cover image The Book of Proverbs: A Social Justice Commentary

The Book of Proverbs: A Social Justice Commentary

Shmuly Yanklowitz. CCAR, $23.95 trade paper (472p) ISBN 978-0-88123-376-6

Rabbi Yanklowitz (The Book of Jonah), president of Jewish learning center Valley Beit Midrash, delivers a superior analysis of the Torah’s Book of Proverbs. Citing an eclectic range of sources that includes rabbis, psychologists, and historical anecdotes, the author studies the proverbs verse by verse and unpacks their wisdom on “relationships, power, humility, truth, and the reconciliation of the manifold complexities of life.” Yanklowitz suggests, for example, that the passage, “Lazybones, go to the ant; Study its ways and learn” indicts those who wander “through life without thinking too much” and encourages a conscientious, thoughtful approach that privileges one’s observations and conclusions over deference to authority. The primacy of social justice pervades these commentaries on extremism, greed, uncertainty, and violence, such as when Yanklowitz condemns Ronald Reagan’s insensitive remarks about homeless people to illustrate how those who “profess to be poor and have much wealth” have an obligation to “prioritize the suffering of others at [their] own expense.” Yanklowitz’s lucid exegesis succeeds in transforming these “vague” verses “shrouded with literary ambiguity” into accessible, rousing calls to action. This progressive reading of proverbs edifies. (June)