In the spirit of Giving Tuesday, Rabbi John Rosove, Senior Rabbi at Temple Israel of Hollywood, speaking last night at Chevalier’s Books, shared that whenever he feels despair, he thinks of someone he could call or visit at that moment. As a pastoral leader, this is something he’s been doing his whole life, but Rosove offers it as a remedy that has always made him feel he’s received more than he gave.
Rosove was speaking about his new book, “Why Judaism Matters; Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to His Children and the Millennial Generation,” where he tackles what he feels are the most challenging issues facing liberal Jews today.
Though grounded in Jewish tradition and learning, the letters in the book covers challenges everyone faces, such as living in the world of good and evil, what it takes to live an ethical life and what is the measure of success. Rosove’s book is deeply personal. He shares why he thinks what he thinks and what has influenced his thinking over the years as way of teaching not what to think but how to come to your own conclusions.
Rosove writes about his decision to officiate at interfaith marriages after 33 years of refusing to do so, despite welcoming interfaith families into his congregation, as an example of how listening to his inner voice and following his heart lead him to the ‘higher will.’ He explains “higher will distinguishes human beings from the rest of creation. The higher will is in the center of our spiritual identity and as such is our real identity.”
His message is to trust yourself.
“The talmud commands us to write a book, plant a tree and raise a child,” said Rosove, adding that it need not be interpreted literally. For example, you could write a screen play, be a journalist, or document you family history instead of write a book. Living sustainably, caring for the earth is one way to plant a tree and if you don’t have children, you can support institutions that support children.
But Rosove wanted to write a book for years. Because his own father died when he was a young boy, Rosove said he was inspired to share his thinking with his now adult sons, David and Daniel, who respond to the letters in the Afterword in the form of a chat giving the book a more modern format at the end.
There’s a lot packed into this little book that doesn’t take very long to read, but it will leave you thinking, which is timely for this holiday season.