December 18, 2012
by Fred Isaac
In this book author Ira Bedzow combines poetry and short essays on a variety of themes. These themes include Torah drashot, verses on a number of important topics, and personal statements. Taken as a group, they provide a personal statement with significant insight.
The first two-thirds of this small book contain Bedzow’s “Poems.” Beginning from Torah, he expands to comment on various issues, including the ways in which we communicate (and sometimes fail to do so); the meaning of Tzaddik; and the various emotions, sentiments and comments that swirl around the synagogue.
Many of the statements are evocative; we see people we know, and we recognize the large and small figures they cast upon us and others. The rest of the writings in this volume are labeled “Remarks and Reflections.” They are mostly vignettes taken from the author’s life, covering everything from the uses of Calculus to the value of lay leadership over professional clergy. Bedzow watches people closely: he sees how they act and how others react to them, and he remembers other instances that may or may not be similar. From these small pieces, which the reader may well recognize, he builds his corner of the world. By allowing us to look in on them, he gives us a chance to see our own common humanity.
While this is not a mandatory purchase, it would be a useful addition to libraries that collect personal statements and those that buy books of poetry. It is accessible to high school students as well as adults, and may stimulate important discussions in classrooms and around dinner tables.
This review first appeared in the December 2012 issue of the AJL newsletter.
February 27, 2012
by Eli K.
This generation has witnessed a proliferation of Torah literature, from Halachic treatises to Biblical exegeses. Yet despite the outpouring of Jewish religious books, there is a major vacuum in Orthodox literature – the absence of religious poetry. Well, I am happy to tell you that a good friend of mine, Rabbi Ira Bedzow, has begun to fill that void.
In Things Overheard in the Synagogue, Rabbi Bedzow identifies religious, personal and social themes in a poetic style unparalleled in its ability to convey depth with simplicity. Simple observations lead to complex introspection; natural feelings compel sophisticated reflections; and common conversations inspire philosophical insights.
Although titled Things Overheard in the Synagogue, this book encompasses things overheard in the street, in the home, and things not overheard at all, but residing in the private, active mind of the author. The concept of memory is analyzed (page 32); social interactions are dissected (e.g. page 51); and Biblical passages come alive (e.g. page 16) as a range of human experience is expressed through the prism of a thoughtful religious scholar.
This book is sure to resonate with the thinking Orthodox Jew. Some of Rabbi Bedzow’s emotions strike a common chord and express what many of us feel but are perhaps reluctant or unable to properly express. Some of Rabbi Bedzow’s thoughts are novel and will catch the reader off guard. But all of them are eloquent and enjoyable to read.
The Orthodox world is indebted to Rabbi Bedzow for retrieving a long-lost art in rabbinic literature. I thought Orthodox poetry was dead, but, apparently, there is an individual valiantly attempting to resuscitate it.
This was posted on Provocative Perspectives.