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Simple Words: Thinking About What Really Matters in Life Paperback – July 22, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (July 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416556974
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416556978
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Simple words are by no means simple," states Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in his introduction to Simple Words. This is certainly true of the words he has teased out from contemporary spirituality to expound upon here. Each chapter is dedicated to so-called simple words such as death, envy, masks, sex, good, and love. Steinsaltz uses familiar language and progressive thinking to offer a greater moral and spiritual understanding to these core concepts.

Although many of the selected words are age-old, the accompanying commentary feels fresh and contemporary. When writing about envy, Steinsaltz explores how this misunderstood emotion can be used to serve the higher good rather than lowly desires. And in addressing the idea of sex, he writes, "Jewish tradition ... does not see sex per se as sinful.... It is a pleasure that is derived from giving and being connected with another--both in the body and beyond the physical plane; it can become a most meaningful expression of love, of charity, of benevolence. Sexual desire, possibly the most powerful human desire, can become an expression of holiness." --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In the tradition of Harold S. Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People, 1981), Jerusalem-based talmudic scholar Steinsaltz expounds upon simple words to embrace both Jewish and non-Jewish readers. Steinsaltz, well-known for his popular translation of the Talmud, here offers a homespun presentation of disparate subjects: words, nature, spirit and matter, faith, good deeds, sex, death, envy, Hollywood, masks, friends, family, love and God. Steinsaltz uses elementary language and anecdotal homilies to explain these topics for readers who may or may not be religious. Several of his observations are insightful, especially his argument that envy is not necessarily bad; it can lead to rivalry, which in turn can foster creativity and intellectual growth. Many times, however, "simple" descends into the simplistic, as when he overstates that Hollywood's dream world as depicted in foreign-run movies may have "played a more powerful role in destroying the Soviet regime than all the military vehicles of the United States." Overall, the chapters are a series of missed opportunities: while Steinsaltz notes that "the hidden wisdom of commonplace words is sometimes startling," for example, his opening discussion of words disregards the idea that language not only expresses our ideas but also helps to shape them. In his determination to demystify complex phenomena, Steinsaltz oversimplifies ideas that require a more nuanced, sophisticated approach. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz is a teacher, philosopher, social critic and prolific author who has been hailed by Time Magazine as a "once-in-a-millennium scholar."

He has devoted his life to making the Talmud accessible to all Jews. After a 45-year effort, Rabbi Steinsaltz completed a monumental elucidation of the entire Talmud in modern Hebrew, now used all over the world. Rabbi Steinsaltz then partnered with Koren Publishers Jerusalem to launch the Koren Talmud Bavli, a groundbreaking new edition of the Talmud which includes modern English translation, color illustrations and previously-censored passages.

Rabbi Steinsaltz has written 60 books and hundreds of articles, has established the Makor Chaim network of schools in Israel and the former Soviet Union, and holds several honorary degrees. He was born and lives in Jerusalem.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, perhaps best known for his multi-volume translation of and commentary upon the Talmud (currently being published in both Hebrew and English, as well as a few other languages), has put together a wonderfully simple, small, thought-provoking book of spiritual wisdom that promises the careful reader insight into new ways to think, feel, act, and be.
Steinsaltz has worked with Talmudic literature (to a very extensive and intimate degree), as well as Hasidic tales and liturgies, and having absorbed the teachings and spirit of this body of literature, has distilled it into simple, useful bits for reflection and illumination.
Deceptively simple words, which embrace huge concepts -- nature, good, family, friends, death, God, faith, love -- these are words we use all the time. But what do they really mean? 'Rabbi Steinsaltz explores some of the meanings of these powerful words that are so central to our lives. He transforms each word into a gem, turning it this way, then that, examining it to see more clearly its brilliant facets and what lies behind them.'
Perhaps the key to Steinsaltz's way of looking at these terms and concepts is to emphasise the fluid, malleable character -- these are not concepts that are set in stone; their meaning changes as our lives change, as our society changes -- the wisdom from the past must be used as a guide for understanding, but our lives in the present have validity too. That having been said, we owe our ancestors as well as our descendants a debt to carry on the line of tradition in some ways, lest we dishonour our ancestors and rob our descendants of their inheritance.
This is a difficult balance, not always the same for each person.
Steinsaltz also examines elements of our present culture in unique ways.
Read more ›
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By bob umbla on January 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The proccess of finding ones way through this messy period we call life can be difficult and dangerous. Modern day authors such as Robert Pirsig and Deepak Chopra have attepmted to help us navigate this trecherous path with minimal success. However, upon reading Rabbi Steinsaltz's work I found that I was able to see life and mankinds place in the world in a whole new light. Rabbi Steinsaltz takes a hard hitting, realistic look at the topics of sex, love, friendship and death to name a few. As opposed to other so called "New Age" authors of our time Rabbi Steinsaltz affords the reader the opportunity for true self exploration revealing both the ugly and beautiful sides of human nature. I would reccomend this book to anyone who has ever dared to pose questions as to the nature and actions of themselves and their fellow men.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kolissg Nortiam on December 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In Simple Words (1999, Simon and Schuster, pp 217,), Rabbi Steinsaltz elucidates fifteen key concepts: words, nature, good, spirit and matter, faith, good deeds, sex, death, envy, Hollywood, masks, friends, family, love, and G-d. Adin Steinsaltz has written a book with a deceptively simple title and a deceptively simple mission. There is nothing at all simple about the list of fifteen concepts that he has chosen to explore. His exploration is a celebration of the creativity we have come to expect from this wise man. Simple Words is a powerful book that is accessible to all and can be read on many levels. Rabbi Steinsaltz examines some of the words that form the foundation of life. He removes these from the realm of what is taken for granted and catapults these concepts into the conscious world that is filled with meaning. Simple Words gives a perspective on life that is larger than any one individual can see"it considers life from the perspective of society as a whole, man throughout the ages, the animal kingdom, and the unlimited capacity of G-d. The complexity of people is addressed in that emotions, physicality, and spirituality is all incorporated into Steinsaltz's examination of the amorphous words that we use to describe the meaningful aspects of our lives. One of the words discussed in Simple Words is "masks." We all say "please," and "thank you" numerous times each day, yet we are not conscious of the ramifications of our social graces and are apt to consider them external to our true selves. Steinsaltz asserts that this separation cannot be made so distinctly.Read more ›
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is one of the greatest jewish scholars alive. I have found, however, that his books are very difficult to read and understand. Simple Words is the first book of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz that seems to appeal to anyone. It was an easy read but at the same time remained thought provoking and insightful. I would recomend this book to anyone, no matter how scholarly they are.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 31, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a book by a wise man, mystic, scholar. Accessible ruminations about nature, God, love, even masks. I wouldn't have picked it up, because the title seemed so bland, but I saw his name on the cover and knew it wouldn't be bland or simplistic at all, and it wasn't. He looks at life's dilemmas and makes some practical and non-tendentious comments about how to look at life. No preaching here.
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