Book Review: Food for Thought – No Hechsher Required

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Food for Thought – No Hechsher Required
By: Rabbi Dovid Landesman
Reviewed by: Rabbi Ari Enkin

In today’s climate of tzniut patrols, kosher cell phones, mehadrin buses, and of course, the Ramat Beit Shemesh “Burka Babes”, Rabbi Dovid Landesman’s latest contribution is a welcome voice of sanity in what often appears to be a sea of utter madness in the ever “flippin’ out” world of orthodoxy.

Food for Thought – No Hechsher Required contains over 20 essays dealing with the entire gamut of the top Chareidi and Modern Orthodox communal issues along with their differences, similarities, and everything in between. Among the topics reckoned with in this volume: college, kollel, the temptations of today’s youth, Israeli society, gedolim and their place in the individual’s halachic decision-making, feminism and the role of women, Ashkenazi-Sefardi relations, internet (including an extensive discussion of Facebook, which I really ‘Liked’), and much more.

Additionally, a significant portion of the book deals with the issue of Zionism. Following Rabbi Landesman’s brief but adequate historical introduction of Zionism in general and religious Zionism in particular he presents different viewpoints that directly relate to the Torah Jew and his take on Zionism: Pro, Con, Confused and “Who Cares!”. Through this four-part essay series, the reader is thoroughly exposed to the many different opinions and viewpoints when properly pondering the Zionist question.

Included in the book are many pearls of wisdom in dealing with chareidi issues, such as “banning internet [due to its problematic content] would be no more effective than removing sugar from the supermarkets in dealing with the obesity crisis” (p. 81) and interesting little-known historical factoids, such as the Satmar Rebbe’s lobby for the US Government to sell Israel fighter jets (p.159) and the fact that Rav Kook was not in love with every secular Zionist leader (p.167).

This book is not for the stubborn chareidi type who would rather be martyred than be caught drinking bottled water with a rabbanut hechsher, the apathetic modern-orthodox type who can’t be bothered (“it’s only a minhag, you know”), nor for anyone else who is spiritually constipated and unwilling to consider views other than their own. However, it is a perfect work for those who enjoy thinking for themselves, challenging preconceived notions and broadening their horizons.

Rabbi Landesman’s many decades in Jewish education and Jewish communal work clearly contribute to the competency and authority with which he presents the issues. His experience and exposure with so many different types of Jews over the years reflects his unique ability to present each and every issue with both balance and reverence. The book is a welcome reader and is uniquely qualified to serve as classroom curriculum and in discussion forums. The presentation is clear, enjoyable, and personable.

…..And please, be sure not to skip the Preface!

Food for Thought, as well as Landesman’s previous collection of essays – There Are No Basketball Courts in Heaven – are available at Judaic outlets, through Amazon or by e-mail to [email protected]

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the general editor and halacha columnist of the highly acclaimed halacha website “Torah Musings” and has authored numerous English sefarim on halacha. His latest English halacha sefer is “Ramat Hashulchan” which deals with over 100 halachic issues. [email protected]

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot.

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