Sunday, 17 January 2010
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J Jacobs
A.J Jacobs is a secular Jew who claims he would like to try and find out more about his spiritual side, and that of his ancestors by doing as above, and living as close to biblical ritual as possible, along the way trying to find out why these laws exist, if they were ever meant to be taken literally, and if they are even relevant today. As well as the more well known commandments such as the female impurity laws, stoning of adulterers (how he achieved this was funny), and the restrictive food laws, he focuses on such things as not wearing mixed fibres, blowing a horn at the start of every month and building a hut and living in it for a period of time (he does this in his living room. At the start he says there are over 700 commandments in the Old Testament alone, so obviously this is only a very small sample. And he grows a beard, takes copious amounts of photographs of said beard and talked about it a lot! That annoyed me slightly. I couldn't see how that was the biggest thing he was dealing with!
The female impurity laws meant he wasn't really allowed to touch women at all, since it was difficult to know whether they were unclean or not, which as you can imagine led to some offended remarks. Also, these particularly irritated his wife, who went round and sat on every chair in the house when she was menstruating, presumably to make her point.
It was written in a day by day diary form, with the majority of the entries focusing on a different aspect, rule or bizarre ritual, but with some elements being returned to on various occasions (not just the beard). But for me, by far the most interesting aspects were his trips to various evangelist church's or groups to see how they take the biblical commandments. This led to a tour of a creationist museum, a conversation with an Amish man, a couple of Evangelical churches and a trip to Israel to meet his Uncle and spend time with a shepherd!
I did think when I was reading this book that I might learn something about the more obscure biblical rules, and whilst I was reading it I probably did, but it's all gone now! It was entertaining and funny in places, but I think it covered so much in a relatively short book that entertainment was all it could be. Not a bad thing though. I enjoyed it whilst I was reading it, but I don't think I'll remember very much about it all in a few months!