When I used to read Mishpacha magazine, Libi Astaire was one of the writers whom I would always read no matter what topic she addressed, and even whether it was fiction or non-fiction (though I no longer read fiction, although I write it, funnily enough). Being a history buff – especially women’s and Jewish history – I’ve had my eye on Day Trips to Jewish History for a long time.
So I finally bought it and was not disappointed.
Libi covers all sorts of stuff that isn’t widely known, but is very intriguing. For example, I’d always wondered about the following:
And for some reason, I’m always very interested in what people ate at different times and in different cultures.
Libi covers this, too.
The book also addresses a wide variety of periods, topics, and cultures in Jewish history:
This book is a real gem in the Jewish history genre.
I first discovered Rivka Levy when she was writing for Breslev Israel Magazine and I finally realized that the majority of articles that resonated with me the most were written by her. When she announced she was creating her own blog, I surfed over there to check it out, liked it, and decided to stay. Ditto for all her other blogs as she opened them.
In conjunction, I read Garden of Emuna and had an epiphany which finally propelled me to sporadically talk to God until my conversations with Him settled into a regular thing.
Then a lot of other stuff happened (one of which was my dad died with no warning whatsoever) and I lost my spiritual equilibrium. No, losing my father didn’t call my faith into question, but a lot of strange things happened in connection with that, which opened my eyes to realities that I’d been ignoring or whitewashing (which is easy to do when you are thousands of miles away from those "realities").
Because Rivka Levy’s writings continued to deeply resonate with me, I reached out to her for – well, I wasn’t sure what. She didn’t and still doesn’t have much spare time outside her work and family, but she still managed to send me short messages bursting with meaning and emuna. In just one or two sentences, she would manage to say exactly what I needed to hear even though I was a complete stranger to her. It also meant a tremendous amount to me that she was speaking on my behalf during her daily conversations with God.
I could feel the difference.
And with some bumbling and fumbling of my own, I managed to get back on track, more or less.
Since getting to know her a bit more, I pay closer attention to almost anything she publishes. When she came out with The How, What, and Why of Talking to God, I knew I had to read it.
And even though I’ve read Outpouring of the Soul and In Forest Fields, I still discovered helpful guidance in Rivka’s book for certain struggles I’ve been having.
For example, I never have the problem of not having what to say to God – a problem that is common in other people who talk to God. I have the opposite problem: too much to say, too many thoughts at a time, and getting distracted, unfocused, or streaming into daydreaming – which I hadn’t seen covered in other writings on hitbodedut (talking privately to God in one’s own words).
This little book helped wallow out of other areas in which I’d gotten mired down and couldn’t see my way out. There is a lot of problem-solving, which is very helpful.
As a pre-teen and teenager, I wanted to talk or write in a journal to God, but I didn’t really know where to start. Sometimes I kind of tried, but immediately felt overwhelmed or lost. I could’ve really used something so short and so easily digestible, yet so thorough, to help me get started.
Another plus is that this book uses not only the personal experience of the author and others, but also scientific studies.
Personally, I've seen how talking to God in a meaningful way changes everything - literally. Things I just couldn't get to work out or situations that "experts" insist can't be changed or improved without intense and complex intervention, actually did improve or even got resolved once I started talking to God regularly. Many things either improved or resolved on their own or else I suddenly received a new insight for a method that actually worked. But even the things that are still hard are at the same time, not as grueling as they were before.
I highly recommend this book for beginners, for the religious and spiritual seekers, and for the doubters.
Now I bet you think I’m doing this as a favor to the author because I know her.
Well, I’m not.
I know other journalists and authors, and I don’t necessarily plug their books or articles. Rivka Levy has never asked me or even hinted at me to do so, and I could just ignore her stuff if I wanted.
Except that I don’t.
This book really, really helped me now as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, and it would have really, really helped me when I was a completely secular teenager.
Having said that, when it’s a book about God and spirituality, it’s important to know whether the person behind the book practices what she preaches.
And in this case, I've really seen that she does.