Book Review: Beyond All Things: Insights to Awaken Joy, Purpose, and Spiritual Connection by Azriela Jankovic (self-published 2019), 126 pages
Reviewed by Rebecca Klempner
Former L.A. resident, Azriela Jankovic, Ed.D., recently published her first book, Beyond All Things: Insights to Awaken Joy, Purpose, and Spiritual Connection. Similar to Rabbi Arush’s The Universal Garden of Emuna in its goal to invite a broad audience to connect to their spiritual side, as well as to the work of Brené Brown, which aims to use social science and psychological research to inspire humans to grow, Dr. Jankovic’s slim volume combines these two styles—Torah-based and research-based—with a gentle voice and an uplifting vibe.
A “SOULcare coach,” Dr. Jankovic draws deeply both on her personal beliefs and her background as an educator. Why did she choose to write her book for a general audience rather than a specifically Jewish one? “Searching for depth and meaning in years past may have led a person to any number of religious institutions,” Dr. Jankovic explains in the book’s introduction. “…For the first time in human history, we are afforded access to information and inspiration from every corner of the world. We are converging together and beginning to recognize the great Spiritual Truths that unite all of humanity (p. 9).”
Dr. Jankovic, who made Aliyah several years ago, organizes Beyond All Things into several topical chapters divided into 50 “Insights.” Each insight, moreover, ends with a short exercise or reflection, labeled “Grow Your Insight.”
It took me a while to finish this book despite its concise nature. It felt natural to wait a day or two after reading an Insight so I could digest and process its content. While not complicated reading, it is deep reading, and the way Dr. Jankovic presents each Grow Your Insight exercise nudges readers to interact with the text. This is not a book to breeze through on a single afternoon.
A few piques: Insights are uneven in length, and a few of the shorter ones left me feeling like something was missing. These Insights (including #12 and #19) were usually the ones with less storytelling and less personal input. They left a vaguer impression on me than the ones with anecdotes and a truly personal touch. I felt the same way about a couple of the chapter introductions, and she never really concluded the personal hashgachah pratis anecdote she started the volume with. On the other hand, Insights such as #21, which details a lovely story about Dr. Jankovic’s grandparents, made quite an impact. Because her storytelling skills are so strong, I wanted her to exercise them more.
I really appreciated Dr. Jankovic’s endnotes, which list the sources, both Jewish and scientific, which guide the book. So many inspirational volumes tell people to do or believe things without explaining why, without revealing how the author came to their conclusions, and this book’s transparency was refreshing.
Her book concludes, “We are living beings, deeply connected with all of life. With each breath, an opportunity to begin again. To heed the call of our soul. To remind ourselves of and to return to our purest nature, which connects us with all of life (p.113).” Beyond All Things would be perfect to read—one Insight at a time—first thing in the morning or right before bed. It’s appropriate for readers 18 and up, of all religions or none. You can find the book either on Amazon or on Dr. Jankovic’s website, www.azrielajankovic.com