The Rabbi’s Top Ten: The Best of Everything Jewish

With apologies to (the retiring) David Letterman, I love top ten lists.

Maybe it’s genetic …. I’ve been making lists all my life. So does my mother. I’m one of those people who have a daily to-do list.  I write out a fresh one every day. I have short range lists and medium range lists and long range lists. I have lists of books to read and books I have already read. Sometimes I even make a list of my lists.

Maybe it’s religious…. I am a rabbi and have been for a long time. As a rabbi I deal with lists of people and lists of prayers and lists of Torah portions. I read the Bible quite a bit and there sure are lots of lists in Scripture. Take the Ten Commandments for example. Now that may be the ultimate Top Ten!

Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher ….  I like to use lists in the classroom. They are a practical and useful way to organize and prioritize information. Lists, for example, naturally lend themselves to ranking. My wife says that I am obsessed with rankings; both useful and not-so-useful… like the greatest tennis players of all time, the greatest basketball players of all time, the greatest movies of all time, the greatest television shows of all time, the greatest presidents of all time…you get the point.

So this new blog (my first) is a labor of love. It’s just plain fun. At the same time it’s harder than you think, because being a perfectionist and a list maker can be a dangerous combination. I had to justify all my lists and rankings to myself. Only you will judge if I got it right. This collection is entirely personal and subjective. Now l invite you to lend a hand in making them better. I’m happy to hear your comments. Believe it or not I already have 52 top ten lists covering units like: books, movers and shakers, thinkers and dreamers, the arts, history, geography, celebration, vocabulary…even a whole section called Jewish macho that deals with soldiers, spies, rebels, criminals and athletes. So, yes, if all goes well, I plan to share one list a week… for a year (starting next week). That is, unless you send me a suggestion for a new top ten list…that makes my top ten.

About the Author
Barry L. Schwartz is director of The Jewish Publication Society in Philadelphia and rabbi of Congregation Adas Emuno in Leonia, New Jersey. He is the author, most recently, of "Judaism's Great Debates: Timeless Controversies from Abraham to Herzl" (2012).