Kaddish

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Kaddish by Leon Wieseltier, Vintage, November 18, 2009

Winner of the 1998  National Jewish Book Award  “An astonishing fusion of learning and psychic intensity; its poignance and lucidity should be an authentic benefit to readers,  Jewish and gentile.” — The New York Times Book Review.

Children have obligations to their parents: the Talmud says “one must honor him in life and one must honor him in death.” Leon Wieseltier, a diligent but doubting son, recites the Jewish prayer of mourning at his father’s grave, and then embarks on the traditional year of saying the kaddish daily.

Wieseltier’s highly acclaimed Kaddish is the spiritual and thoughtful journal of one of America’s most brilliant intellectuals. Driven to explore th origins of the kaddish, from the ancient legend of a wayeard ghost to a 17th-century Ukranian pogrom,  he offers as well a mourner’s response to the questions of  fate, freedom,  and faith stirred up in death’s  wake.

Lyric, learned, and deeply moving, Kaddish is suffused with love: a son’s embracing of the traditon bequethed to him by his father, a scholar’s savoring of its beauty, and a writer’s revealing it, proudly unadorned, to the reader  (from the Trade  Paperback  edition).

About the Author
Leon Wieseltier is an American writer, critic, and magazine editor.  Since 1983 he has been the literary editor of The New Republic.

Wieseltier was born  in  Brooklyn,  New York and attended the Yeshivah of  Flatbush, Columbia University, Oxford University, and  Harvard University, and was a member of  Harvard’s Society of  Fellows from 1979 to 1982.

Wieseltier has published several fictional and non-fictional books.  Kaddish, a National Book Award finalist in 2000, is a genre-blending meditation on the Jewish prayers of mourning.  Against Identity is a collection of thoughts about the modern notion of  identity.

Wieseltier also edited and introduced a volume of works by Lionel Trilling entitled The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent and wrote the foreword to Ann Weiss’s The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a collection of personal photographs that serves as a paean to pre-Shoah innocence. Wieseltier’s translations of the works of Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai have appeared in The New Republic and The New Yorker.

During Wieseltier’s tenure as literary editor of The New Republic, many of his signed and unsigned writings have appeared in the magazine.  He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Jewish Review of Books.

Conservative columnist Joshua Muravchik calls Wieseltier a “liberal thinker,”  and journalist George Packer calls him one of the “ideas men of the liberal intelligentsia.”

Wieseltier served on the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.  “I am in no sense a neoconservative, as many of my neoconservative adversaries will attest,”  Wieseltier wrote in a May 2007 letter to Judge Reggie Walton, seeking leniency for his friend Scooter Libby (source: Wikipedia).

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