Reconciliation is a constant theme in all of Rabbi Sheldon Lewis’ books. It is the value to which he has devoted his life. His first book, Torah Of Reconciliation is the result of Rabbi Lewis’ personal, passionate search for wisdom on peacemaking recorded in Jewish tradition. Beginning after the grief surrounding 9/11, he was determined to locate the pathway described in Jewish texts towards reconciliation.
While there are, to be sure, contradictory messages to be found in the length and breadth of the tradition, there is an obsession with overcoming conflict and avoiding violence toward building a world at peace. Peacemaking is arguably the key pillar among Jewish values. A people that has known repeatedly the agony of conflict has never stopped longing for and searching for the keys to security and tranquility.
The book follows the annual cycle of readings of Torah focusing on verses or passages suggestive of the theme of reconciliation. These Torah sources are interpreted and expanded through the lens of rabbinic commentary added over millennia from the Talmudic period until modernity.
Finally Rabbi Lewis’ personal reflections are added to clarify the words of the sages. The intended result is to reveal the rich, wise resources available in Judaism for the crucial task of peacemaking in the modern world. The sources speak of reconciliation in the home between individuals and apply to the search for peace between peoples and nations.
The rabbi’s next book, Bridging Word and World, is a collection of his sermons, essays and other writings. They seek to apply Jewish values and wisdom, especially the quest for justice and peace, to a broad range of issues of this day.
In recent years, Rabbi Lewis has pursued the theme of reconciliation in another way altogether by writing for children. His collection of short stories, Mini Adventures in Jerusalem was followed by sequels More Mini Adventures in Jerusalem and Even More Mini Adventures in Jerusalem. These stories represent Torah of Reconciliation for young people. They are set in Israel, and they imagine friendship across the barriers of faith and ethnicity.
Peacemaking is the passion of the author’s life. It comes from the influence of his great teacher, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. It comes from his own personal experience of war as a US Army Chaplain in Vietnam. And it comes from his engagement with Israel and the agony of ongoing conflict in the Middle East and around the world. He is an ardent student of Jewish sacred texts and feels confident that they have much wisdom to contribute to the modern world.