An authoritative Jewish commentary on contemporary issues.

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Dozens of leading rabbis highlight the Torah’s answers to today’s pressing social justice issues.

In an introduction, editor Block writes that every rabbi, including himself, has heard the complaint from someone in their synagogue that “We want to hear Torah, not politics, from the bimah.” Yet, as Block and his expert contributors demonstrate in this volume, Jewish prophets and teachers have long “understood the essence of the Torah as a call to action” against injustice. If one deeply studies the meaning and intent of ancient Jewish festivals, rituals, and stories, contributor Andrea L. Weiss notes, “The prophetic message is simple: What matters most is justice.” In more than 50 essays by members of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, some of the nation’s leading Jewish teachers, scholars, and thinkers offer erudite perspectives on how the Torah informs current social debates. Drawing on material from Genesis to Deuteronomy, each essay connects a specific biblical passage to a pressing issue in contemporary life. Contributor David Spinrad, for instance, connects the digging of Isaac’s third well to systemic racism, and Andrea C. London ties the commandment “You Shall Not Murder” to gun control. Other essays tackle LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights, climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, criminal justice inequities, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although most essays are centered on specific injustices, others use passages from the Torah to promote essential citizenship and community values on such subjects as trauma-informed care and voting rights. Collectively, this volume is a well-researched, welcome addition to Torah commentaries. Scholars will find detailed, sophisticated analyses, and general readers, assisted by the book’s approachable writing style and helpful glossary, will find pragmatic ways to pursue social justice action in their own lives. It might have been more useful to organize the essays thematically rather than by their chronological relation to the books of the Torah. Nevertheless, it has the potential to be a volume that both rabbis and laity will turn to for decades to come.

An authoritative Jewish commentary on contemporary issues.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-88123-383-4

Page Count: 404

Publisher: Central Conference of American Rabbis Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021


Dillard’s story reflects maturity and understanding from someone who was forced to mature and understand too much too soon.

A measured memoir from a daughter of the famous family.

Growing up in the Institute of Basic Life Principles community, which she came to realize was “a cult, thriving on a culture of fear and manipulation,” Duggar and her 18 siblings were raised never to question parental authority. As the author recalls, she felt no need to, describing the loving home of her girlhood. When a documentary crew approached her father, Jim Bob, and proposed first a series of TV specials that would be called 17 Kids and Counting (later 18 and 19 Kids and Counting), he agreed, telling his family that this was a chance to share their conservative Christian faith. It was also a chance to become wealthy, but Jill, who was dedicated to following the rules, didn’t question where the money went. A key to her falling out with her family was orchestrated by Jim Bob, who introduced her to missionary Derick Dillard. Their wedding was one of the most-watched episodes of the series. Even though she was an adult, Jill’s parents and the show continued to expect more of the young couple. When they attempted to say no to filming some aspects of their lives, Jill discovered that a sheet of paper her father asked her to sign the day before her wedding was part of a contract in which she had unwittingly agreed to full cooperation. Writing about her sex offender brother, Josh, and the legal action she and Derick had to take to get their questions answered, Jill describes how she was finally able—through therapy, prayer, and the establishment of boundaries—to reconcile love for her parents with Jim Bob’s deception and reframe her faith outside the IBLP.

Dillard’s story reflects maturity and understanding from someone who was forced to mature and understand too much too soon.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781668024447

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: yesterday

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023


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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