On Words: Justice, Law, Humanity

“Justice, Justice, you shall pursue,” Deuteronomy 16: 18-21:9 

The Bible beseeches us to seek “justice.” Yet we are taught, from a very young age, that the way society is held together is through the adherence to law. That it is law that keeps order, and protects people. We are taught that it is law that enables our rights. We learn that law is merely codified nature’s, or God’s, gift of inherent rights to it’s children. Law codifies these rights in such a way that no king, no overlord, can take them away.

However, it is interesting that the Bible, the very book society for eons believed was given to humanity by God,  tells the reader to seek “justice,” and not “law.” Law is seen as a fleeting thing. Something that can be manipulated. A process by which society can make a crime legal, or to deprive others of their humanity. An avenue by the powerful that can usurp the life blood of those less fortunate.

Justice is defined as “the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness.”

Law is defined as “the principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decision.”

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But society needs law. We need order. We need to understand right from wrong, and to dole out punishment, or reward. Society needs to function on a set of rules that benefits the whole of society. People need to know where they stand in relationship to others in this world.

Moreover, people have a right to protect what they build, earn, or create. They have a right to protect their families and their children’s future. For a society to last, those who live within the purview of a community need to understand how their present can be tied into the future. There is only one way to do this, and that is with law.

Law tells us something else as well. Law makes value judgements. It tells others what is not only expected of them, as far as actions are concerned, but it tells outsiders, how a particular society functions and what is important and valued in their world. It lets others know if they are welcome, or if they should be welcoming to a population. Law characterizes what a society considers moral, and ethical. It is the tenets by which a commonwealth is judged.

But it doesn’t mean that the law of a society produces justice. It doesn’t mean that the law is fair, honorable, or without prejudice. Law does not necessarily produce a society where all are valued, or all are given equal importance.

Law is part of societal growth. It is like a child. As the child grows, they learn right from wrong, to share, to be honest, to be kind, and considerate. A child learns the value of work. It learns the concept of empathy. But a child goes through some really awful growing pains.

As a small child, a person learns to share. Now it is not easy. But if you want friends, sharing is what you need to do. It is not necessarily simple to put others before yourself, but a child learns that there is a benefit to kindness. As we learn that there is a benefit when people within a community are interdependent.

The adolescent rebels and demands outcomes that they have not necessarily earned, but think it is their’s by right. This stage  is hard pressed, hard-fought and in some cases you must give no quarter. Adolescence is the stuff of stand-up comedians, but it is no laughing matter. A person’s path is established during these years. Once put upon a road, it is difficult, and in some cases, near impossible to change.

We learn that while we are still young, we may not be held totally accountable for our actions. Yet at the same time, some things that we do are simply irreversible. Unchangeable for better, or in some cases for worse. There truly are some things you can not undo. Communities understand that we are not responsible for the past actions of our ancestors, but it is our responsibility to try to assuage any ills caused by these actions and to try to reverse them to benefit the future.

Then adulthood emerges, where the person has developed a keen sense of themselves. They have a morality, and ethos that they wish to live by and one that benefits the world around them. They understand the interplay between persons and sees how interdependent we, as humans, truly are. Hopefully as adults, we work at our lives for the better. And hopefully, fully formed and developed countries see that they owe, not only themselves a better way of life, but that there is a rhythm to the world, and that she is a living breathing organism, that we need to protect.

But as yet,  there are many in this world, who do not see themselves as part of a growing developing civilization  simply called humanity. They see themselves as outside the chain of interplay. Someone who can control the world around them. They believe themselves above the rules and regulations and decide that they and they alone are the living embodiment of the future. That whatever they do, they are entitled to do it. They decide that sculptural-relief-of-hammurabiwhatever they do, they owe nothing and no one.

Yes society does have a name for these individuals, they are called sociopaths. They can be individuals, or entire nations. For they, even if they function within the norms of society, even if their actions leads to some betterment in society, the ethos involved is singularly anathema to humanity at-large.

