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Gateway to Judaism

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Gateway to Judaism

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Gateway to Judaism
The What, How, and Why of Jewish Life
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher
Artscroll/Shaar Press - Mesorah Publications, New York: 2007
ISBN 13: 978-1-4226-0030-0

Reviewed by Herbert White - October 8, 2007

From unaffiliated Jews just looking to learn about their heritage, to those looking to make Teshuvah and become more observant, you need, first of all, a reliable source of information from which to begin your studies. While in-person instruction is always the most desirable path, it is not always possible. For those that either cannot, or are not yet ready, to study with someone in person, I can recommend no better book than Rabbi Mordechai Becher's Gateway to Judaism: The What, How, and Why of Jewish Life as a starting point for your journey into Judaism.

Written with candor, humor, and keen insights, R' Becher introduces the reader to the basics of Judaism - covering topics ranging from the calendar and marriage to keeping kosher and Torah study. R' Becher's writing is inspiring and the methodology he uses in the book is unique. In addition to presenting the basic facts and 'rules' of Judaism, he also explains the why and how of these facts, and he illustrates how these facts are incorporated into everyday Jewish life. In addition, throughout the book, you will meet the Levy family. R' Becher uses this semi-mythical family to show Judaism in action via engrossing vignettes that show the family going through the Jewish year, from how they prepare for Rosh Hashana, both physically and spiritually, to such Jewish activities as giving charity.

R' Becher's writing is authoritative, and it provides an orthodox view of Judaism. The text is divided into three main sections.
  1. Time
    This section covers the Jewish Life Cycle, from birth through death, as well as providing an overview of the Jewish Calendar and the major holidays.

  2. Place
    The second section in this book deals with two pivotal issues in Judaism - the Torah and Israel.

  3. Self
    The final section in this book deals with how Jews should act, Jewish thought and faith, and prayers and blessings.
Throughout, readers will find suggestions for 'further reading' that will prove invaluable to anyone looking to explore the topics discussed in the book in more detail. As well, this book serves as a handy reference for anyone doing kiruv as well as teachers and just about anyone who could use guidance on how to answer questions posed by individuals just beginning to reconnect to their Jewish roots. In addition, the information in this book is well documented, enabling readers of all levels, the ability to refer to the source documents which R' Becher references in the text.

Gateway to Judaism is a friendly, readable, and concise introduction to Judaism that serves as both guidebook and a reference book. This book is for anyone seeking to reconnect to their Jewish roots, or for those seeking to understand the unbreakable connection between modern Jewry and its historic past. In short, this book is essential reading and it should be on the bookshelf of every Jewish home and library.

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