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AJL Reviews -
Hartman, David. The God Who Hates Lies: Confronting and Rethinking Jewish Tradition. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2011. 192 pp. $24.99 (9781580234559). Also available as an e-book.
Hartman draws his title from his final chapter, which describes the dilemma of an Israeli with an adopted child, who had to lie to the Rabbinic Court about his own level of Jewish observance in order to convert the child to Judaism. The book as a whole is critical of the "Orthodox establishment," but that is not its main thrust. Hartman's main theme is his proposal of a different way of looking at halakhah (Jewish law). He sees it as a way of enriching God-consciousness and as something that can be viewed as a means of education so that a person, especially one new to halakhah, can take a gradual approach, adopting more and more as he becomes comfortable with it. The book describes several cases where the author has bent commonly accepted halakhah in order to prevent emotional suffering of the people involved.
For a reader whose point of view is Orthodox, the book is beyond radical, possibly scandalous. For readers who are Conservative or at the extreme left wing of Orthodoxy, it might make a lot of sense. The question must be raised as to whom the book is addressed and who will be the readers. The book belongs in a serious collection on Jewish religious thought and would find readers in Conservative synagogue libraries. The author was a pupil of Rav Soloveitchik, whom he greatly admires, but with whom he also differed. The style is conversational and accessible with notes, a bibliography and an index.
Sarah M. Barnard, Serials Librarian, Hebrew Union College Klau Library, Cincinnati, OH