Historically, our societal infancy begins around 5 thousand years ago in the area known as Mesopotamia. Hammurabi began by codifying law so that the “punishment fits the crime.” A unique and simple concept for its day.

Today, we acknowledge this forthrightness. But when the concept was introduced to the ancient world, this “justice” was revolutionary.  The idea that there should not simply be one punishment for misdeeds, or that all misdeeds are not equal, and that society cannot simply live at the whim of a king or overlord, changed ancient history. It held kings to rules that even the lowliest servant had to obey.

This is nowhere better illustrated than in the biblical story of King David. For David was punished for his sins as any man would have been punished, through the pain and sadness visited upon his children. We might not like the harshness of the punishments. We in the modern world, deride the idea, that our sins are visited unto our innocent children, an idea sadly however, that in some corners of the world is still believed to this day.

We in the present era, believe that each person’s faults, and choices are theirs, and theirs alone. That the punishment is theirs, and theirs alone. To punish the innocent is anathema in our way of thinking. But in the days of Ancient Israel, it was a lesson that society needed to be taught. That to do right will visit joy and happiness upon your offspring, family and compatriots. And in the reverse, evil that you do, is equally visited upon those you love as well.

But then that begs the ultimate question, if God is love and justice, where was God’s justice when he punished David and Bathsheba by allowing their newborn son to die? Where was God’s justice  in allowing events to spiral so out of control that circumstances would turn David’s so beloved Absalom’s heart against his father? Where is the justice in punishing the innocent? Where is the justice in allowing an injustice?

Absalom defended his sister by killing her rapist,  their half-brother.

David, trying to save Absalom, instead of executing him for his deed, banished him from Jerusalem.

Absalom felt abandoned by David. He felt that is father should have stood by his side in defending his sister. Absalom didn’t want to understand that David had defied the prophet Nathan, who had demanded an “eye for an eye.”

Absalom , angered by his father’s rejection, started a revolt against David.

Absalom was killed in the revolt.

David never really got over Absalom’s death. While it is written that David never sinned again, and forever only honored God, the question you need to ask yourself is, was it that David didn’t want to sin, or did Absalom’s death obliterate his spirit? The spirit that God, through the prophet Nathan tried to curtail? And why would God want to curtail his anointed on Earth? Wasn’t it that spirit that made David strong enough to become King? How was he supposed to keep Israel safe, if he no longer had the strength of spirit?

Yes, our society would have found a different equation for justice in these circumstances. But in reality, take a look at the stories of some of the worst in our society. Do their children truly get away unscathed? Or do they somehow, suffer in different indirect ways because of the actions of a parent, a sibling, or a child? Families can suffer through the generations because of the misdeeds of a single member. Where is justice when those who may be harmed the most from an actions are those not yet even born?

Perhaps, the story of King David, while based upon the actual events around the life of a David that once ruled the ancient kingdom of Israel, is more allegory than real. Mayhap’s it was written for people who learned through examples, rather than strict law. Illustrating an outcome with which a person can identify, still goes farther than simply, “because I said so,” response to the question”why,” even to this day.

Why do we need allegories instead of straight truth. It simply could be that in the scheme of the universe we, the human race, are still in our  developmental infancy. Have we not even reached the obnoxious, eye-rolling, emotional upheaval of  human adolescence? How far are we really, as a community, from the period of societal adulthood?

There are many ideas today of what constitutes, or constituted justice. What  defined justice during the reign of David is very different from what defines justice today. Yet the Bible, while so cavalierly handing out consequences that we would consider cruel and unusual in our society today, also tells us to care for the sick, the infirm, the old, and the very young. We are commanded to be kind to animals, to respect nature, and honor the world around us. Issues, that we as a society still deal with today. It is as if there are many competing voices in the Bible. Each faction trying to teach the world what rules, laws, and understandings are important for a healthy thriving community.

