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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Patterns in Jewish History: Insights into the Past, Present & Future of the Eternal People » User review

A rabbi offers his view of the patterns that occur in Jewish history

  • Mar 24, 2011
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Rabbi Wein is an Orthodox rabbi of a well-attended synagogue in Jerusalem, Israel, and has a large following. He is the author of over a dozen books on Jewish thoughts and is a sought-for lecturer. In this volume he examines his understanding of Jewish history, making it his seventh book on this subject.

He stresses that knowing history is important: "Insanity is repeating the same failed process over and over again." He addresses questions such as: What mistake are Jews making? How have they survived? Why have Jews made such a disproportionate contribution to the improvement of humanity? Why are there so few Jews in the world? Why do so many people dislike Jews? Why do Jews disagree with each other? Is Judaism a religion, a nation, a civilization, or what? What is the definition of a Jew?

He states that there are identifiable patterns in Jewish history. People need to see these patterns so that they will get "a sense where current society stands and where it is headed, and what steps can be taken to improve its current lot and guarantee its future development." He feels that the principal pattern in Jewish history, the pattern that harmed Jews the most, is "the pattern of abandonment of Torah and its observances, followed by assimilation, self hatred, disasters, and later resurgence of Torah beliefs again." He shows with many examples how this rotational pattern "can clearly be traced throughout Jewish history." He states that it has been impossible to break this pattern, this "vicious cycle," because of "the blind refusal of much of Jewish society…to even recognize the existence of such a pattern in Jewish life." As a result, Jews have been unable to learn from the past and they "continue to repeat those errors over and over again."

He writes that this is not a theological argument. He insists that anyone who is a clear thinker will recognize this reality. He analyses different time periods to prove his point. He looks, for example, at the creation of the "secular Jew" in the nineteenth century, and identifies the factors that he considers the causes of the "mass desertion from Jewish tradition." He tells how the rabbis of the time failed to see and address these factors and states that the rabbis of today don't understand what occurred at that time, and "this pattern is being repeated again in sections of the Jewish religious world two centuries later."

Yet despite his feelings that Jews must cleave to the Torah, Rabbi Wein recognizes that some changes have occurred in Judaism that are beneficial. However, some readers might say that he is overly-cautious regarding these changes. He notes, for example, that the treatment of women in Judaism varied in the different cultures in which they were found and that since the enlightenment, and because of the enlightenment, women have been allowed greater entry into Judaism. Many readers will agree with his statement that the currently still unresolved Jewish female issues "are very complicated and not given to the simplistic solutions proposed by activists and publicists." Yet, some may think that he shouldn't praise the requirement that women should dress "modestly" when men may stroll about in shorts. Nor should he extol the rule that women sit behind the mechitzah, the "separation wall," when he says that the purpose of the separation is "to preserve the decorum and the holiness of the prayer service," and "prevent distractions during services," yet, he admits that, "this type of distraction is the fault of men and not women." Still others may agree that the issues are complicated, but feel that inaction is wrong.

Whether readers share Rabbi Wein's views or not, they will find his discussions on the various issues informative and thought-provoking.
A rabbi offers his view of the patterns that occur in Jewish history A rabbi offers his view of the patterns that occur in Jewish history

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About the reviewer
Israel Drazin ()
Ranked #67
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of twenty books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four … more
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Rabbi Berel Wein is undoubtedly the best-known and most widely read authority today on Jewish tradition, culture and history. He writes with a rare indeed unique combination of erudition, readability, historical accuracy and passion. --Professor Robert Aumann
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