GOOD MORNING! When was the last time you read the Bible? When you were in Sunday School? Maybe you never read the Bible at all -- or maybe it was late at night in a hotel room and you were desperate for something to read. Chances are, if you ever tried to read the Bible, it seemed like gibberish.
Now there is a fascinating new book out -- Bible For The Clueless But Curious -- written by my Aish HaTorah colleague and friend, Nachum Braverman. It won't throw a bunch of "thous" and "forsooths" at you, it won't talk down to you from the pulpit or try to make you feel guilty. It won't ask you to accept a bunch of religious dogma on blind faith and it won't pretend to be the only book you will ever need to read if you want to be happy.
It will speak to you like the thoughtful human being that you are, and, by way of a gallery of icons, present the wisdom of the Bible in a fun and uniquely insightful fashion. (My sixteen year old son was on the couch reading it with enjoyment and laughing -- from it, not at it).
There are top-notch insights and real wisdom in this book. If you have been baffled by the stories in the Bible, then this is a great book to understand the lessons for life to be learned from the stories. After all, people have been turning to the Bible for 3,300 years looking for insights.
I think of it as "The Bible Companion for the Channel-Surfer." When one channel-surfs, they've got five seconds to grab your attention to make you want to stay longer. This book is designed so that when you turn to any page you will find an icon, a side-bar, a box with concise, to-the-point wisdom. At the end of the book are four appendices: Who's Who, 32 frequently asked questions, Famous Biblical Phrases (and what they really mean), and a Chronology for the historically clueless but curious.
To give you a taste of the book, here is a Question and Answer from Frequently Asked Questions:
Why are religious people so intolerant?
Tolerance means assuming the people you disagree with are honest and well-meaning. It doesn't mean that all opinions have equal merit or that no one is right. As Dorothy Parker said, "If two people agree, one of them is unnecessary."
It is also crucial to distinguish between loving people and loving all their actions or beliefs.
Rabbi Aryeh Levin lived in Israel during the British Mandate. One Shabbat, he was walking in the streets of Jerusalem when a secular Israeli came toward him, smoking a cigarette. "My master," said Reb Aryeh, "it's prohibited to smoke on Shabbat." "Oh, my son, don't say that," said Reb Aryeh. "I love you as my own child." The Israeli paused. "The Rabbi doesn't want me to smoke? I'll put it out" "Don't put it out," said Reb Aryeh, " just put it down." "I can't tell the Rabbi I'll never again smoke on Shabbat," said the Israeli, "but this Shabbat, I won't smoke."
The Bible for the Clueless But Curious is available at better bookstores everywhere or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.
Torah Portion of the Week
This is the Torah portion containing the giving of the Ten Commandments. (It is important to note that they are the Ten Commandments and not the Ten Suggestions.) Did you know that there are differences in the Ten Commandments as stated here (Exodus 20:1 -14) and related later in Deuteronomy 5:6 - 18? (Here IS a Suggestion: have your children find the differences as a game at the Shabbat table during dinner; there are approximately 30 differences).
Before the giving of the Ten Commandments the Almighty tells Moses to inform the Jewish people, "And now, if you hearken well to Me and observe My covenant, you shall be to Me the most beloved treasure of all peoples, for Mine is the entire world. You shall be to Me a kingdom of cohanim (role models for the rest of the world) and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6)
Moses' father-in-law, Jethro (Yitro or Yisro in the Hebrew) joins the Jewish people in the desert, advises Moses on the best way to serve and judge the people -- by appointing a hierarchy of intermediaries -- and then returns home to Midian. The Ten Commandments are given, the first two were heard directly from G-d by every Jew; the people then begged Moses to be their intermediary for the remaining eight because the experience was too intense.
The portion concludes with the Almighty telling Moses to instruct the Jewish people not to make any images of G-d. They were then commanded to make an earthen altar; and eventually to make a stone altar, but without the use of a sword or metal tool.