More than two millenia ago, in answer to the question about the precepts of the Torah, Rabbi Hillel once said,”that the Torah teaches us to treat others as we ourselves wold wish to be treated.” Today many call that law the Golden Rule. Yet the news of the day leaves you knowing  that humanity still has quite the ways to go, in that department.

It still appears that the factions found in the Bible still seem not to be able to agree on which path society needs to take. Yet the concept of justice as the ultimate in a society is still the goal that needs to be reached. Maybe those who wrote the Bible, were wise enough to know that society would change, and its idea of justice would change with it. Perhaps those that wrote the Bible understood that justice would grow, and develop, as society grew with its proper understanding of right from wrong.

One thing that  those who wrote the Bible knew, was that law can be used for good or for evil. It is why basic law is spelled out very clearly. With the Ten Commandments there are no if, ands, or buts. The Biblical authors  knew that humans control the law. If humans are good, then the law is good. If humans are evil, then they codify their evil as good law. Humans can make of law what they will.

804px-blake_jacobsladderBut justice, justice is something to be strived to accomplish. That justice is a positive force no matter the make up of those in power or those writing the laws. In seeking justice, it is our actual attempt at climbing the angel’s ladder to try to meet God’s expectations. And for some reason, some extremely human reason,  we work and work at it, until we get it right.

Interestingly justice is considered the ultimate human achievement throughout the world:

It is why Hindu’s are reborn.

It is why Buddhists seek nirvana.

Christians and Moslems are punished with Hell for violating its precepts.

Jews are punished through their children, and with leaving a legacy of shame.

The problem that we as human beings have however, is that we cannot always agree on what is truly just. It seems the Bible’s factions are have followed us into the modern era.

Perhaps that is why there is so much injustice in this world. Not because we are being punished by an omnipotent being for the sins of Eve and Adam eating from the Tree of Knowledge, but because we ourselves, lack an understanding of what justice truly means not simply in the abstract, but in the absolute.

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Book Review: The Devil’s Triangle by Catherine Coulter and J.T.Ellison (A Brit in the FBI novel)

Da Vinci, Tesla, Venice, Turkey, London, Cuba, the FBI, The Knights Templar, Etruscans, the Bermuda Triangle, archaeology, and the Ark of the Covenant. Peaked your interest? Good. This book is a rip roaring good time.

In The Devil’s Triangle,  the latest in the “Brit in the FBI” series, we find our dynamic duo, fresh the20devil27s20triangleoff the gambit that saved the President and Vice President of the United States. They have been tasked with a special assignment- keeping the country safe in circumstances when no one else could do the job..

Then out of the blue, in the middle of setting up their new shop, our reluctant heroes, Nicholas and Mike, are called by their old friend and nemesis Kitsune. She brings them into a world of murder, Biblical prophecy, climate change, and out and out batshit crazy. All of these events are triggered because she, as usual, has just stolen something priceless.

Meanwhile, the weather is not something to take lightly. Mother nature, no matter how hard humanity tries, cannot be tamed. We can only learn how to live with her, and at times survive her wrath. But what if someone had found a way to tame her? What if some diabolical genius had found a way to make mother nature do his bidding? What if, what we thought was changing the weather, climate change, was in effect, a scheme in order to fund the search for the sacred Ark of the Covenant?

Filled with mesmerizing action sequences, beautiful Italian scenery, and the illusions of ancient tunnels, we follow Nicholas, Mike, and their team, on their investigation through the twists and turns created by abjectly brilliant evil. We find entitled people who think that they, and they alone, are gifted to find what history has lost. Those who, like any other criminal, have no forethought for others, or the collateral damage they cause through their search for the ultimate prize.

Like the old fashioned Saturday morning cinema serials, yes, think Indiana Jones,  Catherine Coulter and J.T.Ellison  ratchet up the fun. You will not be able to put this book down.

