diaTribe Reviews: A Man’s Responsibility

Hey guys, sound familiar?  The traditional role as hard-working provider conflicts with your desire for a balanced life that includes time with your spouse and children. Your feelings of responsibility to help other Jews through tzedakah and volunteering conflicts with your recognition of the need for money and energy into more global issues like famine and disaster relief. Your “free” time is spent being a good co-parent and co-manager of your house, leaving you little to no time to be active in your synagogue or other religious organizations.
Being a well-rounded, balanced, “good” Jewish male in the 21st century takes work, but this easy-to-read book provides practical tips and reasoning to achieve just that.
Rabbi Joseph Meszler blends modern, liberal attitudes with traditional Jewish teachings to help explain his view of the role of Jewish men in current society. A Man’s Responsibility: A Jewish Guide to Being a Son, a Partner in Marriage, a Father and a Community Leader (JEWISH LIGHTS Publishing, 2008, $21.99) is intelligent, well thought out, and totally relatable to us younger Jewish males trying to find a balance of work ambitions, family, individuality and spirituality.
As much as I related to the content of the book, I walked away from it thinking more about the author. Joseph (he seems like the type of rabbi you would call by his first name, I could probably even call him Joe) is the right type of rabbi for our generation. A young guy, I’m guessing in his later 30’s, he has liberal views on gay marriage and other social issues, and appears willing to take a less literal look at Jewish teachings to relate them to our modern world.
His writing kind of comes across like a sermon, which actually isn’t a bad thing, and he covers a lot of topics by writing in 1-4 page easily digestible sections. These topics cover everything from raising foreign-born adopted children to a Jewish view of domestic abuse (spoiler alert about domestic abuse… he’s against it). He even writes about the important topic of it being holy to have sex on Shabbat (always critical when teaching your non-Jewish girlfriend about our culture).
The book is neatly organized, with chapters dedicated to each Jewish man’s role in life, including son, spouse, father, and community leader. Each section has enlightening arguments, fusing stories from the Talmud and his own congregation, to references to prayers and rituals. To summarize, I think his view can be boiled down to this… Guys, be true to yourself, strive to be better but recognize your imperfection, and let the teachings and community of Judaism help you find balance and fulfillment in all facets of your life.
Easier said than done.

The reviewer was furnished with a complimentary copy of the book by the publisher. This is being disclosed in accordance with FTC guidelines.