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September 2015 Vol. 53 No. 1

University of Nebraska Press

The following review appeared in the September 2015 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email


Green, Arthur. The heart of the matter: studies in Jewish mysticism and theology. Nebraska/Jewish Publication Society, 2015. 366p bibl afp ISBN 9780827612136, $45.00.

The why rather than the how  of practicing Judaism is the central focus that draws together this collection of literary essays by Green (director, Rabbinical School of Hebrew College), celebrating the scholarship and rabbinic leadership of this major pioneer, mover, and broker of Jewish spiritual renewal.  In 16 republished essays and one original chapter (on the compassionate Berdichever Rebbe, R. Levi Yizhak, and miracles), Green engages with the intricacies of Kabbalah, Hasidic masters, classical sources, and contemporary Jewish theology to portray an exciting portal to experiencing inward spirituality notably missing in the “civil religion” of many American Jews.  Green’s credo of “Neo-Hasidic” principles and commentary weaves through sacred texts, Hasidic mores, halachic jurisdiction, and extra-halachic sources to touch on teachings and teachers of Jewish mysticism and theology.  The book's teaching objective is ultimately equalitarian Torah learning and living nurtured in Jewish mysticism and theology; Green affirms that discovering meaningful spirituality is the heart of the matter of becoming, being, and remaining a Jew.  Though some may question whether Green’s neo-Hasidic approach can persuade 21st-century rationalist Jews to live non-pretentiously radical Judaism, there is no doubt as to the author’s optimism and sincerity.  The evidence is in the reading.

--Z. Garber, Los Angeles Valley College

Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through researchers and faculty; general readers.