(Anna Albano, well-known editor, translator, and blogger in Italy who writes under the name Faccio Testo has given me a very precious gift! Not only did she see the need and enthusiastically agree to translate What’s In it for Me? Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives into Italian, she also wrote the beautiful essay below. I hope she will include it in the Italian edition of the volume. I reprint it here with Anna’s permission. She has my deep gratitude!)
“What about those who don’t believe in such a God, or any God at all?
Can Jewish learning and practice be meaningful and beneficial to them?
Indeed, it can—without a doubt.”
I think this sentence contains the profound meaning and right use of the book you are about to read, whether you are a Jew or not. Rabbi Fuchs will take you to an extraordinary journey from Creation to Mount Sinai with extraordinary energy. “Extraordinary” means “out of the common order.” In that common order Eve would be the villain in the Eden story. Rabbi Fuchs beautifully revolutionizes this point of view (he places it “out of the common order”): Eve, he writes, “was willing to risk the uncertainty for the possibility of a life filled with meaningful achievement, satisfying relationships, and the ability to bring new life into the world. She was eager to abandon life as it was in Eden … We should see Eve as a truly heroic figure whose bold action inspired God to create a new society … ”
In this sometimes whirling tour you will always find a focal point: we are here to make the world a better place, whether we believe in God or not. Just like God, we have the power to think, to analyze, to decide through our free will. Rabbi Fuchs succeeds in finding a meaning for our presence on this earth also (if not especially) for non-believing people. The smart idea is contained in a short Hebrew word, “k’eeloo,” meaning “as if”. Taking the “k’eeloo” way means behaving as if we were under God’s eye. It means to take action to bring justice and compassion in the world we live, it means complying to mitzvot even if we don’t call them such. It means to respect the people and the house we have been given by God, of which we are the tenants and not the owners.
What has a goat to do with all the above? In the story narrated by Rabbi Fuchs a goat had horns so long that he could touch the stars. Then a man showed up desiring to use this starry quality for his personal purpose and took a little piece of the goat’s horn. Then other men arrived with the same intent. In short no horn was left.
We must respect the goat. Our material needs should always be put under scrutiny and subjected to higher spiritual necessities.
This book can be our faithful beautiful goat. Read and re-read it, make it your companion. I have the privilege to be Rabbi Fuchs’s Italian translator, and the privilege to have had him as my first Rabbi. The title of this book, What’s in It for Me? suggests there is something for anyone. The moment I finished reading I knew what it is: an on-going refreshment of soul, an on-going Shabbat for everybody.
Anna Albano, Milan, Italy,