In 2022 the average reader could come across hundreds of self-help guides, be confronted with dozens of challenges, of which many will be new Jewish books trying to lead such initiatives. “The 40 Day Challenge” by Rabbi Mark Wildes is no different in that respect. However, wherein the differences lie places this book in a category of its own.
“The 40 Day Challenge” is a book that is meant to be read one chapter at a time for the forty days between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Yom Kippur. The reader then contemplates the action prompt and responds in the text box provided at the end of each chapter. This book was built on the premise that we prepare for whatever we value in life, so our high holiday experience should be no different. Rabbi Wildes presents topical examples to elucidate the presented principles, quoting from Abraham Lincoln to Nat King Cole.
While written as a self-help guide and presented to the reader as such, the author does not refrain from sneaking in critical and varied sources spanning the gamut of Torah scholars. You can expect to learn insights from the Rav and Rabbi Nachman MiBreslov, touching on psychology, biology, world history, and current events.
Rare in this genre of Jewish growth books, the author gives concrete examples and provides a workbook to take actionable steps to apply the teachings of the sages. Yet, the author provides varied ways for different people to achieve the same challenges. He thoroughly introduces each idea so a person with little to no knowledge can understand these insights, giving a glimpse into many areas that could inspire the reader to advance their knowledge of the presented topics.
Rabbi Wildes engages the reader through the highs and lows of a topic, leading you through the questions that confronts a person when studying the area and quoting from a wide array of sources to answer the dilemmas. Themes such as continual effort and caring for others are developed, reviewed and referenced. He provides personal examples and shares his learning from the lessons he shared.
Written for those interested in adding to their religious devotion and for those looking to enhance their religious devotion. Though examples given will be best for newly or soon to be observant, all can benefit.
Perhaps the one suggestion I would make would be that the author left a void for what is next. Once the person searching for a greater connection to the world of Torah finishes this book, to whom should they turn? Based on the reputation of the author, I am sure they could turn to him. Perhaps he could have shared that offer, to provide a potential contact, or a list of books that may benefit the reader. It just seems that this book aims to provide an ascension for the person and the reader may be left lost at the end. However, I think that the main purpose of this book, and a major value in Jewish philosophy, is perfectly summed up by the author himself.
But there’s another fundamental concept which Judaism can also take pride in bringing to the fore; consistency – the value in sticking with something every day….It may not always be exciting to do the same thing day after day, but that is precisely how we accomplish the changes we want to see in our lives.
Hopefully this book can aid its reader in continued growth, through hard work. And may we all merit to be successful during this time of year.