Jewish Dharma: a guide to the practice of Judaism and Zen

Author: Brenda Shoshanna Ph.D

Publisher: Philadelphia: De Capo Press

Publication date: 2008

Number of pages: 291

Reviewed by: Roshi Patrick

Brenda Shoshanna was raised in an orthodox Jewish family in New York and is currently a practising psychologist with over 25 year’s experience. Over the years her studies and practice have lead her to an integration of her Judaism with a practice of Zen. She still lives in New York City.
Her book was something of an eye-opener for me, as Brenda lovingly describes her own experience of hearing the Torah from a deeply sensitive and prayerful family. It is moving to hear, from one of such experience, an aspect of Judaism that is a far cry from the political and media reportage we get elsewhere. The book is essentially down to earth and practical but above all it is full of hope, freedom and joy. We are presented with twelve chapters that take the reader through everything from prayer (Jewish and Zen) to the practical considerations of life such as relationships, death, self discovery, world peace, caring for others and sorrows. I was particularly touched by her anecdotal description of the Sabbath and how we need to heed the lessons of this and incorporate it into our frenetic lives today. Throughout the book there are many down-to-earth practical exercises to deal with real life situations which we are all faced with at some time. She includes an epilogue which gives some useful suggestions on how she combines her  Judaism with Zen practice. These can be useful as pointers for Christians and others who wish to incorporate Zen practice into their lives. It’s easy to read and well-worth the time and cost.