Title: Setting a Table for Two
Author: Rabbi Avraham Peretz Friedman
Publisher: Compass Books
My dear friend, Rabbi Avraham Peretz Friedman, sent me an advance copy of his new book, Setting a Table for Two, for my perusal. I opened the book for a quick peek, planning to methodically go through it later at a slower pace.
Yet, before I knew it, much time had passed as my quick peek ended up totally engrossing me. I was utterly captivated and enthralled by what I was reading, having had no idea that the book would be so unusual, and fun, to go through.
Setting a Table for Two is a lively, no-holds-barred guide to marriage based entirely on a profound understanding of Torah as the ultimate guide to life. To be honest, I have read other marriage books and expected Setting a Table for Two to be a variation of them. I was dead wrong.
Rabbi Friedman’s book is the most revolutionary and absolute best, hands-on blueprint for spousal relationships I have ever read. Why? Because it is as practical as can be, focusing on what might be perceived as the nitty gritty, petty, and even embarrassing aspects of spousal interactions. And it is bold and unapologetic in its portrayal of male and female psyches, needs, expectations, and obligations. (The author is not shy to point out where liberal marital advice has gone wrong.)
Topics include spouses not psychoanalyzing each other, expressing one’s needs, the proper way to react to one’s spouse’s stress, the imperative for husbands to express masculinity, dealing with in-laws, taking responsibility, and much more. All are discussed with colorful detail, imaginary dialogues, and profound wisdom.
Setting a Table for Two is also a sefer from which to learn foundational Torah concepts. Indeed, the Torah sources systematically presented in Setting a Table for Two illustrate how the Torah truly serves as a Divine guide to life.
Setting a Table for Two challenges and shakes the reader in unexpected ways, but, as readers will see, it does so in the context of being a great spouse and a great servant of God. The book is uplifting and inspiring, as one realizes that knowing what not to do is often just as important as what to do.
In short, Setting a Table for Two is truly a Mesillas Yesharim for interpersonal relationships. Its every word is precious and sacred, and it should be the primary text for Torah-based marriages. It is founded upon an orderly system, but it is also full of sharp turns and surprises, with the author often presenting advice that at first glance may seem highly unconventional, counterintuitive, and even uncomfortable, but which one soon sees is rock-solid and can significantly improve one’s life.
In Setting a Table for Two, Rabbi Friedman has produced something that is both delightfully light and downright serious at the same time. After reading Setting a Table for Two, I wondered how we ever did without it.