This book describes the rich cultural worlds of a yeshiva student and a kibbutz girl who succeed in creating a dialogue of understanding and compassion. Their distant outlooks meet in a meaningful and touching dialogue that reveals how much common ground they share despite their divergent world-views. This is an exceptional, engaging book that brings hope to those seeking a serious dialogue and real understanding between the religious and secular in Israeli society today.
Talia is very secular but has a strong desire to learn more about her religion and Zionism. In their letters, Dov and Talia are brutally honest with each other. His adherence to religious law often offends Talia. But Dov has that perfect mix of being incredibly intelligent and, I have to say, charismatic. While he is adamant regarding his position, he is also able to sway Talia in some of her beliefs. It is often in Talia’s pushing back at Dov after an offense that his best explanations are then offered. She wanted to learn, and he was happy to teach.
The two did meet face-to-face a couple of times. And there was definitely a tenderness developing between them. Some have called it love. I see it more as adulation on her side and fondness (like to a little sister) on his side. Unfortunately Dov is killed in the Yom Kippur War. The book stops abruptly there. This is probably why I am giving it only three stars. I feel that there should have been something more from Talia. Perhaps how she learned of his death, her reaction, what she went on to do. After this abrupt ending halfway through the book there is then a short section that is basically a biography of Dov’s life. Then it wraps up with his friends telling us what Dov was like.
It was interesting to read his explanation for why very religious Jews do certain things, why they believe a certain way. He was an exceptional young man. He had a wide interest in all types of topics. He did not limit himself to just religious texts. He loved learning just for the sake of learning. Dov embraced the beauty of his religion and never apologized for it. He loved nature and relished each gift from God, great or small. Several times he is quoted as seeing something and then exclaiming “How great are the wonders of God!”
I received the book from Geffen Publishing with a request for a review.
This translated edition, published in 2012, was delivered to me by Geffen Publishing House in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Contents include a foreword/ The Letters/ Chapters in Dov’s life/ Friends talk about
Dov Indig 1951-1973
Dov was killed October 7, 1973, on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War. His friends and family published a book in his memory and quote excerpts from a correspondence Dov maintained (for 2 years) with Talia, a girl from a secular kibbutz in northern Israel. At the time, Talia was a high school student and Dov was a student in the hesder Yeshiva (an orthodox Jewish elementary or secondary school) Kerem B’ Yavneh, near Aashdod. Dov’s schooling combined Torah study in yeshiva with military service. At one point, Dov met Talia’s father and they developed a dialogue about Judaism and Zionism. Talia’s father suggested a correspondence between Dov and his daughter, Talia, which she welcomed. At the time, she was being exposed to Judaism through the seminars of Gesher (an organization that sponsors programs to connect religious and secular Israelis and, thus, strengthen Jewish identity).
The letters reveal rich spiritual worlds of both Dov (yeshiva student) and Talia (from a secular kibbutz). The letters also attempt to bridge the gap between religious and secular Israeli thought and practice.
Dov became famous as the hero of the novel, ADJUSTING SIGHTS by Rabbi Haim Sabato. A movie was also made and many people became interested in the personage/character of Dov. Many feel that Dov’s greatness can best be defined in his letters to Talia and this correspondence became the center or purpose of this publication, LETTERS TO TALIA, by Dov’s family and friends.
The LETTERS included questions and discussions of many topics and questions, including:
Why separate traditional dancing for boys and girls?
What does mixed dancing of teens before marriage have to do with family stability and divorce rates?
Why wouldn’t Dov see the movie, Dr. Zhivago? Talia doesn’t understand what is bad about love between a married man and a married woman. Dov replies that loyalty to God surpasses love of a woman. Dov also recommended reading Erich Fromm’s THE ART OF LOVING.
Many discussions of passages from the Book of Job.
The necessity and benefits of mikve (a ritual cleansing/a purification cleansing for married men and women)
A discussion of the book, KUZARI by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi. This is a book about basic Jewish philosophy.
a secular Shabbot.
Dov’s declaration that “without faith in God there are no values or morality.” “Morality is associated with religion and faith.”
My favorite letter is from Dov, “The day after Pesach [April 24, 1974] Ras Sudr”, where he describes the beauty of the Sinai.
In his last letter to Talia (before he died), he muses on his true calling - education. He writes that “education is the word that resonates for me wherever I go: that is the key to the future of the Jewish people as a people of faith, Torah, and eternal values.”
I don’t mean to ‘ramble on’, but this book was so intense that I took copious notes and did a lot of thinking about my own religious values and thoughts. I am not Jewish and know little about the Jewish faith and the Hebrew language, so I was constantly looking up words and expressions and places. I learned a lot and was very impressed with the maturity and thoughtfulness of these two young people.
The letters exhibit such an intensity - of curiosity, of spirit, of intellect. If a book’s purpose is to help one examine one’s own beliefs and values and interests, this book, LETTERS TO TALIA, certainly fulfilled its intent.
I would heartily recommend reading this book. The courage, the love of learning, the love of faith which Dov expounds will inspire you, whatever your belief system.