[A Book of Life] Jewish catalog for the 21st century, it truly is a book of life. Part One includes awakening to the day, dawn, speech, work, food, end of the day and a meaningful portion on Shabbat: A day for walking softly through the world. Shabbat is good for the soul. You'll read about the "three paths"Study, Prayer and Loving-Kindnessand you'll learn much about all our holidays. Do you believe in mystics? There is clear evidence in the Talmud that some of the great sages were Jewish mystics. You'll also learn about Creation and how the world came into being. To everything there is a purpose, and this book will talk to you all about your life.
A Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practiceby Michael Strassfeld
Michael Strassfeld, coauthor of the historic Jewish Catalogs, provides a fresh, innovative guide to recapturing Jewish spirituality. For all the cycles of life—from waking in the morning to retiring at night, from the weekdays to the Sabbath and holidays, from the beginning of the year to its close, from birth to death—Rabbi Strassfeld presents traditional Jewish teachings as a guide to behavior and values. Where the tradition is replete with rituals (for example, the Sabbath), he describes them and shows us how they can enrich our spiritual life. Where rituals are sparse or nonexistent (for example, returning home at the end of the workday), he suggests new ones gleaned from his own study and experience.
Rabbi Strassfeld also brings the principles of “insight meditation” to Jewish life, using this practice to recover and reconstruct Judaism’s spiritual dimension. He describes a Judaism that encourages within us a spiritual awareness as we participate in both traditional Jewish practices and the mundane activities of daily life. By engaging with Jewish tradition in ways that recapture its original kavanah, or intention, we will, Rabbi Strassfeld maintains, achieve the two fundamental goals of Judaism, which are to make us better human beings and place us in the presence of God.
A BOOK OF LIFE: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice (Jewish Lights Publishing May 2006 $I9.99 Trade Paperback I 58023-247-7) by The Jewish Catalog coauthor Michael Strassfeld, NYC. Rabbi. Praised by Sylvia Boorstein, Hebrew Union College president David Ellenson. JUDAISM / Jewish Living: Tradition Contemporary spirituality, Three Paths, Festivals, Sources, Glossary.
"'Shwer Tzu zine a yid,' our parent's generation used to say: it's hard to be a Jew. But we Jews living today are so lucky," writes Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. "Being Jewish is safer now than at any other time in history."
But that still doesn't mean it is easy. "Our challenge today," he continues is to be Jewish in a way that fills our lives with meaning. We want to be Jewish with awareness, 'to do Jewish' in a way that satisfies our souls. We want our Yiddishkeit to enrich the world in which we live."
Rabbi Michael Strassfeld, who became famous as one of the coauthors of The Jewish Catalgue in the 1970s, takes a more handbook type of tone in his A Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice. This was published in hardcover by Schocken Books in 2002, but is soon to be released in paperback by Jewish Lights ($19.99).
The book resembles many, other introduction-to-Judaism books in covering personal behavior, holidays, and so forth. But his goal is similar to Schachter-Shalomi's.
"Rituals should not be observed because we are 'supposed to' observe them, but rather because they help us achieve the real goal: awareness," he writes. "A spiritual practice of Judaism strives for awareness of the moment, every moment, helping us to live life to the fullest."
"Doing Jewish with awareness" certainly includes intellectual awareness as well as sensual or spiritual awareness.
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Meet the Author
Rabbi Michael Strassfeld, coauthor of the three volumes of The Jewish Catalog and of A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah and author of The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary, is the rabbi of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, a synagogue in Manhattan.
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