TO LIFE! by Harold S. Kushner


A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking
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 Bestselling Conservative rabbi Kushner (Who Needs God, 1989; When Bad Things Happen to Good People, 1981) on the joys of Judaism. Kushner tilts this good-natured panegyric toward practicing Jews, who would be most willing to embrace his view of Judaism as God's greatest gift to humankind. ``Life is the question, Judaism is the answer,'' he exhorts, with such ebullience that even nonbelievers may be swayed. He promotes the Jewish people, tiny in numbers, as ``the most influential group on earth,'' producing everything from the theory of relativity to psychoanalysis to Marxism, and, through the Hebrew Bible, shaping ``the way the world thinks about God.'' Judaism, he emphasizes, is primarily a community rather than a theology, finding expression in its own calendar, holidays, rituals, and land (for Kushner, love of Israel as the ancestral home is incumbent upon all Jews). He's at his best when justifying religious customs--for instance, he explains kosher dietary laws, which may strike non-Jews as needless complications, as ``spiritual calisthenics'' that ``sanctify the act of eating''; the same applies to laws on sexuality, speech, Sabbath behavior, and so on. Discussion of controversies like abortion or homosexuality is glaringly absent, although he argues for traditional religious language--i.e., referring to God as ``He'' rather than ``She'' or, God forbid, ``It.'' Kushner never minces his beliefs, explaining why he won't officiate at marriages where one partner is non-Jewish (the ``words and rituals do not apply to non-Jews''). This ardency, which has much to do with the rabbi's popularity, doesn't prevent him from striking an alliance with his potentially vast Christian readership; these two religions are both part of ``God's ultimate plan for the world,'' allies in a sacred battle against ``apathy and selfishness and a neo-paganism that sees Man as an animal and his every urge as legitimate.'' Kushner at his very best, abubble with enthusiasm. L'Chaim!

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-316-50735-0
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993


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