Edited by Rabbi William Cutter, Ph.D., Reviewed by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins
Jewish Lights Publishing
The American health situation is in crisis: we lack strategies to deal with life expectancy; we fear the inevitable; great numbers of our citizens are underserved by our healthcare system; and stigma continues to hover in places of illness and pain. For the first time, a group of scholars, teachers, artists and activists – who are not normally identified with the healthcare of healing worlds – have come together to examine our American and our Jewish circumstance. Using a modern interpretation of Judaism's ancient texts, they discuss the distinctions between curing and healing and show us that healing is an idea that can both soften us so that we are open to inspiration, as well as toughen us – like good scar tissue – in order to live with the consequences of being human.
"It is certain that our bodies do not last forever, and that they can't even do everything we want during their physical lifetime," writes Rabbi William Cutter in the Introduction. "This condition makes life difficult and interesting, and it is a condition that has created much of the search for healing in Jewish tradition."
Cutter's book explores the Jewish tradition for challenge as well as comfort, and investigates Jewish perspectives on the inevitable suffering with which we live. Drawing from literature, personal experience, and the foundation texts of Judaism, fourteen celebrated thinkers (including Rachel Adler, Elliot Dorff, Arnold Eisen, Arthur Green, Peter Knobel, Louis E. Newman, and many others) push the boundaries of knowledge through unique, sometimes controversial, perspectives. Topics include: the relevance of the individual as an object of Jewish thought, health and healing as part of mystical tradition, hope in the Hebrew Bible, from disability to enablement, Jewish bioethics, etc.
This collection is a feast for all mortals who must deal with the ageing of their bodies (and that includes, of course, all of us). Rabbi Cutter is an expert on health and healing, and is ideally suited to put together this superb anthology. It is a book that health providers, patients, rabbis, educators, and all mortals – Jews and others – will want to return to again and again as age and illness affect us and those we care for and love.