Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To Heal a Fractured World -- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks ------------------------ 4 Stars

As Thanksgiving begins tomorrow, I find no more fitting a time to reflect upon a very enjoyable book I recently finished titled To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility by Jonathan Sacks. My sister gave this book to me for my birthday and though it's some pretty heavy reading, it's well worth the venture.

The book is really 1 part philosophy, 1 part religious teachings, and 1 part self help. It's divided into three parts which were 'the call to responsibility', 'the theology or responsibility', and 'the responsible life'. The book is very well organized and Sacks has almost a lawyers ability to lay out his arguments in a very logical and straightforward way for the reader to understand.

The major questions this book addresses are what is a persons place in the world? What should we be doing in our lives and what responsibilities do we have as moral human beings? Needless to say, I really enjoyed the book. Although a bit challenging to get through, Sacks does an incredible job of breaking down somewhat archaic religious writings and Bible passages while also including wonderful real life examples to clarify his positions and points. I found the first half of the book, in which he sort of sets up his arguments for why people should be responsible, to be the most enjoyable part. As a Rabbi, he includes a litany of Bible verses and stories, which having not read in many, many years, I found particularly interesting and enjoyable. He even included many a midrash which reminds me of my high school Religion class with Mr. Dependahl. These interepretations and analysis were laid out so clearly and so beautifully thus painting a portrait of what he passionately believes the various passages are trying to say.

As I said, these early parts of the book were my favorite parts. As the text goes on, it turns from making the argument for 'why' we should be responsible and moral people to the specific 'how tos'. While I find that part just as important, I also found it personally less interesting and entertaining. Toward the end, the book gets very 'sefl-helpy' though not in a fake way. By that point in the text, I had been completely sold on his arguments that I definitely supported his suggestions on how to live responsibly.

Much of the book includes many of the suggestions that you would expect from a Rabbi and text on how to live properly. Ideas like giving to others, supporting those in need, believing in a higher power, giving second chances, providing charity and love for others, are prevalent and focused on significantly. Although I believed in these virtues prior to reading this, I found so much enjoyment in reading the Biblical reasoning why these ideas are important. Though I don't consider myself the most religious of people, this book can't help but make a reader reexamine their own belief in the world and faith in general.

I highly recommend this book to any reader looking for insight into their own life, looking to reconnect with the Bible, or would like to read a good book explaining what another person's viewpoint is about responsibility in one's life. Be aware, however, that this book is pretty heavy in the depth of thought/ideas per page. Although less than 300 pages, don't go in thinking you can fly through this text in a weekend. Please, take your time with it. The ideas, thoughts, and viewpoints will probably have you analyzing your own thoughts... which probably is a good thing. Enjoy!

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