The many brilliant works of Emmanuel Levinas range from the difficult to master to those graspable only by those nearly as gifted as Levinas himself. So a collection of psychoanalytic essays seeking to use Levinas’s teachings in the context of everyday life, yet written accessibly, for a lay audience, is an excellent project. This book largely achieves that aspiration, although somewhat unevenly— made up, as it is, of a series of essays, some of which are more successful than others in accessibility, and some of which are more successful than others in the conveying of Levinasian thought — its few flaws are well compensated for by its positives, and, of course, it is one of the few books of its kind. High points include “Guard Your Tongue,” a well-done essay on gossip; and “On Reading a Sacred Book.” While even this accessible series of essays are still complex and requiring of some intensive critical thought, the work is eminently readable, and the product is a collection well worth owning. Useful for rabbis and anyone involved in counseling, as well as anyone interested in modern Jewish ethics, and for libraries and Jewish institutional collections.
Amitai Adler is a Conservative rabbi. He teaches and writes in Los Angeles, CA, and has been published in Sh’ma and Jewish Bible Quarterly.