Culture, Mishegas, Religion

No word on how many goats, bullocks, and birds he sacrificed, though

Evidently there’s a new book out in which some guy tries to spend a year “living the Bible as literally as possible.” Annoyingly but not surprisingly, a lot of the fuss in the marketing materials is on all the really weird stuff he did, like letting his beard grow, not mixing wool and linen, and, you know, thinking about what he eats. Oooh, weird. (They make a lot of fuss over the beard thing.) I’m actually curious about how he interpreted a lot of the mitzvot–that is to say, did Rabbinic interpretation and definitions (of, say, what Shabbat is) affect him, and if not, how did he figure out how to translate some of the more vague instructions into ma’aseh (stuff you actually do)? Did he hold like the Karites?
In this Newsweek interview, though, it seems that the author, A. J. Jacobs, got a bit more out of the experiment than just getting to pretend he was Charlton Heston.

The experience changed me in big ways and small ways. There’s a lot about gratefulness in the Bible, and I would say I’m more thankful. I focus on the hundred little things that go right in a day, instead of the three or four things that go wrong. And I love the Sabbath. There’s something I really like about a forced day of rest…. One thing I learned is that the outside affects the inside, your behavior shapes your thoughts. I also really liked what one of my spiritual advisers said, which was that you can view life as a series of rights and entitlements, or a series of responsibilities. I like seeing my life as a series of responsibilities. It’s sort of, “Ask not what the world can do for you, ask what you can do for the world.”

I’m personally reserving judgement on the project until I actually read it. Hate the marketing, though.

5 thoughts on “No word on how many goats, bullocks, and birds he sacrificed, though

  1. Don’t reserve judgment; reserve the book. This guy is completely hilarious. I also recommend his last book, “The Know-It-All”, in which he successfully reads the entire encyclopedia.

  2. I know nothing about the guy, the concept sounds rather trite, and the marketing just about has to be gimmicky, if not truly execrable. But you know what? That strikes me as one hell of an impressively written paragraph, and makes me want to reserve judgment until I’ve had a chance to check out the rest. In light of the seeming inability to escape the most loathsome, dishonest propaganda from scumbags whose intent is limited to vandalizing the conversation, rather than contributing anything productive or meaningful, it’s nice to be reminded of the virtues of maintaining at least a modicum of open-mindedness.

  3. I’m interested to know what sources he used to interpret and apply the Bible. even the karaites have external traditions to interpret it.
    i almost choked when said that the Hasidim interpret the Bible literally in that one article. If that were true, that a chosid would have no problem eating a chicken and cheese sandwich, but we all know (i should hope) that’s not the case. its misleading to outsiders to say that Orthodox Jews interpret the Torah “literally” (but its something i’ve heard a lot when describing the difference between Orthodoxy and the liberal movements). In fact, someone who interprets the Tanach literally, given some of the anthropomorphic metaphors, would be a heretic!

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