The 437 page book “A Concise Guide to Mahshava: An overview of Jewish Philosophy,” is one of five new books published by Maggid Books which were authored by the recently deceased scholar Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz who authored sixty books and hundreds of articles. I reviewed three of the volumes previously, on the Torah, Sages, and Law. The series focuses on five main topics of Jewish tradition in easy to read English. The books are very extensive and are filled with eye-opening and thought-provoking information. People of all religions will learn much from them.
The books are: (1) “A Concise Guide to the Sages,” the Sages being called Hazal in Hebrew, a Hebrew acronym for “our Sages, may their memory be for a blessing,” (2) “A Concise Guide to the Torah,” (3) “A concise Guide to Halakha,” Jewish Law is called Halakha in Hebrew, meaning “guide path,” (4) “The Concise Guide to Mahshava,” Mahshava being Hebrew for Jewish thought, and (5) “Reference Guide to the Talmud.”
“A Concise Guide to Mahshava” is made up of four parts. The first 27 pages focus on a person’s life cycle. It gives the thinking of dozens of famed Jewish thinkers on pregnancy, birth, naming, circumcision, bar mitzva, weddings, old age, death, and mourning. A full quote is given on each subject with the name of the author, the book containing the quote and page number. Sometimes there is a note telling where further reading in another volume can be found. Each quote is prefaced with an explanation of what follows it. This section includes discussions on what one should do in old age, the view of Maimonides on youth and old age, the importance of marriage, not to mourn excessively, and much more.
The second part with 11 chapters from page 33 to 104 informs readers about ideas underlying the holidays, including Shabbat, Rosh Hodesh, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Passover, and the other holidays. Among much else, the chapters tell the Zohar’s view of the joy of the Shabbat, why we should abstain from work on the Shabbat, and much more.
The third part with 30 chapters from page 107 to 323 deals with thoughts on Torah concepts such as Yosef Albo’s analysis on is it possible to know God, his idea that there are three basic principles of Judaism, Maimonides prior teaching that there are 13, Nahman of Breslov’s idea “No matter where I go, I am headed for the Land of Israel,” and more.
The fourth part with 4 chapters from page 327 to 409 gives readers the biographies of the scholars and rabbis mentioned in the prior chapters with an additional quote from the person and the source of the quote.
This is followed by 6 pages of bibliography, and a glossary of 16 pages.
In short, Rabbi Steinsaltz has made a significant contribution by giving us an easy to read and understand treasure of significant thoughts by outstanding Jewish thinkers.