Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review: Biblical Beauty

I'm a huge fan of taking a look at the old and bringing it into the new -- it's Judaism's basic foundation and approach to everything in life. We look at the Torah, we say "what does this mean now," and we go from there. This essentially is what Rachelle Weisberger has done in her new book, Biblical Beauty: Ancient Secrets and Modern Solutions. [I will add the disclaimer here that I got this book for review purposes!]

Is this book for everyone? Probably not. Is this book for me? Not really, no.

The book is divided into Ancient Secrets and Modern Solutions. I immediately was curious if Weisberger took a look at Rachav (who I've written about many times), and there she was! A section on Rachav and her mad makeup skills as the "most legendary prostitute" in the land. I wouldn't say this really is a shining example of Biblical beauty, and as someone familiar with Rachav and her legacy, I have to say that the chapter left me feeling like the author took a shallow approach, making these Biblical women part of a gimmick rather than a lesson in true beauty. Yes, the Talmud details her beauty and the allure she held for men across the land, but her legacy comes from the fact that she saved the Israelites and became a mother to nations of prophets, not because she knew how to do her eyes.

I guess I've never been one to focus on the physical attributes of one's character, which is not to say that I don't believe in getting gussied up every now and again, but I guess I don't really get this book or its purpose. I can see it playing a roll in communities that frown on makeup and attention to physical appearance, and perhaps it can serve some type of inspirational platform for all of those Orthodox teen girls who are starving themselves to be married off at the right age. But I also see the negative impacts of a book like this. It seems to emphasize that it was important for the matriarchs and prolific women of the Tanakh for being physically beautiful, and it offers solutions of how to mimic that care and expertise in the modern period. A little more than 20 pages are devoted to "Inner Beauty" while the rest of the book is devoted wholly to "Outer Beauty."

I guess I'm just not sold on this book helping me find my "unique, intrinsic beauty." It provides a superficial look at some of the most inspiring women of the Tanakh -- from Miriam to Judith to Sarah and so on -- but perhaps it's in my nature to want more than the suggestion that they all cared about how they looked.

What message does this send exactly?

I'm curious what you -- the reader -- would think of this book, so I'm passing this book along in the hopes that maybe a review will follow. Perhaps we can start a review chain? At any rate, if you're interested in reviewing this book (that is, receiving the copy I received in order to review it on your own blog), simply say so in your comment. I'll randomly pick someone by Wednesday around noon to get the book for review.