Friday, June 09, 2023

Reviewing “Ceremony & Celebration: Introduction to the Holidays” by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Maggid Books, an imprint of Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd. Hardcover, 336 pages, 2017. ISBN 978-1-59264-025-6.

What does it mean to forgive, and be forgiven? Why is there so much joy during the holiday of Sukkot? Why does Shavuot not have a fixed date specified in the Torah? In his latest contribution to an impressive Jewish book collection, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks answers these questions, along with many others, while exploring and explaining the thoughts behind the five most major Jewish holidays. In “Ceremony & Celebration: Introduction to the Holidays,” Rabbi Sacks examines each of the key Jewish holidays that are mentioned in the Torah: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot. Devoting a chapter to each one, Rabbi Sacks takes the reader on a journey through Tanach-era texts, a history of Jewish practices and philosophical thoughts. He seeks to answer questions that readers may have about the holidays while also providing new information about the practices to which we are accustomed. The end result is a richly detailed, informative book that is a perfect prelude to each of the five holidays.

Rabbi Sacks has in recent years become a household name among Jewish families. The former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005 and received the title of Lord in 2009. He has written over 30 books, including a new English translation and commentary to the Koren Sacks Siddur. The powerful introductions that he wrote for his Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot Machzorim have been compiled in “Ceremony & Celebration.” Rabbi Sacks’ reputation as a profound speaker and author are well deserved, as seen in his new title, “Ceremony & Celebration” which introduces thought-provoking questions about Jewish practice and slowly works out the answers. Throughout his explanation of the background of the holidays, Rabbi Sacks shows the value that the holidays once held, and why they still matter to Judaism today. Never demeaning, he describes concepts that readers may have thought they already knew well with new insight. “Ceremony & Celebration” is a fresh way for both fans of Rabbi Sacks and new readers to get into the spirit of each holiday.

By Ariella Shua


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