THE NINE QUESTIONS PEOPLE ASK ABOUT JUDAISM by Dennis & Joseph Telushkin Prager

THE NINE QUESTIONS PEOPLE ASK ABOUT JUDAISM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A fervent apologia, vigorously written but intellectually naive, and aimed not at ""people"" but secularized Jews. Prager (historian) and Telushkin (rabbi) argue for traditional faith, ethics, and ritual practice. They distinguish Judaism from Christianity, Islam, Marxism, and ""ethical humanism."" They attack anti-Zionism and intermarriage, urge organized support for Soviet Jewry, encourage parents to send their children to Jewish day schools, champion kashrut, tzedaka, and strict shabbat observance, etc. Jews trying to get back to their religious roots may find all this helpful, but only if they're willing to accept some rather over-simplified thinking. In their eagerness, for example, to prove that any morality not grounded in the supernatural is doomed, the authors insist that ""reason is amoral."" Any good behavior on the part of atheists must therefore flow from crypto-theistic sources. But even if ""ethical monotheism"" were the only thing standing between us and total barbarism (tell that to Buddhists and Hindus), Prager and Telushkin fail to link that abstract monotheism with the highly concrete God of the Bible. The reader, if he didn't know better, would scarcely guess that Judaism is a historical religion--and unintelligible when separated from its evolutionary past. Further problems: undiscriminating piety (low Jewish murder rates are traced to dietary laws), occasional bias (short shrift is given to Marxism), and ethnocentricity (no understanding is evidenced of Palestinian claims). There's much inspiration here for the (at least) half-convinced, but skeptics will have to look elsewhere.

Pub Date: July 6th, 1981
Publisher: Simon & Schuster