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From Fasting to Feasting

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From Fasting to Feasting

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From Fasting to Feasting
A Unique Journey Through the Jewish Holidays
By Joe Bobker
Gefen Publishing House: Jerusalem and New York, (2008 / 5768)
ISBN: 978-965-229-378-7

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - December 8, 2008

From Fasting to Feasting: A Unique Journey Through the Jewish Holidays offers readers a fascinating, vibrant, and an educational journey through the Jewish Holidays. This book was written by Joe Bobker, a prolific writer who studied at the famed Mercaz HaRav Kook Yeshiva in Kiryat Moshe, Jerusalem. Full of warmth, wisdom, and large doses of humor, From Fasting to Feasting serves as an introduction to the Jewish holidays for those who are just learning about them. It is also filled with a wealth of keen insights and intriguing tidbits of information about the holidays that will delight and fascinate those who have observed them for years. In fact, you may well find yourself saying, "I never knew that!"

Working chronologically, Bobker begins his study of the holidays with Rosh Hashana, then moves onto Tzom Gedalia, Yom Kippur, Succos, Hoshana Rabba, Shemini Atzeres, Simchas Torah, Chanuka, Tu b'Shevat, Purim, Pesach, Sefira, Lag ba'Omer, Shavuos, The Three Weeks, Tisha b'Av, and lastly, Tu b'Av. For each holiday, Bobker explains a bit of its history, how it is celebrated and observed, its importance, and any special customs (minhag) associated with the particular holiday. Folkloric tidbits are also included, as are examples and stories from Bobker's own life and experiences. In the process of describing the holidays, Bobker also answers countless questions, from "Why exactly, is Rosh Hashana a two-day holiday?" to "How do you spell Chanuka, Chanukah, Hanukkah...?"

From Fasting to Feasting can be read many different ways, by readers of all ages and experiences. It can be read straight through as a general introduction to the Jewish holidays. It can be scanned by those looking for juicy tidbits of information to enliven a speech or dinner time conversation. You can use it as a pre-holiday refresher, as a joyful text to peruse when you have just a few moments of free time to read, or it can be used as a serious, yet relaxing, study aid. For those wishing to delve deeper into the history, meaning, and halacha (Jewish laws) associated with the holidays, Bobker has included generous footnotes that not only enhance the text, but which can be used as a guide for further study.

Whether you are just reconnecting with your Yiddishkeit (Jewishness) or you scrupulously celebrate every holiday - this book is for you. You will find that Bobker teaches new learners without being condescending or formalistic, while at the same time providing 'old hands' with new insights, inspiration, and information about the holidays. With wit and insightful banter, Bobker provides a unique and fresh perspective on the holidays that not only educates, but which will also help you to infuse your own celebration with a new sense of wonder and understanding about the Jewish calendar and the yearly journey that it guides us through that connects Jews from across the ages.

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