May 30, 2024
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Reviewing: “Meedos: The Jewish Guide to Building Character” by Moses Stein. Independently published. 2020. English. Paperback. 128 pages. ISBN-13: 979-8563361041.

Rav Yisrael Salanter famously said, “It is easier to go through all of Shas than to change just one character trait.” It is worth noting that he said that long before the notion of an 8-minute daf, in which one could conceivably cover all of the Talmud in 361 hours.

In “Meedos: The Jewish Guide to Building Character” (available on Amazon), Rabbi Moses Stein writes that meedos (internal character traits) and their development are fundamental aspects of Judaism.

In this monograph, Stein details 17 different character traits and how to make meaningful changes. From the characteristics of alacrity and arrogance to humility, modesty and more, Stein comes across more as a life coach and shows how improving one’s traits is both a religious and contemporary issue.

With much of the craziness in the world today, building up one’s character is a great way to make the world a better place. At 125 pages, this is a quick, easy and meaningful read, and the reader will be a better person for it.

Reviewing: “Tranquility and Travail: A Torah Perspective on the Challenges of Life,” by Rabbi Dovid Sapirman. Mosaica Press. 2021. English. Hardcover. 200 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1952370267.

The COVID pandemic has shown again that there is much travail in the world, with tranquility seemingly nowhere to be found. The truth is that the dilemma of finding why bad things happen to seemingly good people goes back to Iyov and earlier. At its core, it is an impossible dilemma, as to truly understand why things happen, we would need to know everything about the underlying system. God makes that eminently clear in Deuteronomy 29:29, which says that the secret things belong to the Lord.

In “Tranquility and Travail: A Torah Perspective on the Challenges of Life,” Rabbi Dovid Sapirman deals with the dark side of life. He tries to make sense of complex topics such as death, poverty, abuse and more.

His goal is not to answer these inherently intractable questions, but instead, to present the concept around them and use insights from Chazal and Tanach to serve as encouragement, to facilitate the development of increased positivity on the outlook of life. While we often cannot know the reasons for these things, Sapirman uses a logotherapy approach to find meaning in these things.

Sapirman closes this insightful book admitting that many mysteries remain, and we cannot fully discern the pattern of travails that people go through. However, by showing that life has a purpose, and all of these things have a deeper meaning, there can be tranquility amongst that travail.

By Ben Rothke

 

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