In The Book of Jewish Belief and its companion The Book of Jewish Practice Louis Jacobs provides an introduction to Jewish belief and practice that I found easy to digest without being overly simplistic.
The Book of Jewish Belief is divided into 27 chapters, each of which can easily be read at a sitting. The chapters range through subjects like The Torah, Jewish Movements and Compassion. The book is well illustrated with a photograph or illustration on almost every page. Each chapter is subdivided into sections of a paragraph or two. For example, the chapter on Benevolence is subdivided into sections on Two Concepts (gemilut hasadum and tzadakah), Benevolence, The Importance of Benevolence, Relief for the Poor, Who Qualifies and How Much?, Precedence and In Praise of Charity. This chaper also includes boxes defining "true kindness", giving a Lithuanian anecdote on charity and a list of Maimonides Eight Degrees of Charity.
I found this book to be remarkable in its non-judgementalness on the varieties of Jewish belief. This book was a priceless guide for me as I began to become more religously interested, but was overwhelmed by the amount of learning ahead of me. I recommend it to anyone who wants to start being better grounded in the basics of Jewish belief.
- Bob Evans
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