RECENT READS # 12 : LIVING ACCORDING TO THE RULES


 THE RABBI’S DAUGHTER – Reva Mann

What fascinating book! I found it to be un-putdownable. It’s a true account by the daughter of a high profile, famous British Rabbi. The book is a raw, honest account of one woman’s see-saw progress from the ordinary to the degraded, to the ultra-orthodox and back to the ordinary. You learn about life as lived by the orthodox Jews – the myriad taboos, rules, restrictions that govern every aspect of life. I was surprised to learn how many converts there are to Orthodoxy. And the book reveals how fundamentalism – bearing any tag or label – verges on the loony, and often, the cruel. A poignant episode which astonished, angered and saddened me: Reva (who is the Rabbi’s daughter) has to WALK to the maternity hospital when her labour pains start because her ultra orthodox husband Simcha, won’t support her, hold her hand, touch her in any way, because she is unclean on account of the blood!! I thought his approach to her was inhuman. To say the least. But his behaviour was in line with his rigid, fundamentalism. With a manic-depressive mother, a father in denial, a retarded sister, a horrible marriage, breast cancer, a druggy lover …. what a life Reva had. And how brave she was to write about it,; perhaps it was cathartic. with the life she’d led, I think she’d need it. I hope she’s happier now.

 A YEAR OF LIVING BIBLICALLY – A L Jacobs

A New York City Jewish writer embarks on a twelve month project to live as Biblically as possible. His account is quirky, thought provoking, amusing. He concentrates on the Old Testament (being Jewish) and it’s filled with peculiar ordinances, strict purity laws, dress codes, prayer and festival requirements. It keeps him busy, that’s for sure! He starts off agnostic, and ends up more thoughtful, has learnt how to pray and how to live mindfully. He grows a veritable forest of a beard during his project year, but is quite pleased to shave it off, come the end of his project. Another unusual, true account of a life experiment. And P.S.: his wife deserves a medal for staying the course, and supporting him. I think had I been in her shoes, I would have absented myself on a year’s sabbatical with my own project, well away from The Husband’s antics!

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2 responses to “RECENT READS # 12 : LIVING ACCORDING TO THE RULES

  1. Hi Alison
    I have read part of a Year of Living Biblically and heard an interview with the author. A wild project– interesting how popular these year long projects are that become books.

    If you were to do a year long project and write about it — what would the topic be?

    The Rabbi’s daughter memoir also reminds me of the many books that express the horrors of religious belief, and how extremeism ruins lives. Of course there must be a wonderful, life affirming side to Judaism that isn’t often in books. Last night I was reviewing all the recent books on Christian Science and , of course, similar horror stories. Yet, I know – these horror tales are only part of the picture.

    Were these atypical reads for you, or are interested in general in books on religion.

    I am really am — but have cut back in the past year, since I retired from teaching. Sher

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    • Well, you really got me thinking with your question : what year-long project would I choose? My initial response was: I wouldn’t – at my age, time is precious! But then I thought: I’d be very curious to spend a year with the Amish and experience that pre-industrial lifestyle. We don’t have Amish communities in South Africa, but I’ve seen TV shows/films.
      At one time I read a lot of books on Buddhism and comparative religion, but no longer do so. One’s tastes change. And as I’ve grown older I think I’ve grown lazier. I no long have the inclination to debate issues on this topic. Nowadays the shrill crazy voices of the fundamentalists (of all persuasions) seem to come to the fore, right across the media, and the whole topic simply exhausts me.

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