Book Review of This Is My God: The Jewish Way of Life

This Is My God: The Jewish Way of Life
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This is an excellent book on what Judaism means in regards to marriage, history, Israel, prayer, observance, Torah, Talmud, kashrut and study. He writes in a clear concise style concerning the daily life of an observant Jew as well as the history that went into it. Many times he argues for the education of young Jewish children in Judaism (taking issue with the refrain "they can choose it when they grow up" since it is easy to reject what you've learned but hard to learn something you should have learned when you were a child.) and against the rising tide of assimilation. He tells personal stories about studying Talmud with his grandfather and his time fighting in World War II. One particularly amusing one is how he was disappointed to learn that "an eye for an eye" meant compensatory damage payments as it was one of his best arguments for rejecting observance altogether at age 14 when he would have rather gone to Saturday afternoon movies.

A caveat in that if you are an observant Jew, you will probably not learn much from this book. This is the book that rabbis have conversion candidates read in order to make sure that everyone has a good idea as to what is going to happen if the conversion goes through. This is a great book for non-observant Jews and Jews who consider themselves Reform or Conservative, as Wouk has a talent for saying potentially explosive perspectives with enough humility and candor that you aren't personally insulted if you disagree. This is also a good book for non-Jews wanting to know what Judaism is all about.

What makes this book exceptional is that Herman Wouk's perspective is becoming a rare voice in Orthodoxy. Orthodox Judaism is increasingly moving to the right partly as a reaction to the intermarriage and assimilation of the liberal movements within Judaism, partly as a sign of formerly non-observant Jews becoming observant and finding distaste in their old lives.