April 15, 2012
“One Hundred Great Jewish Books: Three Millennia of Jewish Conversation” by Rabbi Larry Hoffman
I have known Rabbi Larry Hoffman for 35 years as my teacher and friend – and like fine wine, he just gets better with age. Larry is as comprehensive a scholar and as keen an observer of the contemporary Jewish condition as there is in America today.
His most recent book (his 32nd) is One Hundred Great Jewish Books: Three Millennia of Jewish Conversation (published by Blue Bridge, 2011). Larry has read so much and seems not to have forgotten anything he has ever learned. An excellent writer, Rabbi Hoffman is a superb synthesizer of the vast corpus of Jewish material available.
This book excites even as it exhausts. Larry’s list is a veritable guide to among the greatest Jewish books ever written over the course of 3500 years. As he reviews each work in 3 or 4 pages, he shines a light not only on the importance of the book itself as a representative of an aspect of the Jewish whole, but articulates the most important ideas and developments each brought to the fore in their respective times and places. Throughout this work Larry asks serious questions about what we have been as a people, where our greatest ideas have come from, who we are today as a result, and what we must do going forward.
For those who might be worried about the viability of the Jewish people - Don’t! We are not an “ever-dying people” (as the Jewish philosopher Simon Rawidowicz once remarked). To the contrary, Larry’s book attests that the life of the Jewish heart, mind and soul is ever vital.