 

The book is available March 14, 2017.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Witch Hunter’s Sister by Beth Underdown

The premise of any good historical novel is that it transports you back into the era in which it occurs. The Witch Hunter’s Sister, by Beth Underdown, is one such novel. From the moment you begin reading you feel as if you are a part of the world of 1645. You know what it is like to walk to streets of London, and traverse the idyll English countryside.

31377300You understand the day to day grind of life. You learn what it is to be poor, rich, and a rising merchant. You understand the politics of the era, and you are caught up in the plight of the people effected by strife, hunger, and disease. We learn about religious wars, famine, and uncertainty of life that so frightened the average person to the point that they would condemn their lifelong neighbors to a horrible death.

The heroine of our story Alice Hopkins, takes us on her journey as a recently widowed pregnant young woman, and the travails that she must endure. We learn of a woman’s place in society. We learn what is expected of her. We learn above all, what made women singularly vulnerable to the toxic beliefs that so permeated that time period.

The Witch Hunter’s Sister is taken from the actual diaries of Mathew Hopkins. A true witch hunter of the day, who personally condemned over 100 women to the gallows. You are brought into Mathew’s world, of power, intrigue, and fervor. You learn of the incessant obsession, and the fear that it engendered throughout the countryside.

Any reader who is fascinated by the stories of the Salem Witch Trials, will be drawn into this novel. For before Salem, there truly was Mathew Hopkins.

This book will be available March2, 2017.

 

 

On Writing: Time, Dreams, Yearnings, Hope

They say timing is everything. But maybe its finding the time that is the problem, not timing per se. You need to decide what is, and is not important. You need to decide what do you really want to accomplish? Then you need to decide simply…what is it that you want to say.source

But first, let’s talk about time. Not so much time for just writing, even though that does seem to be a problem lately. But time in general.

Time is a visceral object. It is something anyone can touch and manipulate. No I am not talking about time travel, even though that would be fun I think. And no I do not need to go on a tangent and discuss time paradoxes, or loops, at this moment, even though a discussion on those topics always leads to animated discussions.

I am talking about time as something you can use to your benefit. Yes, yes, yes, there is only so much time in a day, yada yada yada. But that day can be scheduled, primed, puffed and primped to fit whatever you need to do into those 24 hours, and yes, you even get to sleep. Well a little bit maybe.

Time is something quantifiable. Meaning we know how much we have of it. We have the 24 hour clock, with about 8 hours (if we are lucky) of sleep. Within that time period we have to eat, dress, work, clean our houses, grocery shop, and then figure out what to do with our leisure period.

Without a doubt, if you are like me, you don’t really have a leisure period of simply sitting. You need to be busy all the “time.” So then instead of leisure, let’s call it productive time. As opposed to what you have to do to pay the bills, which is work, or the running of your household. Something you do because it has to be done in order to have the time to do what you really want to do.

No not “time to follow your passions.”

It is so cliched to say “time to follow your passion.” For some people their work is their passion. So no, it is not about creating time for your passion. But time for you to do what it is that brings you joy, or hope, or fulfills a desire.  And yes, for some that is work. For their desire is to be rich, and for some they can never be rich enough. (Sadly that is a sickness we can discuss at another time as well)

You need to ask yourself, exactly what is it that you desire? And no “50 Shades of Grey” metaphors here please. I talk about real desires, real hopes and real needs. Remember, as the more subdued women among us  point out, if Christian Grey lived in a trailer park, instead of being a billionaire, what he does in those books would land him in prison…..

Sometimes feminists, even the third and fourth wave feminists, with their inane “intersectionality,” and “cultural relativism” that leaves behind the most needy of all women, third world women, do have it right. Again, another subject for another time, too. (These off kilter topics do seem to be adding up. So much for the proficient use of my time.)

So once, you have set down your time periods, okay let’s call it “a schedule,” then what?  Did you find time to write? More importantly, did you find time to dream? Did you find time to explore? Did you find time to amuse yourself with your thoughts, hopes, and yearnings? Did you find time to play with your life, and allow yourself joy?

