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The Woman Who Laughed at God: The Untold History of the Jewish People (Compass) [Paperback]

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Item description for The Woman Who Laughed at God: The Untold History of the Jewish People (Compass) by Jonathan Kirsch...

Outline ReviewJonathan Kirsch wants to answer the question, "Who is a Jew?" and in The Woman Who Laughed at God, he comes to some gracious, broad-minded conclusions. Kirsch rejects definitions of Judaism based on "a set of commandments literally written in stone." Instead, he offers stories of chutzpah through the ages, beginning with Abraham (who argued with God) and Sarah (who laughed at Him), demonstrating that "Judaism has been defined by generation upon generation of courageous men and women who felt both inspired and empowered to reimagine and reinvent what it means to be a Jew." Kirsch argues by telling stories--of Maccabee freedom fighters, of ecstatic mystics, of kibbutzers who feasted on "kosher pigs." Although his essential point--that diversity, not orthodoxy, is the hallmark of true Judaism--is not a new one, it still bears repeating. Kirsch, author of the bestselling The Harlot by the Side of the Road, writes with such flair, ranging over a wide variety of characters, that his lively style elevates his conventional premise. --Michael Joseph Gross

Product Description
Who is a Jew? In this colorful, eye-opening work, bestselling author and lecturer Jonathan Kirsch takes us on a three-thousand-year tour of Jewish identity and diversity and offers answers to this complex and difficult question. Kirsch reveals that Judaism has never been a religion of strict and narrow orthodoxy. For every accepted tradition in Jewish faith there are countertraditions rooted in biblical antiquity: the Maccabee freedom fighters who closed the Bible and picked up swords, dervish-like ecstatics who claimed to enjoy direct communication with God even after they had been excommunicated by a distrustful rabbinate, and courageous men and women who were the forgotten heroes of the Holocaust. With drama and narrative verve, Kirsch explores these and many other "Judaisms" that make up the rich tapestry of Jewish identity.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Pages   352
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.5"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 31, 2002
Publisher   Penguin (Non-Classics)
ISBN  0142196118  
ISBN13  9780142196113  
UPC  051488015000  

Availability  0 units.

More About Jonathan Kirsch

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Jonathan Kirsch, a book columnist for the Los Angeles Times and author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Moses: A Life and The Harlot by the Side of the Road, writes and lectures widely on biblical, literary, and legal topics. A member of the National Book Critics Circle, President of PEN Center USA West, and a former correspondent for Newsweek, he lives in Los Angeles.

Jonathan Kirsch currently resides in Los Angeles, in the state of California. Jonathan Kirsch was born in 1949.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Jewish > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Jewish
3Books > Subjects > History > World > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > History of Religion
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

Christian Product Categories
Books > Church & Ministry > Church Life > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Woman Who Laughed at God: The Untold History of the Jewish People (Compass)?

A Wonderful Introduction to the History of a People  Apr 3, 2007
When I undertook a study of Judasim, I plowed through dozens of dense, dry books until I came upon this book. It's a delightful, light read that left me knowing far more than when I started.

I'm ready to read it again.
Informative for the Uninformed...Maybe  Aug 1, 2006
Kirsch's revelation (sic) that Judaism has a long history of diversity and myriad interpretations is old news by roughly 3500 years [Note to Jonathan: that is the definition of Midrash in the first place.] Repetetive exclamations! that biblical writers tried to conceal, whitewash, or censor this or that bit of information are presented in a tabloid style as often as not citing sloppy research or questionable scholarship. Newcomers to biblical inquiry may pick up a few nuggests of basic information here, but for my money Mr. Kirsh would be well advised to pay more attention to his serious subject than to selling books to supplement his income.
nothing but good things to say...  Feb 15, 2006
great writer, great overview of jewish history, great book overall! for anyone looking to start learning about the history of jewish people, this book is a great primer. i truly enjoyed reading this book and finished it over a single weekend. after reading THE WOMAN WHO LAUGHED... i feel competent and confident in picking up other books that delve deeper into more specific aspects of history.

i highly recommend this book...
If there is a "true" Judaism, it is as diverse as Judaism itself.  May 21, 2005
Kirsch succeeds in provoking the reader to consider both the historical uncertainties of the Biblical texts' mosaic and their historical and contemporary interpretations. At first glance, Kirsch appears to rely on alternative, "out-of-the-box" analysts, but his arguments are more than well founded on contemporary and historical notions within Judaism's main traditions. The book succeeds in sparking discussion and engaging the reader in alternative perspectives on less-than-settled issues that normative trends would have us think otherwise.
not what it could have been  Apr 14, 2005
One need only read the first few paragraphs of "The Woman Who Laughed at God" to realize that Mr. Kirsch's agenda in his "Untold History of the Jewish People" is to convince the reader that there really is no such thing as traditional Judaism. The way in which he attempts to prove this hypothesis, however, is as muddled as this statement which appears on page two: "After three thousand years of rich and daring innovation, an argument can be made that diversity rather than orthodoxy is the real core value of Judaism...." Although diversity may be thought of as a value, orthodoxy is not - it is a position - thus one thing can't be compared to the other. In any event, the fundamental "core value" of Judaism is not diversity itself, but the mindset that we are commanded to have that welcomes diversity: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am God" (Leviticus 19:18). That this is the foundation of everything in Judaism is underlined by the following Talmudic story:

A non-Jew once came to Hillel (a sage who lived 2,000 years ago) and said, "I would like to become a Jew on the condition that you tell me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel replied, "Don't do to others what you wouldn't like to be done to you. This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary. Now go and learn it."

Unfortunately Mr Kirsch does not appear to have learned much Torah, for "The Woman Who Laughed at God" reveals fundamental misunderstandings and superficial interpretations of biblical texts on virtually every page. As the extensive bibliography does not even include the Talmud, which apparently Mr. Kirsch didn't bother consulting, nor any of the many classic Torah commentaries readily available to the public in modern translations, it's no wonder that the result is yet another misguided reinterpretation of Judaism.

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