cover image Choosing Hope: The Heritage of Judaism

Choosing Hope: The Heritage of Judaism

David Arnow. Jewish Publication Society, $30 trade paper (328p) ISBN 978-0-8276-1520-5

Former clinical psychologist Arnow (My People’s Passover Haggadah) unearths the hopefulness baked into Judaism in this stimulating if esoteric work. He outlines nine “sources of hope” in Judaism, including the biblical stories of Job and Exodus, the rabbinical concepts of teshuvah (repentance) and tikkun olam (repairing the world), and cultural tendencies such as “Jewish humor.”Arnow finds in teshuvah an enduring promise that humans “truly can change for the better,” and in tikkun olam the motivation to act on hope to create a better future. Humor, according to Arnow, fosters solidarity within Jewish communities and “fortifies the social bonds that support hope.” The author is at his best when raising alternative ways of looking at familiar stories, such as when he recasts the tragedies of the Book of Job as a lesson on choosing hope over despair. Arnow does an admirable job of explaining most of his material, but frequent arcane references to Talmudic discussions might frustrate novices. Additionally, the section on Israel gets lost in the weeds tackling too many ideas that stray from the author’s core arguments. Beginners may feel lost, but Arnow’s unique perspectives on Judaism will enlighten those with a background in Jewish tradition and thought. (Mar.)