The Enchantments of Judaism: Rites of Transformation from Birth Through Death

Jacob Neuser, Author, Jacob Neusner, Author Basic Books $15.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-465-01964-9
Neusner (Death and Birth of Judaism, etc.), professor of Judaic studies at Brown University, here demonstrates how Judaism enchants personal, everyday experiences through prayer and rite. The Grace After Meals transforms hunger and satisfaction into a metaphor for Israel's suffering and ultimate redemption; in the rite of circumcision, a minor surgery becomes the mark of the renewal of God's covenant with Israel; under the marriage canopy, bride and groom become the archetypal Adam and Eve. Neusner is less successful when he attempts to explain why many Western Jews keep the above rites because they speak to the individual and family, yet ignore community rites like the Sabbath or synagogue worship. He calls for esthetic improvements in communal life: ""In synagogue prayer today, drama, dance, music, display of evocative symbol, the opportunity for renewal and regeneration of the holy community . . . are buried under an avalanche of words.'' His repetitious, florid prose obscures when it should enlighten; what might have made a thoughtful magazine essay founders in book form. (September)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1987
Release date: 09/01/1987
Paperback - 242 pages - 978-1-55540-589-2
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