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We're Missing the Point

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We're Missing the Point

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We're Missing the Point
What's Wrong with the Orthodox Jewish Community and How to Fix It
By Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein
OU Press, New York: 2012
Distributed by KTAV Publishing House
ISBN: 978-1-60280-202-5

Reviewed by Boris Segel - May 18, 2012

While we may not want to admit it, the Orthodox Jewish community, just like every other community in the world, has problems. Many of these problems, in the Jewish community, stem from the drive to follow the letter of the law without always caring about the spirit of these laws. While halachic practices are important, they are not, and should not be our only consideration. In We're Missing the Point, Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein points out some common problems that are currently facing the Orthodox community. Most important, he also provides solutions to these problems.

Years ago I read a study (sorry, I don't remember the title) that basically stated that Baalei t'shuvah (those raised in non-orthodox homes who choose to become Orthodox Jews) were actually often more religious than individuals who were born orthodox. This was because many of those born into orthodoxy tended to practice their faith by rote rather than in seeking the deeper religious meaning behind Halachic practices. They also tended to spend more time striving to do everything perfectly, rather than striving to make a connection with HaShem. Baalei t'shuvah's on the other hand, come into Orthodoxy seeking a spiritual and meaningful connection with G-d, one that is obtained via following Halachic practices and with an open heart that seeks to understand what they are doing, rather than simply doing it.

In this book, Rothstein reinforces this earlier study, indicating that many orthodox individuals are more concerned with saying their prayers as quickly as possible, rather than pondering what these prayers mean and how they serve to connect the individual with the divine. Rothstein indicates in the book's introduction that the main purpose of this book is to help people to learn to relate to G-d on a spiritual and productive basis.
"In short, my thesis is: We, many or most of us, are missing the point. G-d gave the world (Jews and non-Jews) a manual for how best to serve G-d, but few if any of us are even on the right track . . . The good news is how easy the right track is to find; it mostly involves changing our frame of mine . . . " (Pg 12.)
Using traditional sources, Rothstein provides a clear and practical guide that will help the reader to rediscover the spiritual underpinnings of Judaism, and in so doing so, to form a stronger bond with HaShem. The text is divided into two parts. Part I: We're Missing the Point and Part II: The Necessity of Autonomy. In part one, the author focuses on the fundamentals of Jewish halachah, from differentiating between the positive and negative aspects of religious space to discerning what G-d wants of us. Whereas in part two the author strives to show how to break the ritualistic rut and become a more spiritually driven Jew, and how we can raise children that are spiritually driven as well. This second section covers a diverse range of topics from finding our path to serving G-d to reexamining Jewish education, both in the home and at in the school setting.

This is a book that you might not like, but don't feel as if Rothstein is chastising anyone or saying that anybody is doing anything wrong. Rather, he is just pointing the way toward a more rewarding and spiritual methodology than one that simply focuses on the ritualistic features of Judaism. He is also providing guidance that will help you to understand and appreciated the reasons behind the various Halachic practices that are so much a part of every day Jewish life. Personally, I found We're Missing the Point to be an eye opening and life changing book. There were many aspects in my own life that I've made a decision to change after viewing some of my practices through the prism of this book. Most important, I think that by focusing a little bit more on the spiritual aspects of halachah (law) rather than just on 'doing things right' simply makes life more enjoyable and more fulfilling. Read this book and see what it says to you - you might be surprised at just how much of an impact that this book has on your life!

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