Now writing is dreaming in a way. It also takes time if done properly. It is an adventure that we don’t necessarily dare ourselves to develop in our  awakened world. We have our dreams, our stories, our thoughts to put down on paper (parchment or digital) that push us in a direction that we need, want, pine, to go.

Did you give yourself time to flush out all the aspects of your dream? Did you explore the colors of the flowers, the sun, the sea, and the wind? Did you obsess too much about the wrong prong of your journey, leaving vulnerable the ultimate destruction of your story?

Did you take the time to dream through where your thoughts are going, and how they should be permanently fixed? Or did you give yourself permission to dissimulate, and promise to seek the answers that you know are hidden far into the reaches of your subconscious. Did you incorporate all your ideas from the nether regions hidden behind the mask that is your soul?

Ask yourself:

How brave are you really?

Do you even dare?

What is it that you would do with your productive time?

Think about that before you begin.

Time.

Dreams.

Courage.

But of course, first we must start with our time.

What to do with it. How to shape it.

Remember time in and of itself, is not our enemy. An empty dream is our own worst enemy. Having no place to go. No desires. No wants. No human thoughts. No human need for persistence. No hope.

We all need hope.

Especially in our dreams.

Find the time to hope within your dreams.

Do not let the hope die. Then dreams will die. Once our dreams die, all that we are as humans die as well, whether, within, or without time.

Book Review: AYURVEDA-Lifestyle Wisdom by Acharya Shunya

If you are looking for an interesting book that will help you in revamping your healthcare, eating habits, exercise regime, and even your sex life, then the book by Acharya Shunya, AYUREVEDA- Lifestyle Wisdom, is for you. Based upon the Indian prescription, and 5,000 year old ancient religious practices, known as the “knowledge of life,” this book promotes  “vigorous and 82204c_262311825e694bebb902e8b375d405ddmv2joyful health consciousness.”  The author discusses the natural aspects of  life, the seasons, and our “lifestyle clock.” Her goal is to help you tune into your own essential rhythms.

What is interesting about this book, is that it reminds me of the order of the rhythms of life upon which all ancient belief systems are based. There is a respect, and an understanding of how the Earth works. We learn how we may incorporate that knowledge into our existence so that we are able to find out  what is truly best for ourselves.

This book allows us to explore how to make ourselves into healthier, happier human beings as we recognize the world around us. Interestingly, what this book brought to mind was that so much of this ancient wisdom is not unlike the daily exercises and rules that are a part of any western religion such as Judaism, Christianity or Islam. There is a beat to the world, and this book helps you embrace that flow.

The book begins with a discussion of early morning wakefulness. What time you should wake, preferably before the sun comes up, so you can greet the dawn with the “sun salutations.” If you have ever taken yoga this discussion will be very familiar. But what struck me here, is the prescription for prayer. Remember, the sun salutation in reality is part of a prayer regime, that we in the west have decided to ignore. Again I heard the call of our monotheistic forbearers, where every morning, to this very day, practicing Jews, Moslems and Christians rise early to say morning prayer. We are reminded of the ancient wisdom of the need to awake early in order to basically welcome, and great the day with joy.

There is a discussion about natural eating, sleep cycles, sexual desire, and beauty/hygiene rituals. This is an all-encompassing look into our own day-to-day world. The author gently challenges us to analyze simply what we are doing wrong in our own lives, and she then gives us a prescription so that we can positively change for the better. There is a discussion about the coalescence of Ayurveda and modern day science. Simply put, the author proves that her method really does work in a very contemporary sense.

Moreover, the sacred is very much a part of this regime. The purveyor learns to understand what is holy, and special about the world in which we live. You learn to appreciate your own importance, and to give to yourself the right to be part of the world. You are taught the essence of listening to your own soul, your body clock, that little inner voice, telling you that you matter.

This book points you in the right direction to teach you how to bring yourself back into focus with the natural world.

