An authoritative Jewish commentary on contemporary issues.

THE SOCIAL JUSTICE TORAH COMMENTARY

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

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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