Arthur Kurzweil is a writer and teacher and serves as publisher at Parabola magazine. For 17 years, he was editorial director of the Jewish Book Club and editor in chief at Jason Aronson Publishers, where he acquired and published more than 650 books of Jewish interest. For the past 25 years, Kurzweil has been a disciple of and designated chauffeur in the United States of Adin Steinsaltz, one of the most prolific and scholarly rabbis of our time. While taking him to universities, synagogues, think tanks, and meetings with politicians, journalists, artists, and other public figures, Kurzweil has had a chance to talk with him up-close and personal. The author has gathered stories, anecdotes, and extensive quotations from this learned Orthodox rabbi whose motto is "Let My People Know." Kurzweil's enthusiasm for Steinsaltz's wisdom has resulted in this edifying and inspiring volume.
In a well-known Hasidic tale, Leib Saras returned from a visit with his rebbe, and his students and family asked him what word of Torah the wise one had taught him. Leib Saras said, "I did not go to my teacher to hear his words of Torah; I went to see how he ties his shoelaces." The way a sage does everyday tasks has much to teach us about spirituality. Kurzweil notes the way Steinsaltz deals with Jews, his pipe-smoking habit, the hereditary disease he carries, non-kosher food, and all manner of other details.
The author has read Steinsaltz's book on Jewish spiritual belief called The Thirteen Petalled Rose more than 100 times and makes it quite clear that it is a classic. To give you a sample of what this book contains, here are two quotations:
• "Most souls are not new; they are not in the world for the first time. Almost every person bears the legacy of previous existences. Therefore the destiny of a person is connected not only with those things he himself creates and does, but also what happens to the soul in previous incarnations."
• "He whose search has reached a certain level feels that he is in the palace of the King. He goes from room to room, from hall to hall, seeking Him out. However, the king's palace is an endless series of worlds, and as a man proceeds in his search from room to room, he holds only the end of the string. It is, nevertheless, a continuous going, a going after God, a going to God, day after day, year after year."
Two more samples of this wise man's views. These are from an interview in Parabola.
• "Whether a Jew is knowledgeable about his tradition or not, there comes a time when he has to re-meet and re-understand his tradition in a way that will be applicable to him and will say something to him as he is. You see, every person has to, at some time, re-create Sinai for himself."
• "We believe that the Law has at least 600,000 different paths within it for individuals to enter. There is what is called 'the private gate' for each of us. And we each have to find our own gate."
On the Road wth Rabbi Steinsaltz will appeal to all those who are interested in Jewish teachings. Kurzweil has deep respect for the wholeness, the wisdom, and the spiritual practice of this Jewish teacher and after reading this book, you will be able join him in this admiration.