Rarely do students have an opportunity to praise their teacher's accomplishments; usually the situation is reversed. I take pride in reporting that my own teacher, Rabbi Yonason Goldson, has recently published a book that is the outgrowth of the Jewish history curriculum he has taught at Block Yeshiva High School over the past 14 years. It is titled "Dawn to Destiny: Exploring Jewish History and its Hidden Wisdom" and published by Judaica Press.
Rabbi Goldson combines his extensive knowledge of Jewish history with his talents as a writer to produce a work as engaging as it is informative. "Dawn to Destiny" presents both the events and lessons of the early generations of the Jewish people, from the creation of the world, through periods of both Temples, and on to the era of the Talmud. I consider myself fortunate to have learned the information from Rabbi Goldson himself, and to have been part of the formation of this book in my Jewish History classes at Block Yeshiva. I am confident to say that the Jewish community will benefit immensely from this publication.
"Dawn to Destiny" brings forth ideas and lessons that Jews from all backgrounds can incorporate into their daily lives. By learning our own history, we not only recognize our past mistakes, but we learn how to prevent future ones. Goldson clearly realizes the importance of familiarizing oneself with our historical traditions and the incredible impact they have on our nation.
Written in a question and answer format, "Dawn to Destiny" helps the reader fully absorb the information presented in each section. For example, when discussing the return to Israel after the Babylonian exile, Goldson asks, "Why was the Second Temple such a pale shadow of the First?" He answers by explaining how the Jewish people had gone through a major spiritual and cultural decline, resulting in the physical diminishment of the Temple that was the focal point of the spiritual identity. Every introductory question helps to highlight history's most important lessons while dispelling many common misconceptions.
One of the more intriguing topics discussed in "Dawn to Destiny" is how to reconcile science and Creationism. By posing such questions as, "How old is the Universe?" and "Why did G-d create the Universe?" Goldson demonstrates how it is unnecessary to choose between Jewish tradition and the assumptions of the scientific community. It is Goldson's ability to resolve issues like these in a thoughtful and articulate manner that makes "Dawn to Destiny" an essential addition to everyone's library.
In his acknowledgments, Goldson writes: "The extraordinary world of Jewish history illuminated my horizons and excited my imagination, inspiring me to create a curriculum that, I hope, has imparted some of my newfound passion to my students."
Apparently, he has succeeded. Graduating senior Davita Wachsstock says, "Rabbi Goldson has taught us to look at information and perceive the relevant details while not losing sight of the overarching goal. He has truly taught us the importance of taking an open-minded approach to Torah, while emphasizing the art and science of questioning ideas until we fully understand."
For those of us who benefited from Rabbi Goldson's classes, this book means much more than simply an important addition to Torah literature, for we feel part of his accomplishment and see it as the culmination of so many years of effort on our behalf.
It seems that Rabbi Goldson feels much the same way himself. In an address to the Block Yeshiva girls' division he added: "As exciting as it is to see years of work take physical form with the publication of this book, it is the process of communicating the wisdom of the Jewish people in the classroom that has been my greatest source of pride and pleasure."