Returning is a haunting and compelling exploration of the choices we make in a choiceless time, the terrifying strength and burden of the will to survive, and the power of the human spirit to transcend even its own destruction. This book will leave you changed forever.
A good story is a “constructed reality,” and this is no less true of non-fiction than of fiction. Getting this constructed reality from your head into the heads of your readers requires more than just a command of words. Two tools for conveying a sense of reality are structure and pacing. Structure works on the macro level of story, while pacing works on the micro level. Both together serve to carry the reader smoothly through the story like a whitewater rafter who has lost his paddle, and must trust you to get him safely through the rough bits.
The mitzvot of Shmittah and Yovel set out a complete program of social and religious life that encompasses respect for others, for the the land, and for God. Israel’s right to live in peace and prosperity in its own land is conditional on its building a model society, which provides a safety blanket for its weakest members. We aren’t just told to have compassion on those who are down on their luck; we are legally mandated to act toward them as we would toward our closest family.
What better time than Springtime to get out into nature with a good book? To get you started, here are some recommendations from around the Jewish blogosphere.
Returning will be published on 4 September of this year, which corresponds to the 24th of Elul. A Tuesday, neatly dividing the week between between Parashat Ki Tavo, which many see as prophesying the Shoah, and Parashat Nitzavim, which describes the Ingathering of Exiles. And no, it wasn’t planned that way; the timing was pure serendipity.
Halakhah doesn’t deal so much with rights as with obligations. Men have the “right” to be well and thoroughly taught, and to spend years learning Torah, because they are also obligated to learn; women are not. But a bold halakhic idea may change all that.
Can we do T’shuvah for acts committed under compulsion? Even in the absence of responsibility, the need for atonement can be met. We feel contaminated by being brought to the point of ultimate helplessness, but healing comes from our learning to take responsibility for our own lives from this point on. We feel guilty for living through our own deaths, but healing comes from the ability to partake of life and give life as much and as selflessly as possible. Should a person be denied the healing of T’shuvah, just because he isn’t guilty?
The rabbis of the Talmud sought to anchor Purim in the Biblical tradition, with varying degrees of success. But one of the most striking rabbinic comments appears in a surprising place: in Massechet Shabbat, we find a curious reference to the events on which Purim is based: “’The Jews confirmed and accepted’—on that occasion they confirmed what they had accepted long before.” What exactly, did the Jews living in the Persian exile accept?
We in Israel live in a country with wars raging on all sides, with failed states collapsing into a primordial stew of hatred and nihilism all around us, with suicidal regimes seeking nuclear weapons in order to carry out their expressed goals of obliterating us. We know about death and we know about weapons of war, but we don’t fetishize them. How is it that Americans are so willing to arm the enemy within for the sake of security?
The receiving of the Torah marks the official incorporation of Am Yisrael—the final step in the transition from disparate individuals with a common kinship and history into a people, bound to each other by irrevocable decree. And yet, there is some question of whether the Covenant was a voluntary agreement.