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A Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice Paperback – January 1, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-1580232470 ISBN-10: 1580232477
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author of this outstanding book is the rabbi of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, the New York synagogue where Mordecai Kaplan started the Reconstructionist movement in 1922. He is also one of the authors of The Jewish Catalog, the bestselling handbook for Jewish practices, first published nearly 20 years ago. This follow-up is a far more sophisticated and comprehensive guide that adds meditation to traditional Jewish rituals. As he explores his thesis that "Judaism is meant to be a spiritual discipline," Strassfeld displays his considerable erudition by providing explanations based on Talmudic and Midrashic texts as well as Hasidic and mystical stories. Appropriately, the book opens with Jewish behavior prescribed for the beginning of the day and continues with prayers for the rest of the day, along with proposed meditations. After a thorough discussion of Shabbat rituals (to which Strassfeld suggests adding an environmental orientation), he analyzes Torah study, prayer and deeds of loving-kindness the three pillars on which the world rests, according to Judaism. This is followed by a detailed survey of Jewish holidays in which Strassfeld acknowledges differences among the Jewish denominations, as he spells out the customs and processes associated with each festival. He offers an ingenious and global examination of the life cycle, placing it in the context of the five books of Moses. Strassfeld writes clearly, making complicated matters comprehensible. This valuable book needs to be read and reread by all Jews, and by non-Jews who want to understand their Jewish neighbors.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Rabbi Strassfeld examines life as a spiritual path from morning to night, from one full year to a lifetime, believing that being a good Jew is to live a life of goodness and holiness. In this guide to behavior and values, Strassfeld explores such topics as sabbath laws and practices, speech (it can heal or damage), work ethics, and keeping kosher. In a section entitled "The Three Paths," the author discusses the study of Torah, the kinds of prayer (this includes a brief guide to Jewish liturgy), and deeds and loving-kindness. The author also describes the Jewish festivals, examines the ways to live a life of holiness, and discusses what he calls a "new religious Zionism." His sources include the Bible, Midrash, Talmud, and other Jewish writing, and the book is filled with prayers and blessings for every occasion. An invaluable study of Jewish law and rituals. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Gemstone Pr (January 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580232477
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580232470
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #253,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Storywoman on October 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is, quite simply, a wonderful, wonderful book. You might think that a book subtitled "Judaism as a Spiritual Practice" might focus dogmatically on the narrow realm of "how can everything be relevant for me", but the author--steeped in knowledge of traditional sources and practices AND himself a spiritual seeker and teacher--has produced a book which is eminently readable, is full of both information and inspiration, and successfully weaves together ancient and contemporary insights. His gentle teaching approach is very accessible and "real".
Whether you are long-time committed Jew who is looking for "something more"--a way of finding more meaning in the Jewish life you are living--or someone who is looking for a way into a deeper Jewish life that is both authentic and personal, this book is for you. (It is also a great book for people simply looking to learn about the wide range of Jewish practice--throughout the day, the year, and the lifetime--including both traditional and contemporary perspectives.) I know of no other book quite like it. I am so glad I bought it!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Leia Saltzman on October 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I am awed by the depth of this book.This is a book for the serious seeker.It presents the traditional thinking from the Torah, Midrashim and Talmud,but it has the added spiritual dimension which has become so important in our contemporary Jewish life.
The author takes us through the day from dawn to dusk,through the three paths of Judaism,Torah study,prayer and the path of loving kindness.giving us the traditional laws and customs for each of these and also the method by which to enhance these practices.He does the same for the holidays and also the Jewish life cycle.
Just as Strassfeld's editorship of the Jewish Catalogues,met the needs of the Jewish people of the seventiles."A Book of Life
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Though "A Book of Life" promises a new approach to invest the spiritual into routine Judaism, it ends up being just another "Intro to Judaism" book. The opening chapters on daily prayer routines are good, but later chapters on life cycles and holidays have been done better by others (including Strassfeld himself in an earlier book on the holidays).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By B. Valentine on December 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best book I have read on basis of Judaism without negativity or judgment. It is very easy to ready and a great intro book for people who wish to learn about basics or as a refresher. Pair it with the Telushkin "Jewish Literacy" to get more details.
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Format: Paperback
Rabbi Michael Strassfeld, of the Jewish catalog fame, provides an encyclopedic look at Jewish practice and thought from nearly every angle in this work. Perhaps the best feature of this book is Strassfeld's look at the human life cycle through the lens of the books of the Torah. Judaism is supposed to be all-embracing for those who take her on, and Strassfeld provides a humble and practical way to do that, all within the tradition of Jewish renewal and liberal thought.
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By jamesrd_17 on October 11, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book tells it like it is. You don't need a rabbi, you have to attend every event at the synagogue, and you don't have to have every blessing memorized to be a good Jew. This really highlights the spirituality of the Judaism and helped me when I was disappointed with the politics/nonsense going on at the synagogue, etc. I recommend it to anyone - and it should be required reading for anyone who is thinking about or in actually converting to Judaism.
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By Brit on December 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was one of the books required for my conversion class but even if it hadn't been required reading, I would've read it. It has information about many aspects of Jewish life, including holidays and the reasoning behind them. I bookmarked the pages with blessings on them. Definitely a book I come back to time and time again. I even really enjoyed the little blurb things at the bottom of the pages to go along with the reading.
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