Guess what? I got another new book that I must recommend! One of the ultimate classics for learning about Judaism and getting “all” your answers is “The Jewish Book of Why” by Alfred Kolatch (and he has the “Second Book…” and lots more!). Kolatch’s books are filled with questions that are then given pretty short and understandable answers. It was first published in 1981 and then was revised in 1995 and 2000. Good to know there have been updates although most answers haven’t changed — just more questions. These books have been a great resource for Jews and non-Jews.
So what is the new book? ”Can Robots Be Jewish? And Other Pressing Questions of Modern Life” edited by Amy E. Schwartz is hot off the presses! What makes this book so great is that it takes the idea from Moment magazine to give answers from the diversity of views. The first question in the book, “Can a Robot be Jewish?” is answered from rabbis representing Independent, Humanist, Renewal, Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative, Modern Orthodox, Orthodox, and Sephardic perspectives. Amazing — who thought there would be so many points of view on a unique topic? And then there are so many different questions that have been asked by so many.
Dare I be so bold as to say this is quite Talmudic? Lots of viewpoints to consider with lots of rabbis sharing ideas — it leads to more and more questions every day. Everyone from our sages to experts in all fields today tells us that the questions are as important as (if not more so than) the answers. We must continue asking and then looking for answers in lots of different places. Now you could go to the internet to get lots of opinions but this is all in one place — PLUS you can highlight the answers you like (I do like to highlight).
We are the “People of the Book” meaning the Torah; however, we are truly the “People of the Books” as there are more books and, today, websites that are filled with answers to questions guiding us to more questions. Reading Torah (meaning everything about engaging with Jewish thought) is a new experience every year as we are different every year and in different stages of our lives. The first step is to have questions and the next is to be open to a multitude of answers on every Jewish question. I say in every class I lead, “Each of us must find the answer that works for us today — and then be open to a new answer tomorrow.” I can’t wait to get into all these questions from this new book and I will continue to reach for Kolatch’s book as well (plus so many others). Make this a resolution for the new year!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.