Rabbi Sacks' soul-nourishing book on the parsha

It truly lives up to its title, Judaism’s Life-Changing Ideas: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible.

 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
At the outset, I feel I should admit to being a passionate fan of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. His latest book not only lives up to his sterling reputation, but even exceeded my expectations. It truly lives up to its title, Judaism’s Life-Changing Ideas: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible.
Those who follow Rabbi Sacks will recognize some ubiquitous themes / stories. I was enthralled by the eclectic nature of all the essays and their derivative lessons. An added bonus was a chapter entitled “The Choice” inspired by Dr. Edith Eger, who has recently become my newest hero!
American Jewish journalist, Bari Weiss, a former columnist at The New York Times, explains in the forward that ideas are the secret staying power of the Jews. In fact, Jews have contributed some of the most transformative ideas to the world; ideas like equality, freedom, justice, social responsibility and Shabbat. These are just a few of the prolific ideas Rabbi Sacks discusses during each weekly Torah portion.
He illuminates the choices humankind faces throughout our history; the idea of power versus the power of ideas. Judaism, he concludes,has always believed in the power of ideas, and it remains the only non-violent way to change the world.
Sacks is a master of homiletics and storytelling. He draws effortlessly and flawlessly from his seemingly endless reservoir of knowledge; crossing the boundaries of theology, economics, history, philosophy, psychology, the sciences and the arts as only a true educator can.
He has created a captivating, page-turning contemporary self help book of a different kind. Each “soul-nourishing” (Bari Weiss’s term) essay is a sublime and insightful lesson from each parasha (Torah portion) covering the full gamut of human existence with passion,humor and emotional agility.
This is not the retelling of the stories or commentaries of creation through to Zot Habracha, but rather Sacks introduces the reader to a life-changing idea usurped from the text, including topics such as prejudice and genocide, marriage and communication, emotional intelligence and gossiping.
Every sentence has a resonating aha moment which rings true in a COVID-19, and please God, a post-coronavirus world, in need of repair. I can’t think of a more fitting time to purchase this book for yourself or as a gift for someone special, as we bid farewell to Simhat Torah and embark on the reading of Genesis and the Torah from the beginning. Indeed, this might just be one of the most transformative books you will read this year.
In the words of Sacks, “If we change the way we think,we can change the way we feel, which changes the way we act which changes the person we become.”
It was upsetting to learn recently that Rabbi Sacks, who is 72 and married with three children and nine grandchildren, had been diagnosed with cancer. Please join me in wishing a refuah shlema (a speedy and full recovery) to Harav Ya’akov Zvi ben Liba.
Judaism’s Life-Changing Ideas: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible
Maggid Books & OU Press, 2020
307 Pages; $24.95