The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah

Spiritual and Jewish

  • I picked up To Heal a Fractured World, the Ethics of Responsibility by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks after reading about it on the URJ site. Hmmm…I see from the flyleaf that Rabbi Sacks was knighted in 2005. Sounds like the start of a Mel Brooks bit. I haven’t started it yet but it looks a little dry.
  • On my friend Rachel’s recommendation, I am reading A New Earth by Eckhardt Tolle. When I picked it up, I thought, “This thin little book is what everyone is talking about?” but after starting it, I see that it is a book to be read slowly and thoughtfully. There’s a lot to consider and digest on each page.
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. This is a recommendation from my friend and fellow book lover Sharon Amkraut.  Publishers Weekly says:

    Late one night in the city of Sydney, Hanna Heath, a rare book conservator, gets a phone call. The Sarajevo Haggadah, which disappeared during the siege in 1992, has been found, and Hanna has been invited by the U.N. to report on its condition. Missing documents and art works (as Dan Brown and Lev Grossman, among others, have demonstrated) are endlessly appealing, and from this inviting premise Brooks spins her story in two directions. In the present, we follow the resolutely independent Hanna through her thrilling first encounter with the beautifully illustrated codex and her discovery of the tiny signs-a white hair, an insect wing, missing clasps, a drop of salt, a wine stain-that will help her to discover its provenance. Along with the book she also meets its savior, a Muslim librarian named Karaman. Their romance offers both predictable pleasures and genuine surprises, as does the other main relationship in Hanna’s life: her fraught connection with her mother. In the other strand of the narrative we learn, moving backward through time, how the codex came to be lost and found, and made. From the opening section, set in Sarajevo in 1940, to the final section, set in Seville in 1480, these narratives show Brooks writing at her very best. With equal authority she depicts the struggles of a young girl to escape the Nazis, a duel of wits between an inquisitor and a rabbi living in the Venice ghetto, and a girl’s passionate relationship with her mistress in a harem.

  • Devotion:  A Memoir by Dani Shapiro

. Publisher’s Weekly says:

Shapiro’s newest memoir, a mid-life exploration of spirituality begins with her son’s difficult questions-about God, mortality and the afterlife-and Shapiro’s realization that her answers are lacking, long-avoided in favor of everyday concerns. Determined to find a more satisfying set of answers, author Shapiro (Slow Motion) seeks out the help of a yogi, a Buddhist and a rabbi, and comes away with, if not the answers to life and what comes after, an insightful and penetrating memoir that readers will instantly identify with. Shapiro’s ambivalent relationship with her family, her Jewish heritage and her secularity are as universal as they are personal, and she exposes familiar but hard-to-discuss doubts to real effect: she’s neither showboating nor seeking pat answers, but using honest self-reflection to provoke herself and her readers into taking stock of their own spiritual inventory. Absorbing, intimate, direct and profound, Shapiro’s memoir is a satisfying journey that will touch fans and win her plenty of new ones.

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