Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book of the Week: The Year of Living Biblically

I recently finished reading The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. Can I just tell you, A.J. Jacobs writes hilarious! In this book, Mr. Jacobs, a self-described agnostic, spends a year attempting to follow the laws and rules of the Bible as literally as possible. Although he often takes this to extremes that were surely not intended in The Word, it's rollicking fun to read anyhow.

The author reasons that since the Old Testament is more substantial than the New, he devotes 3/4 of the year specifically to attempting to fulfill Jewish law, figuring he'd leave the last 1/4 year primarily to New Testament commands. Mr. Jacobs, though not practicing any particular faith (prior to the experiment), is from Jewish roots. I think his pursuit of fulfilling Old Testament commands rings truer than his abbreviated focus on the New Testament. Possibly, he feels more connection to his Jewish heritage and it shows. I mean, a person could spend a whole year just trying to fulfill the directives that Jesus gave. (There's an interesting book concept as well.) There were a lot of potential subjects he could have canvassed in the New Testament that he never mentioned. (For example, I don't think he ever mentioned Communion.)

Anyway, I greatly enjoyed his forays in the weirder and more extreme religious tangents that exist. He met with Jews who sacrifice chickens, had his wardrobe dissected by a man trained to find mixed threads in fabric, sought out fruit from trees that were older than four years, went to a snake-handling church and built a hut (can't recall the Hebrew name for it) in his Manhattan apartment. Pretty funny visual, there.

He found that sometimes, even following laws whose purpose is not known, or that are generally disregarded in modern society, still can lead to peace and well-being. Examples of this are: wearing white garments, observing the Sabbath and avoiding certain foods. He also found that participating in rituals where he initially was uncomfortable, such as daily prayer, ultimately becomes integral to daily life.

This book was fascinating. I enjoyed it all the way through. If you're one to take your faith very seriously, you might not appreciate his literal application of verses you consider metaphorical, but it's still a vibe read if you can see humor in the sacred.

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