“Why Be Jewish?” by Edgar Bronfman

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Why Be Jewish?: A TestamentWhy Be Jewish?: A Testament by Edgar Bronfman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bronfman, just before his passing, brings his lifelong questions and studies to the table in this book. When I first agreed to review this work, I had expected an argument for the Jewish faith. When I opened the ARC to read the material, I was surprised to find that, in this book, Bronfman does not argue for the Jewish faith, but rather for the Jewish life. In his opinion, Judaism can be lived in a secular fashion, incorporating the value system and questioning that pilpul and drash foster. Through his work, the reader is led to see the value of the Jewish history and lifestyle, even apart from ethical monotheism.

While he asserts that a Jewish lifestyle is possible without belief, I disagree with his notion on two fronts. First, the Jewish lifestyle is a result of the Jewish faith. HaShem instructs us on mitzvot, not as a means to bless Him or move Him to action, but as a means of changing our own humanity to be more like Him. Additionally, the Jewish culture that exists today would not have been possible if not for HaShem’s protective hand over the Jewish people. Avram believed and became Avraham; via Avraham all Jews can identify their own familial lineage and history.

Being Jewish is not just about secularism with Jewish thought and practice – being Jewish requires not just action, but faith as well, living the 13 principles of the faith. Bronfman has an excellent grasp on most of what it means to be Jewish, but in his pursuit of the secular, he misses the point altogether.

Disclosure: I have received a reviewer copy and/or payment in exchange for an honest review of the product mentioned in this post.

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