An approachable and admiring introduction appropriate for readers interested in modern Jewish thought.

REBBE

THE LIFE AND TEACHINGS OF MENACHEM M. SCHNEERSON, THE MOST INFLUENTIAL RABBI IN MODERN HISTORY

A biography of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), whose influence on Judaism and the Jewish people is still coming into focus.

One of America’s leading rabbis, Telushkin (Hillel: If Not Now, When?, 2010, etc.) is well-qualified to write about his subject: While he is not a Lubavitcher, he has been an affectionate observer of the movement for his entire life, and his father served as Schneerson’s personal accountant. Less a traditional biography and more a compendium of mostly lighthearted anecdotes, the book progresses thematically, highlighting Schneerson’s thoughts and quips on a wide variety of subjects. Telushkin draws on Schneerson’s public statements as well as his voluminous correspondence and his thousands of private audiences, with his followers and others, both Jewish and non-Jewish, memorably held in the middle of the night. Broadly educated, Schneerson spent eight years studying engineering at prestigious universities before seeking rabbinic ordination, and each morning he read the newspapers in four languages. His far-reaching secular interests were evident in his humanistic mindset and lateral thought processes; he praised the astronauts after the moon landing, saying that he “discerned in [their] disciplined lifestyle…lessons with which Jews—particularly the sort who would not instinctively accept the demands of the Torah—could inspire themselves to be more observant.” Schneerson had no heirs (“Never spoken of in public, we can only imagine what a great tragedy and disappointment this was”), and his death was so keenly felt that his followers found the idea of appointing a successor unthinkable. Many clung to the hope that he was the Messiah, creating a deep rift in the Orthodox world. Telushkin concludes that those who believe this “do not mean what people think they mean…the Messiah issue is, in the final analysis, a non-issue.”

An approachable and admiring introduction appropriate for readers interested in modern Jewish thought.

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-231898-5

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Harper Wave

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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