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May 22, 1998     Jewish News
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May 22, 1998

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Southeastern Virginia Jewish News BOOK REVIEWS, ETC. Gifts of the Jews 'fast-reading' volume Hal Sacks The Gifts of the Jews How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels By Thomas Cahill Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday 281oo; $23.50 The Gifts of the Jews is the fast-reading second volume of Thomas Cahill's series "The Hinges of History" (the first is How the Irish Saved Civiliza- tion). In preparation, Cahill spent two years at the Jewish Theolog- ical Seminary as a Visiting Scholar, studying with some of the most celebrated biblical scholars in the country. Present- ing his thesis in The Gs of the Jews Cahill says, "the role of the Jews, the inventors of Western culture, is singular; there is sim- ply no one else remotely like them." Cahill creates the ambiance for "How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels" with descriptions of the ancient Near East Sumerian world from which the patriach Abraham embarked on his unique journey. That jour- ney launched a prodigious trans- formation in the existing view of the world - that the present was a repetition of the past and the future would be a repetition of the present. The religions and philosophies of Abraham's ancient world viewed life as a cyclical succession of birth and death, a "Wheel" spinning unremittingly and unchangeably in a what-goes-around-comes- By Hal Sacks Book Review Editor around circle. "The Jews were the first people to break out of this circle, to find a new way of thinking and experiencing, a new way of understand- ing amt feeling the world so much that it may be said with some justice that theirs' is the only new idea that human beings ever had." Our present concepts of "real time" and history which enable us to situate past events and plan for the future did not exist in the ancient world. Abraham was to become, through his covenant with God, the first "individual" in the history of mankind - "the very idea of vocation, of a per- sonal destiny, is a Jewish idea." The God of Abraham promised a unique future, a singular destiny. Cahill follows the history of the Jews through Moses and Sinai and the evolution of ethi- cal monotheism - not merely the acknowledgment of one true God but a willingness to live one's life according to God's commandments: the Ten Words. Cahill emphasizes that "this gift of the Commandments allows us to live in the present, in the here and now. " Since one cannot change what has already hap- pened and the future is unknow- able, it is only the present in which an individual has options - to do the "right thing" - to choose justice, compassion and mercy. The Gifts of the Jews high- lights biblical accounts that changed the world by creating the tenets of Western civilization - from David and Goliath, "root- ing for the underdog," to the Jewish Sabbath, "the gift of weekends" (are the Jews really responsible for Las Vegas and Club Med?). Cahill's exploration of events in Jewish history, familiar to us all, is compellingly written with both scholarship and humor, and presents a fascinating perspective on Judaism as it altered Western civilization. Cahill concludes: We are the undeserving recipients of this history of the Jews, this long, exces- sive, miraculous develop- ment of ethical monotheism without which our ideas of equality and personalism are unlikely ever to have come into being and surely would never have matured in the way that they have. CLAS.(;IFIEDS The Best o[ the Imports. KLINE TOYOTA GREENBRIER (804) 366-5000 Are you tired ot' not feeling very good al)otlt yourscll'? The Best of the Domestics. WNE HEVROLET/GEO (7s7) 49.4481t ALL AT OW GRFAT PlAW 1499 MUTAY I-NW.,  (3 MITES SOUIH Of A4UT, ay (3R(].E A,ij.) May 22, 1998 Author treats readers to novel 1 depicting social climate in Israel J Restoring Former Loves By Joshua Kenaz Am Oved Publishers, Tel Aviv, 1997 280 pp By Rabbi Israel Zoberman Veteran Israeli author Joshua Kenaz treats us to another revealing novel depicting the current social climate in Israel with is complex dynamics at work: The tensions between Jews from different ethnic back- grounds, the role of foreign workers who have become an integral part of the Israeli scene, the impact of the military on family life, the presence of non- traditional families such as single parents raising children and a ris- ing crime rate. This realistic rendition of a "normalized" Israeli society with its share of challenging problems reminds us that the national poet Former U.S. Senator Rudy Boschwitz, Honorary Chair of e Committee for a Secure Peace (CSP), at a recent conference urged the Clinton/( is m its own press conference were U,S; Senator Alfonse D'Amato,.(R-NY), and U.S. Representative Jim the United States' ty at I wouldn t be bullied or listen to any ultimatum. Congressman Saxton adde& "Israel has been our strongest Life's too short to settle for less when therapy can help you be more. Call us at 473-2695. remembered as the lJFS Clinical Services Chaim Nachman Bialik regarded it as finally turning the Jewish people closer to the family of nations, though he might have been surprised by how much we have changed. The author presents a society in transition from a past where the individual fully identified with the community and where the military was a sacred cow to a contemporary reality in which the individual seeks his own ful- fillment and while the military remains a central institution, it no longer enjoys its revered past status. "Today it is not the way it used to be, Ezra," said Rutie. "The army is no longer God. There are many who do not want to be conscripted, pretending to be psychologically unfit, and no one makes an issue of it." Reference is made to the stark differences between the close- knit Israeli family life with the bond remaining strong and inti- mate even after the children left home and got married, and the way of gentile America which separates the parents from their adult offspring upon moving away from home. The point is made that both ways have pluses and minuses. Though it is easy to become caught up in criticizing an Israeli environment that falls short of envisioned lofty dreams and aspirations which perhaps were too idealistic in the first place, we ought to take stock on the festive occasion of its 50th anniversary of the overriding accomplishment of creating a vibrant, thriving Israel that in a variety of ways and in face of mighty challenges has earned the world's respect and admiration. Yet, there is something to be said for mere existence in face of a Jewish history teaching us not to take it for granted. (Rabbi Israel Zoberman is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Chaverim in Virginia Beach) HELP BUILD SOMETHING NEW! The Tidewater Chavurah. Meeting for Shabbat worship, Torah study and friendships every other week. Call 460-5007 for further info. MetLife is seeking a professional who wants the opportunity to earn a high income in sales. Paid initial training program, with compensation up to $800 a week while you learn what you need to know to succeed. Excellent benefits and potential for management opportunity. Send resume in confidence to: MetLife, Brenda T. Forehand, 5029 Corporate Woods Dr., Suite 100, Virginia Beach, VA 23462, EOE. ATTENTION FEDERAL EM- PLOYEES: Donated leave time needed for Jewish employee, who is temporarily out of work due to surgery. Call Michelle Walter, LC.S.W., at Jewish Family Service at 473-2695. OOOO HELP WANTED - Student - simple office work in furniture store. Satur- days only 9:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Downtown Norfolk near Scope. Call 627-5075 for Jeff.