In the appendix you find some wonderful nourishing recipes for food that will not only make you feel better, but will help you sleep, and even up your hygiene regime. You will learn about the positive aspects of spices, legumes, and tea. You will understand how sleep schedules and seasonal cycles work, and what they necessitate. Basically everything your doctor has been telling you to do for years, is right here at your fingertips. It is all easily explained and mapped out.

The question is whether you, the reader, are ready to embrace the change.

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Book Review: Mangrove Lightning by Randy Wayne White

Years ago I went on vacation to a rather lovely spot in Florida called Fort Myers, Sanibel Island. I had no idea that it actually had a very sordid, and lurid history surrounding prohibition, gun running, and slavery. I guess the old adage that you learn something new everyday needs to be remembered, and remembered well.

mangrove_lightning_360hcRandy Wayne White writes a terrific crime series based upon the exploits of his dark protagonist Doc Ford. A biologist with some crazy skill sets, which he obviously did not learn in the confines of a lab. Along with Ford’s near-do-well associate, they uncover some grizzly and gruesome realities about the era of flappers, Al Capone, and illegal Chinese immigration. It all comes back to haunt them in the series latest thriller Mangrove Lightning.

The adventure begins in the Bahamas as Ford chases a child pornographer, then skips to rescuing a British royal, before he comes back to his old haunts on Sanibel Island where he ends up saving his lost lady love. Along the way, interest is peaked in a decades old murder of a lawman and his family, the federal government regulation of protected land, and a modern day chase of a serial killer. You are welcomed into a world that very few actually know exists, never mind the fact that very few in our modern society even want to bother to venture through.

It is murky. It is unpleasant. And yes, at times, it is very sad.

It is also a question of the occult, of spirits, of the possession by evil.

Within the story itself,  are twists and turns galore for any thrill reader and crime aficionado. There is none stop action. Moreover, there is no guessing as to the outcome. It doesn’t end the way you think it should end. It is real life, and not everything is always wrapped up in neat little boxes.

If you enjoy books dedicated to the  “thrill of the hunt.” This book is for you.

 

Book Review: My Jewish Year by Abigail Pogrebin

Throughout our lives, we take different paths. We seek new adventures. We struggle through different times and quests. It is our way of understanding who we are, and where my-jewish-year-cover_border_-e1470686893732we come from. This is the story of one such journey. My Jewish Year is the tale of Abigail Pogrebin’s search for a deeper understanding of her own Jewish soul.

Abigail sets out to understand the Jewish holiday year. Not as a biblical study, as other authors have done. But in a very American, let me delve deeper into my ancestry, kind of trek. Now, the way, of course, to accomplish this task, was to celebrate each and every holiday throughout one year. The reader will be surprised to know that there are 18 (sort of) Jewish holidays, to which we are introduced.

Well the truth is, you will actually learn, that the most important holiday for the Jewish people, is the weekly Shabbat. So in reality, there are just so many more Jewish holidays than 18, but our author chose to only allow us into a few of her Sabbath celebrations, even though she kept Shabbat every week.

As most Jewish-Americans know, the only time most of us enter a synagogue or temple, is on Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur. We celebrate Hanukkah at home, sometimes there is a party at our children’s Hebrew school. Meanwhile, surprisingly the most celebrated Jewish holiday in the US is Passover. Now that doesn’t mean your local house of worship doesn’t request your presence at these celebrations. It’s just simply that most of us, do not go.

But Abigail takes us on her journey through the holidays of Tisha B’Av, Tzom Gedaliah and Tu’Bishvat. She enlightens us with her thoughts on Holocaust Memorial Day,  Israel’s Independence Day, and Israel’s Memorial Day. We study all night long with her during Shavuot. We decide, along with the author, whether we prefer the four glasses of wine at Passover, or during the Tu’bishvat seder (hint: Passover wins). We hear about the murder of the Judean governor Gedaliah, and our hearts ache for Yitzchak Rabin. We live through the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Holy Temples, not once during the year, but twice. And our souls cry out.

