As Jews are known as “the People of the Book, “ the Arizona Jewish Post asked Tucson’s congregational rabbis to recommend a book that would inspire their congregants for the new year. Here are some intriguing suggestions:
I recommend “John Lennon and the Jews: A Philosophical Rampage” by Ze’ev Maghen. In response to an encounter with a group of Hare Krishnas at LAX who were obviously Israeli, Maghen, a professor at Bar-Ilan University, offers a no-holds- barred polemic on behalf of the most current form of “The Jewish Question”: Why be Jewish in the 21st century? The book is one that virtually every rabbi would like to shout from the pulpit … and every Jew (rabbi and congregant alike) will find inspiring and challenging.
—Rabbi Robert Eisen, Congregation Anshei Israel
My recommendation is “Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory” by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi. “Remember, do not forget” the Torah tells us. But what are we remembering, history or something more subtle? Yerushalmi explores Jewish historical memory and how it influences ritual and the Jewish calendar. This book offers a fascinating view of how we relate to our complex, challenging history.
—Rabbi Helen Cohn, Congregation M’kor Hayim
The Tanya, first published in 1796 and written in a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic, is the best book out there today to answer your personal and existential questions of life. Authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi and translated into 11 languages, it offers a practical application of Kabbalah to life’s common challenges.
—Rabbi Yossie Shemtov, regional director of Chabad Tucson and spiritual leader of Congregation Young Israel
“Toward a Meaningful Life” by Simon Jacobson allows you to view this tumultuous world through the loving and clear-eyed outlook of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, whose wisdom is the basis of this book. You’ll gain a fresh perspective on the milestones and the mundane moments of life.
—Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin, outreach
director of Chabad Tucson and associate rabbi of Congregation Young Israel
I’m recommending “My Promised Land” by Ari Shavit. In the wake of the summer of Operation Tzuk Eitan (Protective Edge), the complexity and implications of the Israeli-Palestinian situation seem ever more evident. Shavit, in his subtle and perceptive book, helps us think about the challenges and opportunities that exist for Israel now in thoughtful and strategic ways. A crisis can also be an opportunity, if we successfully take advantage of the opportunity.
—Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, senior rabbi, Temple Emanu-El
While in Israel with the eighth grade class of Tucson Hebrew Academy, I came across a bookseller at the Western Wall with a small display of books by Rabbi Shalom Arush. He’s known for his internationally acclaimed best-seller, “The Garden of Emuna [Faith],” which has sold over a million copies. What caught my eye was that he had written a new book, “The Garden of Gratitude” — the English version of “Sha’arav B’todah, a book that has become immensely popular in Israel. This book gives beautiful yet simple insights into a basic trait that we forget in life, gratitude. It makes us aware of how the attribute of “gratitude” is a prerequisite to true happiness and success in all aspects in life.
—Rabbi Billy Lewkowicz, Foothills Shul
Bruce Schneider helped me realize that how we utilize our energy in the world represents how we can make a difference. It might surprise you to know that 70 to 80 percent of us initially react to a new circumstance by seeing conflict and feeling like a victim. His book, “Energy Leadership,” teaches how you can transform your anger to reach higher levels of joy and passion in your life.
— Rabbi Thomas Louchheim, Congregation Or Chadash
As a teenager growing up in Lithuania in the 1930s, my father-in-law heard a talk by Ze’ev Jabotinsky urging those in attendance to leave Europe before it was too late. Almost nobody listened, just like they ignored other predictions Jabotinsky made. Hillel Halkin’s new biography of this crucial Zionist thinker, “Jabotinsky: A Life,” is a must for anybody who wishes to understand Israeli politics and economics today. Halkin reminds us that the founder of the Jewish Legion (World War I), a brilliant thinker and orator, had a deep impact on Menachem Begin and other politicians in Israel’s Herut/Likud party. This superb biography gives us deep insights into a complicated man whose thinking was not only persuasive but prophetic.
— Rabbi David Ebstein, Congregation Bet Shalom
I highly recommend reading the book “Daily Wisdom” (2014, Kehot Publication Society). This book has daily Torah lessons that shed insight into current issues, and has profound relevance for daily life. This book offers a deep, inspirational, and practical outlook on life.
—Rabbi Ephraim Zimmerman, Chabad of Oro Valley
The question was “What is the next holiday?” And my answer was “Shabbat.” My student refused to believe me, how can that be true, it happens every week? The book I would like to recommend is “The Sabbath” by Abraham Joshua Heschel. Beautifully written and thoughtful, it leads us to re-think what we think we understand about time and holiness. As we begin 5775, we consider our lives and the changes we would like to make. Examining how we observe and keep Shabbat, how we delight in the holy day, is more than worth it.
—Rabbi Batsheva Appel, rabbi educator for the Kurn Religious School at Temple Emanu-El
Take the reading plunge and go out on an ancient limb: read Torah this year; study parashat hashavuah, the portion of the week. You will be challenged, disturbed, inspired and awed by the depth of wisdom, insight and knowledge you will find here. Be bold; renew your sense of purpose; dialogue with Makor HaChaim, the Source of Life. This is a profound reading journey; it lasts a lifetime.
—Rabbi Stephanie Aaron, Congregation Chaverim
“As Long As I Live: The Life Story of Aharon Margalit,” is one of the most inspirational stories of all time. In an endearing and beautiful way it portrays the unswerving optimism of a man who went through unrelenting illness, trauma and loss. The story is a welcome dose of strength, courage and inspiration at a time when all of us really need it.
—Rabbi Israel Becker, Congregation Chofetz Chayim and Southwest Torah Institute