Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ben Meah Shanim

Back in 1996, shortly after being elected Prime Minister for the first time, Bibi went to the US. He spoke to Congress and in a number of other places. I remember we were in Israel and followed him from afar.

At one talk before Jewish leaders, he recommended that every newly married Jewish couple be given a library of ten basic Jewish books. The first, he said, should be a Tanach, of course, and the rest he'd leave to the experts.

As it happened, cousins of ours, newly married, were visiting Israel at that very moment as part of their honeymoon. They weren't very observant or Jewishly learned, and my parents mentioned Bibi's idea to R' Rakeffet when we were eating with him one day and asked what he thought we should give them.

It doesn't get the recognition it deserves, he said, but the single best book on Judaism out there is Herman Wouk's This Is My God. So we got it and gave it to our cousins, and by their account they enjoyed it a lot and learned a lot from it.

I actually own a few copies, including some first editions and a Hebrew translation, and it is indeed a wonderful book, excellently written and with great content. Today Wouk is being celebrated for his novels, but some mention of this work should be made as well. Someone once quoted a YU rosh yeshiva as saying you even need to say Birkat HaTorah on it. Maybe so...