It is as if the history of the Jewish people is one of never-ending tragedy, sadness, alienation, and longing. But then, as we always do, we Jews seek out the joy. There is the gleeful dancing on Simchat Torah, and the almost whirling dervishness of Purim. And throughout there seems to be a considerable amount of single malt scotch. Why scotch? Somehow Abigail never really got an answer to that one. But personally,  I think it’s a generational thing. For my grandparents it was either shnapps, or slivovitz.

We get a glimpse of  the tumult of Jewish life in the United States, along with the heartfelt and angst, love, fear, and grief associated with our attachment to the State of Israel. For this book is written during the summer of 2014, during Israel’s last war with Hamas. When so many of us, as I was, were glued to social media, needing, wanting, yearning for some small bit of information coming out of Israel and Gaza. I remember all too well, how my heart spent that summer broken into so many pieces.

We learn with her the liturgy and bear witness to her discussions with rabbis and educators and friends. We marvel at the fact of the six, yes six, fast days. Since most of us have a hard time even completing the one on Yom Kippur.

We meet Abigail’s family. Her husband, her children. We are welcomed into their home and into her heart. We feel what her family feels as her father-in-law passes away. We meet her feminist firebrand mother, Letty Cotten Pogrebin. Abigail reminds us that so much of what she is today, whether as a woman, or as a Jew, is because of the gifts her parents gave her.

Abigail actually begins her sojourn by telling a story about her mother. She recounts how when her grandmother died, Letty’s father would not let her sit shiva for her mother, as women “do not count” in the minion, or prayer group. This is partially what led to her own mother’s feminism, and a search for a way to fulfill her own Judaism and womanhood.

The interesting point here is that I had actually read about that time in Letty Pogrebin’s life decades ago, in her own book Deborah, Golda and Me. Of course, when that book was published, Ms. Magazine was a household idea, and its cofounder, Gloria Steinem, Letty’s compatriot, was a national icon.

Life truly is different for those of us in Abigail’s generation. My mother too, made certain that her daughters, had a different upbringing than she had. My mother too, made certain that her daughters knew, that they counted, and that they were entitled to a Judaism that counted them as well. My mother, the rebel, was the first woman to carry the Sefer Torah in our synagogue on Simchat Torah.

I have to tell everyone that I simply loved this book. In truth, I cried as I read most of it. I identified so strongly with Abigail, and her journey through her Jewish Year. She was seeking answers, for which so many of us search. She was trying to understand a part of herself, that modern society forces us in so many ways, to hide from ourselves. She gave herself the time, the right, and the ability to seek out the unseen. To ask the questions that lurk in the back of every Jewish, and even every non-Jewish soul, when it comes to the eternal question of  Hashem, God, the Universe and the Divine.

I think I cried because as I read Abigail’s book,  I knew that I was not alone in what I yearned to understand. You see, I am the parent of two special needs young men. I used to say, when you parent special needs children, there are so many times, you feel utterly and completely alone. Cut off from the world, society, and everything that you once believed possible. Even in my quest to understand the Jewish part of my life, I never felt I belonged anywhere. This book allowed me to see, that I am not alone in my need to understand all that I am, from where I came, and to try to understand what it all means, so I can figure out just where I am going.

Ultimately, I think I also cried reading this book, because of the most Jewish of all lessons that Abigail learned along the way. She reminds us to cherish those we love today. To take nothing for granted. To make sure those that you love, know that you love them. Take time for them. Enjoy them. Give them your all.

You see, it’s been a year and a half since I buried my mother. Four years since I buried my father.They would have loved Abigail’s book. We would have had the best time talking about every chapter, every point, and the nuance of all the holidays. I simply miss them everyday.

Finally, Abigail’s book opens up so many possibilities in my own world, that I know it is a book I will read, and reread. There are profound, vexing, and controversial views into Judaism, from so many different perspectives that it is a thoroughly, and entirely engaging book. And yes, ultimately, she does ask more questions than are ever actually answered, but isn’t that in the end, the truly Jewish way of things?