Jewish Liturgical Reasoning

Jewish Liturgical Reasoning

Jewish Liturgical Reasoning

Jewish Liturgical Reasoning

Synopsis

Liturgy, a complex interweaving of word, text, song, and behavior is a central fixture of religious life in the Jewish tradition. It is unique in that it is performed and not merely thought. Because liturgy is performed by a specific group at a specific time and place it is mutable. Thus, liturgical reasoning is always new and understandings of liturgical practices are always evolving. Liturgy is neither preexisting nor static; it is discovered and revealed in every liturgical performance.
Jewish Liturgical Reasoningis an attempt to articulate the internal patterns of philosophical, ethical, and theological reasoning that are at work in synagogue liturgies. This book discusses the relationship between internal Jewish liturgical reasoning and the variety of external philosophical and theological forms of reasoning that have been developed in modern and post liberal Jewish philosophy. Steven Kepnes argues that liturgical reasoning can reorient Jewish philosophy and provide it with new tools, new terms of discourse and analysis, and a new sensibility for the twenty-first century.
The formal philosophical study of Jewish liturgy began with Moses Mendelssohn and the modern Jewish philosophers. Thus the book focuses, in its first chapters, on the liturgical reasoning of Moses Mendelssohn, Hermann Cohen, and Franz Rosenzweig. However, it attempts to augment and further develop the liturgical reasoning of these figures with methods of study from Hermeneutics, Semiotic theory, post liberal theology, anthropology and performance theory. These newer theories are enlisted to help form a contemporary liturgical reasoning that can respond to such events as the Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel, and interfaith dialogue between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Excerpt

This book asks you to consider the practice of synagogue liturgy as the focal point for contemporary Jewish philosophy. When we begin with liturgy, we begin in a collective activity, an activity of the present moment that was nevertheless performed in the past and will be performed in the future. Beginning with liturgy, we begin with a communal performance of word, text, and song, in a space set apart, in a “sacred space.” in this book I argue that, in liturgy, the communal body becomes the organ of the reasoning of Judaism; or, as Hermann Cohen puts it, liturgy is “the language of reason of the congregation.” For me, this means that liturgy is not a passive recipient or mere vessel of reason but that, in liturgy, the white light of universal reason fans out into a spectrum of colors and hues so that its concepts and ideals are clothed in particular images and displayed in ritual actions. in liturgy, the clarion call of reason becomes a melody that is varied, repeated, submerged, and revealed anew as in a musical fugue. As every liturgical event is dependent upon the time and place and players who enact it, the reason of liturgy is temporal and spatial. Because liturgy is performed by a specific group at a specific time and place, it is never the same. Because liturgy is a living performance that is dependent upon the skill and attitude of its players, it always varies from its script. Thus, liturgical reasoning is always new. It is neither preexistent nor static; it is discovered and revealed in every liturgical performance.

In developing my notion of liturgical reasoning, I begin with the great modern German Jewish philosophers, Moses Mendelssohn, Hermann Cohen, and Franz Rosenzweig. As both philosophical and . . .

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