SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION

The Talmud of Relationships

Vol. 1: God, Self, and Family. 256p. ISBN 9780827612648; ebk. ISBN 9780827614383.Scheinerman, Amy. The Talmud of Relationships. Vol. 2: The Jewish Community and Beyond. 296p. ISBN 9780827613560; ebk. ISBN 9780827614413. ea. vol: Jewish Publication Society. Oct. 2018. notes. bibliog. pap. $19.95. REL
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For Rabbi Scheinerman, studying the Talmud results in "deep ideas, intense conversations, and religious meaning." Here she offers two volumes in a series focused on relationships. The first book is organized according to our relationship with the self—our anger and suffering—followed by our relationships with family, friends, and partners. Some parts of the book can be a little esoteric; for instance, discussions around dietary prohibitions. But this is balanced by conversations of the blessings of nurturing our relationships with parents as well as children; our obligations to others, symbolized by references to the orphan or stranger; and the powerful gifts of sexual intimacy.The second volume deals with community: controlling oneself during conflict and creating consensus in community. The other aspect is relationships with those outside of the faith, which the author cleverly conceives of as reading Jewish history through self-perception as well as in relation to notions of Jewish power in both legal and narrative accounts. Scheinerman delicately negotiates these difficult political and theological waters, reflecting the anxiety that Jews are called to live in a world that does not always accommodate them. The material demonstrates an evolving rabbinical response to assimilation, highlighting a respect for human dignity and how to engage the world politically. This text shines, especially in the section on caring for the poor; these prescient chapters explore the depths of theodicy and why a sovereign deity allows suffering, degradation, imprisonment, or death. For the rabbis, the answer is teshuva, or a returning to God.
VERDICT Full of sober wisdom for solemn times, Scheinerman's mature advice and teachings will speak to modern spiritual seekers.

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