Empathetic inquiries into the challenges of faith.

FILLED WITH FIRE AND LIGHT

PORTRAITS AND LEGENDS FROM THE BIBLE, TALMUD, AND HASIDIC WORLD

A posthumous collection probes sources of Jewish wisdom.

Adapted from a series of lectures delivered between 1967 and 2014, Nobel laureate Wiesel (1928-2016) celebrates the lives and struggles of spiritual leaders appearing in the Bible, Torah, and Hasidic lore. How, he asks, can one person make a difference when faced with evil and oppression? With a special affection for prophets, the author introduces Elisha ben Shafat, “strange, elusive, complex, full of contradictions,” a man of volatile temper, at times directed cruelly at children. His teacher was the prophet Elijah, to whom Elisha felt unwavering loyalty. Purveyor of 16 miracles, especially in the aid of women, Elisha fought hunger, repelled enemies of the king of Israel, cured the afflicted, and intervened in affairs of state, including the incitement of a bloody revolution. Among biblical kings, Wiesel singles out Josiah, “one of the notable exceptions to the corrupt idol-worshipping Jewish kings,” who restored the commemoration of Passover among his people. From the Talmudic universe, “a place where conflicts and contradictions meet and rarely get resolved,” Wiesel examines the odd friendship between Rabbi Yohanan and the courageous gladiator Resh Lakish, to whom the rabbi offered marriage to his beautiful sister. The contrast between the two men, Wiesel observes, inspired their grappling over meaning in the Torah. Each attracted Wiesel: Resh Lakish for his “sense of urgency” and commitment to seek the truth; Rabbi Yohanan for his compassion. The enigma of Satan focuses one chapter. In another, Wiesel creates an admiring portrait of the philosopher and scholar Rabbi Schneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Hasidim, a deeply humanitarian sect that offered “a new way of attaining hope” and community to Jews—often uneducated and disaffected—who were scattered throughout Eastern Europe. Wiesel counts himself among Hasidim. “Faith in memory,” Wiesel reminds readers, “helps individuals transcend their condition” and justifies “faith in the future.”

Empathetic inquiries into the challenges of faith.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8052-4353-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Worthwhile reference stuffed with facts and illustrations.

ROSE BOOK OF BIBLE CHARTS, MAPS AND TIME LINES

A compendium of charts, time lines, lists and illustrations to accompany study of the Bible.

This visually appealing resource provides a wide array of illustrative and textually concise references, beginning with three sets of charts covering the Bible as a whole, the Old Testament and the New Testament. These charts cover such topics as biblical weights and measures, feasts and holidays and the 12 disciples. Most of the charts use a variety of illustrative techniques to convey lessons and provide visual interest. A worthwhile example is “How We Got the Bible,” which provides a time line of translation history, comparisons of canons among faiths and portraits of important figures in biblical translation, such as Jerome and John Wycliffe. The book then presents a section of maps, followed by diagrams to conceptualize such structures as Noah’s Ark and Solomon’s Temple. Finally, a section on Christianity, cults and other religions describes key aspects of history and doctrine for certain Christian sects and other faith traditions. Overall, the authors take a traditionalist, conservative approach. For instance, they list Moses as the author of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) without making mention of claims to the contrary. When comparing various Christian sects and world religions, the emphasis is on doctrine and orthodox theology. Some chapters, however, may not completely align with the needs of Catholic and Orthodox churches. But the authors’ leanings are muted enough and do not detract from the work’s usefulness. As a resource, it’s well organized, inviting and visually stimulating. Even the most seasoned reader will learn something while browsing.

Worthwhile reference stuffed with facts and illustrations.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 978-1-5963-6022-8

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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