Change & Renewal: The Essence of the Jewish Holidays, Festivals & Days of Remembrance

Maggid Books  2011


The incredibly erudite R. Steinsaltz’s latest contribution to Jewish thought is a compendium of essays that focus on the inherent personal, spiritual meanings of Jewish celebrations and commemorations throughout the year. Examples of the themes that the author develops that focus on a person’s state of mind and emotional makeup are: recreation of the self, paralleling recreation of the world on Rosh HaShana; the essences of each of the Ushpizin (spiritual guests who visit the Sukkah) are to be found within ourselves; and the eradication of Amalek as something that must take place within every individual. Drawing from a vast array of sources that in addition to traditional references from the Written and Oral Traditions, include mystical and Chassidic literature, R. Steinsaltz reveals aspects of Jewish observance which directly address those seeking deeper meanings in their lives through Jewish observance. Atypical topics addressed include “Ordinary Days,” i.e., the spiritual dimensions of days not associated with any particular commemoration, as well as special Chassidic celebrations such as the 19th of Kislev and the 3rd of Tammuz. R. Steinsaltz’s commitment to the State of Israel is reflected by the inclusion of three essays addressing Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. The book is a constant source of new insights and stimulating perspectives regarding the occasions making up the Jewish year, which routinization and repetition can sometimes threaten to render unremarkable and devoid of deep meaning. Bibliography.

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