Books

A Year with Mordecai Kaplan Wisdom on the Weekly Torah Portion

About the Book

Publication Date: April 2019

You are invited to spend a year with the inspirational words, ideas, and counsel of the great twentieth-century thinker Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, through his meditations on the fifty-four weekly Torah portions and eleven Jewish holidays.

A pioneer of ideas and action—teaching that “Judaism is a civilization” encompassing Jewish culture, art, and peoplehood; demonstrating how synagogues can be full centers for Jewish living (building one of the first “shuls with a pool”), and creating the first-ever bat mitzvah ceremony (for his daughter Judith)—Kaplan indispensably transformed the landscape of American Jewry. Yet much of Kaplan’s rich treasury of ethical and spiritual thought is largely unknown.

Rabbi Steven Reuben, who studied closely with Kaplan, offers unique insight into Kaplan’s teachings about ethical relationships and spiritual fulfillment, including how to embrace the Godliness in everyday experience, our mandate to become agents of justice in the world, and the human ability to evolve personally and collectively. Quoting from the week’s Torah portion, Reuben presents Torah commentary, a related Kaplan quotation, a reflective commentary integrating Kaplan’s understanding of the Torah text, and an intimate story about his family or his community’s struggles and triumphs—guiding twenty-first century spiritual seekers of all backgrounds on how to live reflectively and purposefully every day.

“There is no greater sage greater than Mordecai Kaplan to walk us into an appreciation of how religion can add depth and insight to the experience of modernity, and no rabbi with greater sensitivity to guide us along the way than Steven Carr Reuben. Newcomers to Kaplan and long-time aficionados alike will revel in spending A Year with Mordecai Kaplan. Relying on the spirit and smarts of these two rabbis not only enlightens us, but elevates us.”Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University

“A Year with Mordecai Kaplan is inspirational. It reminds me of a less mystical Larry Kushner and a more anecdotal Harold Kushner.”Rabbi Arnold Rachlis, University Synagogue, Irvine, California

“Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben’s selection of insightful passages from the writings of Mordecai Kaplan and illuminating commentary from Jewish tradition and his own life experiences generates a treasure trove of wisdom to delight the mind and move the heart. A Year With Mordecai Kaplan is a spiritual gift!”Rabbi David Ellenson

“As Steven Reuben probes Torah, Kaplan’s wide-ranging thought, Jewish religious experience, and human experience in wonderfully clear and often penetrating reflections, Reuben and Kaplan together awaken our desire to be ‘champions of holiness.’”Ellen Davis, Amos Ragan Kearns Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School.

“Speaking as someone who has taught Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan’s philosophical writings for decades, I can attest that this volume is an important contribution to understanding both the man and his approach to Judaism. Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben offers sensitive, nuanced commentaries that highlight the very personal sides of Kaplan’s personality and philosophy and demonstrate the emotional wisdom of his ideas, which are applicable to us all.”Rabbi Elliot Dorff, author, Modern Conservative Judaism: Evolving Thought and Practice

Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben

Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben (Ph.D., Sierra University; ordination, 1976) is Senior Rabbi Emeritus of Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation in Pacific Palisades, California (the largest Reconstructionist congregation in the world) and is a past President of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. He is the author of numerous books, including Raising Jewish Children in a Contemporary World (1992), Making Interfaith Marriage Work (1994), Raising Ethical Children (1994, Prima Publishing), Children of Character: Leading Your Children to Ethical Choices in Everyday Life (1997, Canter & Associates), A Nonjudgmental Guide to Interfaith Marriage (2002), A Parent’s Guilt-Free Guide to Raising Jewish Kids (2002, Xlibris Corporation), There’s an Easter Egg on Your Seder Plate: Surviving Your Child’s Interfaith Marriage (2008, Praeger Publishing) and Becoming Jewish: The Challenges, Rewards, and Paths to Conversion (2011, Roman & Littlefield).

Resources

Three Excerpts: Finding the Sacred in Sorrow; Food Insecurity; Nelson Mandela

Press Release: Inspirational Volume Conveys Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan’s Legacy

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