From Publishers Weekly
Based in Jerusalem, Steinsaltz is an internationally influential rabbi who is best known for his prodigious project of translating and reinterpreting the Talmud. This book is a series of 12 essays, each attempting to answer a perplexing and formidable question: What are the implications of the Jewish capacity to identify with the surrounding culture? Why do Jews have no united leadership? Are Jews a nation, a religion, an ethnic group or a race? Do Jews have unique character traits? Why do Jews want to save the world? Are Jews too emotional or too intellectual? What does it mean to be the "chosen" people? How is it that Jews have made such impressive contributions to artistic and intellectual achievement? What is the basis for anti-Semitism? What will become of the Jewish people? Most of these questions will apply more to Diaspora Jews than to those living in Israel. The issues Steinsaltz identifies are tough conundrums that do not lend themselves to easy answers; he struggles valiantly but often vainly to come up with satisfactory solutions, suggesting that the value is in raising the questions, not necessarily in answering them. His elucidation of each subject demonstrates his profound erudition, not only enabling readers to see a great mind at work but also challenging them to seek their own resolution of the hard dilemmas that have been so clearly posed. (Apr.)
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Rabbi Steinsaltz is the author of 60 books, most of them dealing with Hasidic thought, kabbalah, and the Talmud. He writes in an introduction that the subjects explored in this book are matters that bother most Jews, especially those in the Diaspora. These issues include assimilation, a lack of united leadership and unity, and the question of Jewish identity. He discusses Jewish character traits and lies and misunderstandings regarding Jews and money, and he explores what he calls the Jewish Messiah complex, Jewish emotionalism and intellectualism, idolatry, their role in the world, their search for unifying principles, anti-Semitism, and the Jews' future. This scholarly study will prove invaluable to Jews attempting to understand their place in today's society after the Holocaust and to non-Jews seeking a better understanding of the Jewish people. George CohenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved