Book Review: Seven Sparks – Tools for Jewish Wellness by Beth Schafer; Illustrated by Joanne Fink
Publisher: (2011)

Reviewed by Marcus J Freed, and

Seven Sparks is one of the newest books to enter the field of Jewish well being and it does so in an easily-digestible format. The author, a co-founder of the wellness organisation Positive Jewish living, organises her treaty into seven sections that are all linked to one of the ten commandments.

Shabbat/Sabbath is understood through the lens of Stillness, while the idea of having one God is connected to the concept of Love. The notion of Balance becomes a way to explore not taking God’s name in vain or swearing falsely, while Beneficence becomes a path for exploring the edicts to refrain from murder or adultery.

What stands out about this book is its simple and modest approach to connecting emotional and physical wellbeing to the Jewish spiritual tradition. The book’s publishers, Positive Jewish Living, are currently making good strides for promoting spiritual wellness within the Reform and Conservative congregations of North America. One of their founders, Rabbi Lisa Tzur, is quoted within the context of creating mindfulness;

“Most of us don’t notice our breathing until we experience strong emotion or physical sensation – like anxiety panic or pain. How can we become conscious of the breath as a continual gift from The Creator? Our breath is a constant reminder of our ever developing-relationship. On Shabbat, consider taking the five minutes out of the day to simply breathe? (p77).

Seven Sparks really does deliver on the agenda for self-development, as each chapter concludes with a positive theme, along with a series of questions for discussion. In this sense the book provides a series of entry-points for the uninitiated as it boils complex ideas down to the fundamentals and allows people access to source materials which would otherwise be more obscure.

The book isn’t a long read from cover to cover, but mastering its lessons could take a lifetime.