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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300168152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300168150
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #676,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Gelernter means to answer four fundamental questions from a strictly Jewish perspective: How do we understand our place in the universe? Is physical creation all there is? How can we live our lives as human beings? Does life have a greater goal beyond mere survival? Culling from various Jewish sources, he answers by means of thematic images that resonate throughout a “lived Jewish life.” Those image-themes (and questions coordinate with the principal four) include separation (what is the point of Jewish religious law?), the veil (how can we be in touch with the transcendent?), perfect asymmetry (what role does family play?), and inward pilgrimage (how can Judaism reconcile a just and merciful God with evil?). In the appendix, he answers two further questions, Why believe in God? and What makes Judaism the most important intellectual development in Western history?, and offers a brief treatise on Jewish and Christian ethics. Though written for Jews unsatisfied by “usual approaches” to Judaism, the book may fascinate non-Jews interested in its questions, too, regardless of whether they agree with Gelernter’s conclusions. --June Sawyers --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"'The Jewish experience, as Gelernter shows, echoes profoundly across the wider experience of humanity. Judaism itself is a wide-ranging book about the beliefs, practices and philosophy of the world's first monotheistic religion - a book that Jews and non-Jews alike will find well worth reading.' (Jay Lefkowitz, Wall Street Journal) 'In this brief but intellectually packed book, Gelernter attempts to present Judaism as a total structure... that can lead to understanding the pressing questions of human existence... Challenging, often exhilarating, richly learned, intensely personal, and tough-minded, Judaism offers a passionate picture of Judaism.' (Maron L. Waxman, Jewish Book World)"

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Harold Lindy on December 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Written from a Biblical perspective, Judaism it is the eminently readable, astonishingly inspired book about Judaism, the religion, which was the beginning of monotheism and foundation of other religions. Dr. Gelernter presents it not just as a religious perspective but as a philosophy of living, therefore, the subtitle, "A Way of Being."

His first major topic, separations, is in so many ways the essence of the Old Testament. I have always thought of separations quite literally: In Creation, each day was devoted to a separate task, and then the time of work was separated by the Sabbath, a day of rest; one birthday separates a child from adult responsibilities; the time for atonement concludes with a final day and hour of judgment for the coming year.

However, Dr. Gelernter extends the concept of separation with an original and visionary perspective reflecting an extensive range of knowledge. He discusses the parting (separation) of the Red Sea, the separation of the Torah scrolls, relishing the real and symbolic meanings. It was a leap and a revelation to follow his thinking, transforming my own appreciation of Jewish law and literature to a new level.

Philosophically and religiously, it is the section "Inward Pilgrimage" that goes to the heart of Judaism, the observance that Dr. Gelernter calls a "spiritual map." It is easy to see that this belief structure lends itself to a positive, moral, orderly, and purposeful life. One need not live a life style to understand and value it. It is a delight to share his joy in Judaism.

I have been privileged see the Dr. Gelernter's own creation, the Ashrei painting which is also the cover artwork this remarkable book. It was a very beautiful and meaningful choice; the Hebrew refers to a prayer passage, a fundamental belief in the Almighty that "Happy are they who dwell in Your house..."
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Krieger on February 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gelernter's goal in writing this book was to explain a few of the themes within Judaism and get the reader to "superimpose" them in his or her mind, and so get a more sophisticated understanding of Judaism and Jewish being. He is very successful at describing the themes...I am not as sure about the synthesis. But the difficulty may be with Judaism and not with the writer - Judaism explains through analogy and suffers several apparent contradictions that no one can resolve in a single book, no matter how well written.

Don't let that stop you from buying it! The book made me think long and hard, and I've read it multiple times. It's very interesting from the perspective of the "whys" of Jewish observance, the mindset behind the rules. For anyone who has struggled with rabbinical/talmudic style thought, you may enjoy Gelernter's Western, academic, yet true-believer take on things.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mike Robinson on March 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
No biblical Judaism: no Christianity. Thus "A Way of Being," by David Hillel Gelernter is an essential work for anyone who embraces revelatory monotheism. As a staunch adherent of strict Judaism, Gelernter has written an important book for those who aim to grow in their religious knowledge and commitment in addition to those who desire to learn more about the views of modern robust non-moderate Judaism.

Herein the reader will learn about:

- The Creation
- Life's aims based upon the infinite ontological foundation (God)
- The Sabbath
- The Jewish High Holidays
- Numerous typographical interpretations of major events recorded in the Torah and Tenach (some interesting and fanciful interpretations, moreover many fall into the realm of eisegesis).
- Jewish moral law including application regarding countless realms from betrothals and funerals to civil law.
- A theology that declares that God can be abstract, indescribable, yet loving and personal.

In "Judaism" the reader finds an engaging and appealing book filled with potent truths about one of the world's most important religions. This volume is an excellent resource for Jewish people as well as Christians and other non-Jewish people looking to learn about one of history's most fascinating religious groups.

Student opines: "For non-Jews, or Jews who have no experience of observance, Gelernter's little volume offers a window into the living core of Jewish life. Look carefully at the lives of strictly observant Jews in the United States, and you will see the original that Gelernter seeks to portray. What emerges vividly from Gelernter's picture are the nuances, the small but definitive acts of devotion, that together make up the sum of religious Jewish life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Lippman on April 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gelertner's book, written from a modern orthodox standpoint, attempts to offer answers to some key questions regarding Judaism: Why are there so many rules observant Jews are supposed to follow? (and kashruth is just one of them), how can Jews believe in a God whose name and image are hidden from them?, what about inequities between men and women in Judaism?, and finally, why has God allowed so many bestial things to happen to Jews and all of mankind throughout history? His answers are thought provoking, and things you probably never learned in Hebrew School.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Daboomer on May 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Let's be candid. I'm a Christian and a gentile. I read the book to learn more about Judaism. For that purpose I likely picked the wrong book. Gelernter didn't write the book for me. He wrote it to expound on the beauties of an orthodox life, and (to borrow his imagery) sound a shofar, calling the less faithful home. He develops four themes: 1) Separation of the covenant and chosen people from the rest of mankind, 2) The veil that separates man from God, 3) Men and women have different roles and are incomplete, one without the other, and 4) The essential, personal, internal, spiritual pilgrimmage.

The themes are developed using images, analogies, and scripture. Observance of the law is what ties the observant to his past, present, and future, and to "transcendence". Gelernter is passionate in his love for his faith. I would enjoy hearing him speak; however at the slower pace of the written word, he was at times too passionate, too poetic, and too enthusiastic. Image is piled on image, and allegory on metaphor fast and furious, until the entire structure collapses in a rapturous heap.

While I enjoyed the book and learned a great deal, I lost my connection to him in the appendices, specifically when Gelernter expounds on the flaws of Christianity (an area in which I do have first hand experience). From his perspective, meekness, turning the other check, reserving judgement, and failure to argue a point, are the attributes of misinformed Christian sissies. I'm left with the bitter aftertaste of a 5th theme, the arrogance of the True Believer.
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