If you are a teacher, parent or friend to someone wishing to learn more about their Jewish heritage, then you have probably been asked various questions about Jewish living and Jewish values. While some questions may have been easy to answer, others have been harder. However, it was on a Yom Kippur afternoon in the Radlett Centre when Rabbi Leo Dee was asked what is probably the most important question for any Jew: ‘Rabbi, isn’t the Torah just an ancient text that is out of date and irrelevant in our modern age?’.
This question – which should be presented to every Rabbi, Rebbetzin & Jewish educator when applying for a new job – gets to the roots of Jewish living. However, few people are actually prepared to ask this question, and few educators are necessarily prepared to answer it. As Rabbi Dee explains, ‘in the microsecond after he uttered those words, I sensed a level of relieved endorsement from within the packed auditorium. This was clearly a question that others had wanted to ask, but none had had the guts to pose.’ So how did this dynamic and thoughtful Rabbi answer this question? To find out, you’ll need to buy Transforming the World: The Jewish Impact on Modernity.
This refreshing book contains 66 short essays in which Rabbi Dee addresses this question from three different perspectives: How does the Torah transform my life for the better? How does the Torah transform the wider world for the better? What is the future of the Jewish people in a modern world? In each essay Rabbi Dee highlights how Judaism has transformed the world as we know it, and he explores ideas connected with education, charity, Shabbat, justice and much more. Though the book is primarily pitched towards teenagers and young adults, it is a book that, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes in his approbation, can ‘inspire young and not-so-young Jews alike’.
Transforming the World provides a clear description of how Judaism has changed the world for the better, and it offers compelling arguments for Jews to be proud of their Jewish heritage.
This review originally appeared in Rabbi Johnny Solomon’s weekly newsletter.