Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Jewish Wisdom: Ethical, Spiritual, and Historical Lessons from the Great Works and Thinkers
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Like many of my most valued books, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin's `Jewish Wisdom' arrived by accident, not through deliberate choice, but rather as a result of my having missed the reply deadline for one of my book clubs.
The full title of the book gives a greater sense of the scope of this 650+ page book: `Jewish Wisdom: Ethical, Spiritual, and Historical Lessons from the Great Works and Thinkers'. This statement in the subtitle comes very close to an encapsulation of the Jewish faith for me -- it is an ethical way of life; it is a spiritual way of life; it is a way of life with high regard for history; it is a way of life with high regard to teaching and learning; it is a way of life that has accomplished great works and produced great thinkers. All of these things benefit the whole of humankind. `Two thousand years ago, when a non-Jew asked Hillel, the leading rabbi of his age, to define Judaism's essence, the sage could have responded with a long oration on Jewish thought and law, and an insistence that it would be blasphemous to reduce so profound a system to a brief essence. Indeed, his contemporary, Shammai, furiously drove away the questioner with a builder's rod. Hillel, however, responded to the man's challenge: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour: this is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary; now go and study" -- a model statement that has defined Judaism's essence ever since. As Hillel knew, the right words at the right time can inspire people for generations.'
Rabbi Telushkin has written or edited literally hundreds of books, and many of them consist of collections of writings or quotations. One of the things that sets this apart from other books of quotations and writings, both Jewish and non-Jewish, is the running commentary that speaks to the importance in the ongoing development of Jewish life and faith of the writings presented here. Indeed, some quotations appear more than once, because they have a relevance to more than one topic.
Rabbi Telushkin concludes with a fifteen-page bibliography, which reads as a 'best of' list of Jewish literature (and is a frequently-addressed reference source for me when looking up Jewish information of almost any field). At the front of this bibliography, he starts by listing the top-ten collections of Jewish quotes and texts -- what other book of quotations references even one, much less ten, other such collections?
A truly inspiring book, a wonderful reference, a thoughtful and insightful collection -- this book will not gather dust on the shelf. For those who are not Jewish, this book contains the key to following Hillel's instruction to 'go and study'. For those who are Jewish, this will serve as a solid addition to the library of essential facts and useful opinions and impressions from culture and history.
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on January 6, 1999
This book is an incredible resource for those who are interested in hearing different oppinons on issues concernibg Judaism today. I cannot put the book down. From the Holocaust, to Kashrut, all the way to Inter-Marriage, and back to the Covanent... This book is amazing.
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In one section of this work Rabbi Telushkin asks the question, "What does God want of us?" The primary answer from the sources he cites is that God wants of us ethical behavior, the acting toward others with goodness, kindness and consideration. This is the walking in the way of God, that will bring about 'tikkun olam' or 'improvement of the world'.

I feel that somehow this whole magnificent compendium of Jewish wisdom has behind it this central purpose. And that Rabbi Telushkin in making this anthology is working to make us all wiser, which means ' better' people.

The anthology covers a great variety of aspects of life and experience, and also touches upon major events in Jewish history.

It could not be more highly recommended.
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on June 12, 2000
This book contains many excellent anecdotes and commentary from some of the greatest Jewish thinkers of all time. Topics covered in this book range from the Holocaust, to anti-Semitism, to Philo-Semitism, to modern issues like abortion. The book is excellently written and is a must-have in any Jewish library. It allows the reader to understand a complex and fascinating religion through wonderfully told stories and commentary.
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on January 16, 2001
I love reading and this book is one of the best ones I have ever read. It teaches the heart and essence of Judiasm on a vast amount of topics. What a wonderful book!
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on May 5, 2006
Jewish Wisdom is a marvellous resource for anyone who is interested in Judaism. In it, you will find quotations and stories from a wide range of sources, as well as commentary from the author.

If you want to know about how an assortment of Jewish luminaries think and feel about a particular ethical, spiritual or historical issue, the chances are that you can find it in Telushin's book. As an author, I sometimes use this book to bolster my own writing projects. In fact, I recently picked out a portion from the book to be read at my daughter's Bat Mitzvah. Trust me -- it's quite a gold mine.

What's frustrating is that I know of no comparably complete and well conceived work for other religious traditions. If anyone is aware of such a book, do tell.
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VINE VOICEon May 7, 2001
The other reviewers describe this as a fine outline of Jewish views on a variety of matters, and I agree. One caveat: the last 100-200 pages (which focus on the Holocaust and Israel) are essentially a description of Jewish history rather than Jewish ideas, so I thought they belonged in another book. (In fact, I suspect that they overlap considerably with Telushkin's Jewish Literacy, which I also recommend).
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on February 28, 2015
I bought this book because I love and have learned a great deal from Dennis Prager, who is a friend of the author. This is the best "how to be a decent person" book I have ever come across. It actually helped me resolve some dilemmas I had in my own life. I'm a Christian, but I envy Jews if they are taught these things as children. I know now why two of the gentlest, kindest, people I ever knew were Jews. I hardly know how to praise it. I wish I had come on it earlier in my life.

Just to give one tiny example that sticks in the mind two months after reading it: Telushkin explains the importance of the sabbath-- to give a day of rest even to slaves and beasts of burden, to remind their owners that they should be treated with as much kindness as possible, and not worked to death. And another that I will never forget: Telushkin explains that the language in the Torah is different when forbidding cruelty to the elderly, disabled and children. Each commandment about these ends with "but you shall fear your God", a way of saying that those people can not revenge themselves on you for cruelty, but God can and will.

A wonderful, wonderful book. Profound wisdom from cover to cover. Buy it and live well.
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on December 19, 2015
While I have read most of this and greatly admire it, I find chapter 27 ` a Jewish alternative to Jesus` command, "love your enemies" fascinating. Why? Because even though Christ` teaching is not supported, one finds in the very next chapter, "the terrible toll of hatred", a good argument for `that teaching`. In my opinion chapter 28 is a powerful reason to believe in that teaching of Christ. Praise the Most High for shining His light upon this earth in
Yeshua, the Jewish Christ. " For salvation comes from the Jews."
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on September 29, 2015
As always, Rabbi Telushkin's writing is wonderful, this time bringing us Jewish wisdom from a wide range of sources. This is a must for a reference or reading collection, and a good choice as a gift as well.
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