Sep 22, 2019

Book Review: Learning The News


NOTE: I was not paid to review this book. It is an unbiased and objective review. If you have a book with Jewish or Israel related content and would like me to write a review, contact me for details of where to send me a review copy of the book.

Book Review: Learning The News, by Rabbi Simcha Lauer


I usually read an entire book before reviewing it, though sometimes it is not necessary. This is one of those occasions. 


Learning The News by Rabbi Simcha Lauer is a book of essays, and I immediately took a liking to it. The book is written in a style that makes it easy to read, interesting and draws the reader in -  something that is not always the case in a book discussing Jewish thought and halacha.

The premise of the book is that one can read the news, current events, in a newspaper or by watching a news program, but a frum Jew should always consider further the Jewish perspective on the events in the news and not just take the news at face value.

The author, Rabbi Lauer, in his introduction, relates the famous story of Rav Mendel Kaplan as told by Rabbi Berel Wein who began teaching in HTC in Chicago after arriving from Europe via Shanghai. Rav Kaplan brought in a newspaper to his class and told the boys that they would teach him English and he would teach them how to read the newspaper. He would then read the stories reported and discuss with the students how to look at them from a Jewish perspective. There are anecdotes and reports from other gedolim as well as to their approach to the news and newspapers.

The truth is that I always understood that story to teach us that there is a Jewish way of looking at current events, and the rabbis in these types of stories were teaching their students approaches in jewish thought - chessed in helping distressed people, historical perspective regarding nations that might have harmed Jews, Jewish morals and ethics, and things like that.

Learning The News added a  dimension to that. 

Learning the News, as mentioned, is designed to teach the reader to look at the news as not just news but to put the news into Jewish perspective. And not just from Jewish thought but also from the perspective of halacha and other Jewish sources.

Learning The News takes  a few dozen news articles compiled over time, each one interesting in its own right, and then offers a Jewish way of looking at it and approaching it. The author looks at each report from the perspective of contemporary poskim and Jewish rabbinic leadership, along with more ancient sources. The discussion on each article goes through such approaches, in essence teaching the reader when reading such a report that there is a Torah approach t the story. Examples of such stories are the issue of raising and selling pigs in Israel, renting parts of a nuclear-proof home to other people in the event of an apocalypse, learning kabbalah and dealing with kabbalists, paying ransom to free someone from a kidnapping, paying shadchanus to a UPS driver, and much much more. At the end of each essay, the author writes a brief summary of the opinions presented.

While the author quotes various rabbinic sources in his Torah-based breakdown of each event, I would note that each topic can probably be written about in far greater length, analyzing a far wider array of sources and responsa from decades and centuries or Jewish thought. I personally would not use this book to make halachic decisions, but to impress upon myself that these events, and events we read about all the time, all can be approached further from a jewish and Torah-based perspective. The news is not just interesting events that are sometimes important to be aware of, but they can be a vehicle to spurring consideration of applications of jewish and halachic concepts taught elsewhere and understanding how they would apply in modern situations.

I think everyone can gain from reading this book - gain some Jewish perspective and gain some training in how to read news reports with some Jewish perspective as part of the reading comprehension.




  • Learning The News has just been published and is available in Jewish bookstores, on Eichler's and will soon be available online via Amazon and Feldheim.

NOTE: I was not paid to review this book. It is an unbiased and objective review. If you have a book with Jewish or Israel related content and would like me to write a review, contact me for details of where to send me a review copy of the book.


------------------------------------------------------
Reach thousands of readers with your ad by advertising on Life in Israel
------------------------------------------------------

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...