Open Mind­ed Torah: Of Irony, Fun­da­men­tal­ism and Love

William Kol­bren­er
  • Review
By – January 11, 2012
The sub­ti­tle of William Kolbrener’s lit­tle book is Of Irony, Fun­da­men­tal­ism and Love.” Could three more opposed ele­ments coin­cide in a sin­gle sen­tence? The antithe­sis of fun­da­men­tal­ism is not shal­low­ness or dis­be­lief, but the iron­ic stance. On its oth­er bor­der we find not love but doubt and inse­cu­ri­ty. Kol­bren­er pon­ders this dys­pep­tic trio and deliv­ers a mea­sured but pow­er­ful series of appre­ci­a­tions. As he puts it, the mis­sion of the believ­er is to be pure. Live in the present; give up the charmed sto­ries about the future that the idol­a­tors of the world enter­tain.” In that world, we could all do worse than hav­ing Kol­bren­er as our guide.

Weav­ing insights from clas­sic Jew­ish texts with those of Mil­ton, Freud, and oth­er writ­ers, the author cre­ates essays of insight, beau­ty, and strength. His top­ics range wide­ly: his son with Down Syn­drome, over­heard snip­pets of street con­ver­sa­tion, con­tem­po­rary cul­tur­al ref­er­ences. His touch is light, but he expects the read­er to join in the lift­ing. This is no Sun­day morn­ing paper fluffery. On the con­trary, Kol­bren­er wants us to work at his side and tru­ly open our minds to not just the Torah as a work of reli­gious lit­er­a­ture, but as a tool. He asks us to lay aside that very con­tem­po­rary and West­ern desire for objec­tiv­i­ty” and engage the world as it is, full of suf­fer­ing, mud, and grace.
Jeff Bogursky reads a lot, writes a lit­tle and talks quite a bit. He is a media exec­u­tive and expert in dig­i­tal media.

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