In celebration of Jewish Book Month, The Arty Semite is partnering with the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA) and the Jewish Book Council to present “30 Days, 30 Texts,” a series of reflections by community leaders on the books that influenced their Jewish journeys. Today, Michael Miloff writes about “The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays” by Irving Greenberg.
I grew up loving the joyous sights, smells, sounds and tastes of Jewish holidays. Although my sense of Jewish identity stayed strong, as I grew older, I grew farther from Jewish institutions and literacy until, late, in life I had children, provoking an interest in the meanings of Judaism beneath the holiday surfaces.
Around this time, my uncle passed the mantle of our extended family Seder leadership to me, thus occasioning a foray into Jewish writing about Passover. Among the many wonderful books, I found Yitz Greenberg’s “The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays” to be an invaluable source of wisdom, inspiration and critical support for my new role.
Greenberg’s brilliant insights weave together a fine stitch of historical and Talmudic interpretations with modern, contemporary paradigms to explain the reasons, meaning, symbols and rituals of our holidays. Until reading Greenberg I had never fully understood the centrality of Exodus — our first commandment — nor the interconnected cycle linking all our holidays. Now, I use this beautifully written book as part of my own ritual to both refresh and deepen my understanding of all the holidays.
Perhaps, most importantly, the many layers of Greenberg’s analyses stimulates a desire to learn more, to read the Talmud directly, to learn what other commentators say, to formulate my own perspectives and discuss them with my children and anyone who might be interested.
The very process has made me appreciate our Judaic culture’s wonderful ability to link text, reflection, and discussion, and to embed this cycle of meaning development in joyous holiday celebrations, continuously enriching the experience and treasure trove of Judaism.
Over the past 30 years, Michael Miloff has enjoyed a career as an entrepreneur, participating in the development of mutual fund, venture capital, Internet consulting and development businesses for businesses, public and non-profit organizations, and government. Living and operating out of Toronto, Michael has worked intensively, through the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and his own firm, over the last few years with Jewish communal organizations - including Federations, bureaus of Jewish Education/equivalent, national education organizations, day schools, overnight camps and other non-profit organizations – helping to strengthen their strategic planning, fundraising, branding, evaluations and governance efforts.