For those in the world of Jewish outreach, there exists a rather serious problem . It is a problem that is so daunting that most people have thrown their hands up in desperation. The frustration lies in both the fact that the problem seems so insurmountable and that there are so very few tools in which to at least address the problem.
When I first read Rabbi Berish Ganz’s latest book, “Talmudic Wisdom for Today” – I realized that all is not lost. Here was the tool that could very well address the issue head on.
So what is the problem for the Kiruv world?
The overwhelming majority of Jewish people in this country are completely alienated from Torah-true Judaism. The little exposure that they have to religious Judaism is devastatingly negative because of the headlines in the media. The constant barrage and flow of Chilul Hashem after Chilul Hashem has its effects. Why would anyone want to join the Torah world after such negative media coverage? And what tools are available to the uninitiated? The challenge put succinctly is: How do we attract the uninitiated Jew to the beauties of Torah and the Talmud?
Enter Rabbi Ganz’s work – Talmudic Wisdom for Today. This book subjects current issues to the timeless wisdom of our Talmud with remarkable insights. Finally, anyone and everyone can see the underlying issues of the day subjected to the microscope of a very powerful moral vision. What is fantastic about this book is that the moral vision and clarity is not that of Rabbi Ganz. In this book, he unfolds the latent processes of reasoning inherent within some remarkable passages of the Talmud and derives ideals, standards and principles.
Were they there before? Before reading the passage we may not have seen it. Afterwards, it is clear as day. The subject matters that he tackles are diverse and, one would think, how on earth is there a relevant passage in the Talmud that could possibly inform out thinking on a contemporary matter?
How, indeed. He does it. Or rather, it was always there, we just needed to see it. The questions he deals with are: Should the US just have one language or should it be multi-lingual?
A view on righteous excess and how to discover our underlying national biases, in medical decisions, military procurement and other political issues. There is an informative section on abortion – not just from a religious perspective from a perspective of natural law – if there is such a perspective.
What are our moral responsibilities for murders and killing in distant lands? How should we as a nation deal with terrorism? What should we be doing when there are oppressive and murderous dictators? Are we really the world’s policeman? And should we be? The answers could be rather surprising but make enormous sense.
What are a government’s responsibilities in helping the nation create wealth? What makes liberals tick? Is there a problem of “too many cooks in the kitchen” in government?
Some of the issues are very contemporary. What should the US do about illegal immigration? Is Obama’s approach the way to go or not?
So what are some of the answers? Rabbi Ganz derives four principles from the Talmudic understanding of Joshua’s encounter with the Gibeonites as to the exact parameters of when and if we should be sacrificing American lives to save the lives of other peoples in distant lands.
The eclectic latitude in where Rabbi Ganz derives the answers is another amazing aspect of this book. Who would have thought the answer to these political questions of the day lies in what might seem to have been an obscure law in the laws of building a synagogue?
The book is written both for those steeped in Torah learning as well as for those who have had no exposure to it, and is a no-pressure yet eye-opening introduction to the wisdom of the Talmud . It serves as a conversation piece that can bridge a gap and can be an excellent gift to an unaffiliated family member or fellow office worker.
I highly recommend this book. It is now available on Amazon.com as well as for instant purchase on Kindle.