Jewish Journal

If I stopped shaving and lived like an Israelite

by Brad A. Greenberg

October 15, 2007 | 4:33 pm

A clever review of A.J. Jacobs comical book, “The Year of Living Biblically.”

If I were to write this review while trying to live biblically, here are some of the rules I would have to follow:

Love thy neighbor. Jacobs is a fellow journalist and thus a neighbor of sorts. I would have to strive to be as generous as possible, and point out right at the outset that this book is an inspired idea and that Jacobs is alarmingly adept at keeping the joke alive for 365 days.

Thou shalt not covet. I would have to confess my jealousy that Jacobs already had a movie contract in place before the book had even been published, and that even though I have spent much more time around young-earth creationists than he has, he thought of a much funnier way to describe them (people who believe in an earth that’s “barely older than Gene Hackman”).

Thou shalt not bear false witness. I would have to admit that every once in a while, as he wrote about walking down some New York street in a shepherd’s robe strumming his 10-string harp, or throwing small stones at a random suspected sinner, or eating crickets or burning myrrh each morning, I thought to myself, What’s the point, really?

But having a point is slightly beside the point. Jacobs is a stunt journalist, although that term seems belittling to the monumental self-improvement projects he subjects himself to. In his last book, “The Know-It-All,” Jacobs read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica in an attempt to make himself smarter than his showoff brother-in-law.

In “The Year of Living Biblically,” he attends to the soul, turning himself from a guy who is “Jewish in the way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant” into a follower of “the ultimate biblical life.” This means spending a year strictly following a typed list of more than 700 biblical rules, including the obscure (don’t wear garments of mixed fibers, bind money to your hand, pay the wages of your workers every day) and the potentially awkward (don’t touch your wife seven days after her “discharge of blood,” bathe after sex and don’t tell lies, in their many variations).

Read the rest of Hanna Rosin‘s review for The New York Times here.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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