philosophy. Despite the author's impressive familiarity with Jewish teachings, there is nothing in this loosely ethical lifestyle guide that suggests a theology. Judaism involves a romance between humans and the divine, but Waskow's spiritual flirtation doesn't even constitute an open marriage with God. In the end, the reader learns more here about the spirit of Arthur Waskow than of authentic Jewish beliefs.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1995
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Morrow