Although the title, Fresh Fruit and Vintage Wine suggests a cook book, this new anthology of ancient rabbinic wisdom, accompanied by an analysis from Rabbi Yitzchak Blau is actually a recipe for life. As Blau states in the preface to his book, “the wisdom that matters most is the wisdom that teaches us how to live religiously and morally better lives”. The texts he shares and the perspective which he brings to reading them do just that.
Begining with a chapter on prayer — one which doesn’t shrink away from either the necessity of a prayer life, nor the challenges of cultivating a meaningful one, this book has something for everyone. And while anthologies always tell us the most about the anthologizer, what they believe and how they think, this collection brings together texts and topics which occupy the hearts and minds of all spiritual people.
Focusing on what is called Aggada, and generally thought of as inspiring non-legal stories in rabbinic literature, this book manages to celebrate narrative without giving up on the power of nomos — normative practice. That’s no small task for the follower of any tradition, and for that alone this work serves as a valuable model for appraching any beloved tradition.
What allows this to happen? Love. As Blau says at the end of his book, “we can return to the texts we love almost endlessly”. I thank the author for reminding us of that, and for inviting us to do so whether those texts are rabbinic aggadot, the words of the prophet Isaiah, or the poetry of Yeats.
Read what you love, lovingly, and it will inspire you in a new way each day.