In the introduction to this edifying work, Arthur Green, Lown Professor of Jewish Thought at Brandeis University, writes: "Judaism itself is a language, a group's way of expressing our beliefs, longings, aspirations, dreams. It is these that we want to teach and share with others, then pass on to our children. The vocabulary of Jewish life is the framework through which we hand on the past. It also provides the pegs on which we hang our hopes and dreams for the future." This guidebook to Jewish life is divided into sections on God and Worlds Above; Torah: Text and Process; Religious Practice; Spiritual Life; Community, Life with Others; Holy Things; Holy Place; and Holy Times.
Three of the central elements of Judaism come up again and again in these pages: a respect for the mystery and unknowability of God; an appreciation for spiritual practices such as 'Anavah (humility), hitlahavut (enthusiasm), shalom (peace), and simhah (joy); and the importance of devotional life. Since These Are the Words could be considered a sefer, or holy book, here are the rules of proper conduct toward it: "It should not be left open when unused; it should never be placed on the floor and should be picked up and kissed if it falls; it should always lie right-side-up on a table. The sefer should be revered as one would honor a teacher, since it contains the living word of God."