A TIME FOR EVERY PURPOSE UNDER HEAVEN: The Jewish Life-Spiral as a Spiritual Path

Arthur Ocean Waskow, Author, Arthur Ocean Waskow, Author, Phyllis Ocean Berman, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $24 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-27779-6

Waskow and Berman, leaders of the Jewish renewal movement, infuse this spiritual handbook with an eco-feminist perspective that celebrates gender and biology, an earthiness absent from much of "word-focused... Rabbinic Judaism." Ceremonies and rituals don't just mark a specific occasion, they say; these transformative moments present "sacred possibilities" for self- and communal revelation, creating a rhythmic Jewish pathway they call a "life-spiral." Besides the traditional birth-marriage-death configuration, Waskow and Berman expand the conventional boundaries of life-cycle rituals to include weaning, menstruation, adult bat mitzvah, divorce, intimate friendships, mentoring relationships and more. Their innovative suggestions, culled from historic precedent and newly minted explorations, range from a "Jewish driver's license" to mark the path of growing up, to a "seder of womanhood" to celebrate midlife. They examine the nuanced depth of the most trivialized of American Jewish ceremonies—the bar mitzvah—explaining why the Torah reading is "the volcanically hot heart of the ordeal." Though unmistakably New Age in its approach, the book gives each ceremony a solid grounding in history, Bible, rabbinics and Jewish law, and reflects a sensitivity to contemporary issues from gay relationships to intermarriage. Readers do not have to agree with all the authors' ideas to be intrigued by the fascinating integration of Judaism and contemporary life. For anyone trying to mark a stage of life, Waskow and Berman show that apparently isolated moments together move a whole life forward so that each of us can fulfill God's ancient commandment to Abraham: "Walk forth into yourself." (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/22/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
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