Author of the upcoming book, Mensch•Marks: Life lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times. Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2018 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Random musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
First, I love books written by Rabbi's. I've never read a bad one. Their style of writing incorporates humor (sometimes very dry—without an olive), with lots of insight and wisdom. Mensch*Marks is no exception. Rabbi Joshua Hammerman had me laughing, concerned, prodded to think, and often surprised at his transparent analysis of Judaism: Mensch*Mark 40—Should Jews Turn The Other Cheek? This four page essay of "Looking Evil in the Eye," was an "eye opener" into the Jewish approach to "turning the other cheek" when disaster disrupts a community. The essay gave me pause to consider the Jewish ethos v. Christian ethos. I cannot find fault with either, but lean more toward Rabbi Hammerman's POV based on the precept of teshuvah. He explains why "turning the cheek" denies human contact: "face-to-face where true reconciliation can only occur when two human beings can truly see what is human in the other." There are other thought provoking essays you may or may not agree with, but will certainly expand your mind and possibly your heart.
His sweetest essay, "Hugging, Blessing, Letting Go"...is about his son Dan's Bar Mitzvah and as his son's officiating rabbi and father standing with his son on the bimah, he recollects Dan from the crawling baby to his recent "cherubic voice becoming a subtle rasp" and realizes "with every embrace their must be a release." In the end, the Rabbi father realizes, "Only parents can love children enough to let them go."
Mensch*Marks is a collection of essays spanning the thirty plus years Rabbi Hammerman has spent comforting the sick, coupling the lovers, burying the dead and between his rabbinic duties being a good husband, loving father and simply a human being. His authentic approach has opened my eyes to the rabbi's I study under and perhaps have never seen as simply another human being. He's given me greater respect for their person, for the demands of their rabbinate life and for that, I am grateful.
Mensch*Marks is an amazing book. Each chapter preceded with an explanation of the essay and each part preceded with a quote from A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh, each one right-on for the content.
The underlying theme of Mensch*Marks is becoming a good mensch (a person of character) something Hammerman's father instilled in his son. This collection of essay's portray’s Rabbi Hammerman's journey on the menschlichkeit path. He writes, "Today, I have started the process toward becoming a mensch." I'd say he's made his mark.