Let­ters to Talia

Dov Indig; Yehu­da Bur­d­man, trans.
  • Review
By – April 24, 2013

Let­ters to Talia, a rich dia­logue of actu­al let­ters sent between a reli­gious Israeli sol­dier and a sec­u­lar teenage kib­butz girl, pro­vides a glimpse into the ten­sions that sep­a­rat­ed reli­gious and sec­u­lar Israeli cul­tures in the 1970s. Through this hon­est, open, and pas­sionate exchange of ideas, Dov and Talia come to under­stand one anoth­er, and the cul­tures they each represent. 

Their two-year exchange began before they had ever met, when Talia wrote to Dov with ques­tions she had about reli­gious Jew­ish cul­ture. Dov respond­ed duti­ful­ly to her sharp — and seem­ing­ly con­fronta­tion­al — ques­tions with a gen­tle­ness, sin­cer­i­ty, and frank­ness that set the stage for an enlight­en­ing exchange of ideas rang­ing from Jew­ish dietary laws to indi­vid­u­al­ism, love, and fam­i­ly purity. 

Dov’s respons­es draw heav­i­ly on ancient Jew­ish texts (all of which are explained in the foot­notes), and are aug­ment­ed by the writ­ings of mod­ern-day sec­u­lar thinkers. Dov, who was ulti­mate­ly killed in the Yom Kip­pur War (1973), is the quin­tes­sen­tial Yeshi­va stu­dent in his unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to Jew­ish law and ide­ol­o­gy, while at the same time immers­ing him­self in the writ­ings of contem­porary writ­ers like Eric Fromm and Alek­san­dr Solzhenitsyn. 

Talia’s ques­tions are dri­ven by an unquench­able thirst for knowl­edge, and an intel­lec­tu­al curios­i­ty that high­lights her com­mit­ment for truth. She thought­ful­ly probes Dov’s respons­es, and is unafraid to voice her dis­con­tent when she dis­agrees with him or is offend­ed by his forth­right state­ments of ideology. 

Let­ters to Talia is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed for read­ers of both reli­gious and non-reli­gious back­grounds alike, as it exem­pli­fies how a respect­ful dia­logue can lead to a greater under­stand­ing and appre­ci­a­tion of another’s cul­ture and background.

Eliyahu Rosen cur­rent­ly lives in Boston, MA with his wife Jen­ni, and is an MBA-MS can­di­date at the Boston Uni­ver­si­ty School of Management.

Discussion Questions