I shouldn’t say that most people have never read it, but as I travel in various circles within Torah observance, and discuss writings that really give a clear image (in my opinion) of what a traditional view is our our faith, the book JEWTHINK by Rabbi Avi Shafran usually doesn’t come up in conversation.
While it was originally written in 1973 and published in 1977, I only found out about it in 2000. I was in Boston for an interview with an outreach organization and was looking through the books in the home of the organizations’ director. I read the whole thing in one sitting. It was such a concise summary of Yiddishkeit. I would humbly put it up there as a must read if you travel in the secular world.
I have used the book as a basis for outreach with both teens and adults, as well as for discussions with not-yet-religious Jews. It’s is a relatively easy read. Rabbi Shafran quotes great sources and it is written in a very clear and straighforward manner. Look at this passage from chapter 13-Fear of God:
There is yet another concept (this one more an emotion or feeling than an attitude) which goes by the nickname of “fear”. This is the “fear of G~d’s greatness” which we mentioned in passing back in the first chapter.
This is the emotion felt when one is confronted with, for instance, the vastness of the universe, or the wonders of biology, the kindness of G~d towards His creations, or, spare us, His power of destruction and retribution. In short, whenever G~d’s presence makes itself particularly evident and jolts us into a stronger realization of Him, we are experiencing this “fear”. A storm rolling in, a glance through a telescope, a baby’s development, an earthquake, or a solar eclipse all have the potential to arouse this emotion in human beings.
This is one of those books that I try to read once a year (along with the Nineteen Letters). If you have a few minutes, it worth the look.
It is available on online, by simply googling JEWTHINK and going to the first hit.
I wanted you to know that I spent last shabbos at Indian Lakes Restort with 400+ members of the conservative movement’s Federation of Jewish Men’s Club officers and die hard members. i was not a participant in their annual national convention, but worked as the event coordinator for the kof-k caterer who fed these men and a few women. I will be eventually be blogging about the postive things I saw over the course of the weekend, but as a general statement, I will say that even the post educated of the people I met were basically clueless in terms of hilchos shabbos and the basic day to day life of an orthodox jew. The are (the conservative movement) very interested in our outreach techniques and the word ‘kiruv’ came up in several conversations I had. Including a half hour discussion I had with the great great grandson of R Yitzchak Elchanon Spektor (I got chills when he told me about his ‘orthodox ancestor”. It was an eye opening weekend for me. I got a view of the conservative movement that even some of the most experienced ‘kiruv professionals’ could only dream of.The fact that I was one of the first frum people that many of these grown men (who live in major cities) have ever met is justification enough for your posting.
For further reading I highly suggest this article published in 2000 in Moment Magazine, as THE CONSERVATIVE LIE (originally titled TIME TO COME HOME) by Rabbi Avi Shafran
I was recently reading a chapter in Anatomy of the Soul by Rabbi Chaim Kramer and this passage jumped out at me:
Now recall that the hand is called yad because of the fourteen bones it contains. The number of Hebrew letters found in the first verse of the Torah is twenty-eight. The Hebrew word for strength is ko’ach, also numerically equal to twenty-eight. Since each hand has fourteen bones, both hands together contain “twenty-eight bones,” representing the ko’ach of God. Based on this, Rebbe Nachman teaches that every person has within himself the ability to arouse the power of Creation with his hands (i.e., his prayers). -Page 364
While Reb Nachman was speaking about the power of tefillah, I believe it could also refer to using our hands to write or type. A quick email, IM, or even (gasp) a blog post is an aspect of revealing ourselves and our neshama. It’s an act of creation and there is tremendous potential within the words we create.
Gut Shabbos Kodesh!