Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud: An Introduction

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud: An Introduction

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud: An Introduction

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud: An Introduction


Although Jewish scholars have recognized the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas as one of the greatest Talmudic minds of this century, the majority of Jews have remained ignorant of his teachings - now Rabbi Stone makes Levinas accessible to lay readers for the first time.


This book constitutes an invitation on my part. With it, I invite you into two worlds that I have inhabited simultaneously over the past decade and more. That it is a personal invitation accounts, in large part, for the point of view of the book. That is, I am writing it for you and have tried not to hide behind any authorial screen. The pronoun "I" is used often. This is not usually the way "scholarly" books are written. However, despite what I believe is a healthy dose of scholarship necessary for the writing of this book, it is not a book of scholarship. Its goal is not to prove this or that scholarly point. Its goal is to entice you into my world.

My world is neither the world of Emmanuel Levinas nor the world of the Talmud. My world is the intellectual and spiritual environment in which I live because I have encountered both Levinas and Talmud and, following Levinas's lead, because I have attempted to bring those two worlds into discourse within me. This book is both the result of that interior discourse and an invitation for you to attempt to do the same.

In order to help you enter the world of Emmanuel Levinas, I have tried to present to you his thought as that thought resonated in my soul. In order to help you enter the world of the Talmud, I have read selected passages from the Talmud according to principles that I derived on the basis of my reading of Levinas. The purpose of both parts of my book is not to present an authoritative reading of Levinas or of Talmud, but to invite you to read both and produce your own book, whether in actuality or within your soul.

Underpinning the connection between Levinas and Talmud, and justifying the profitable reading of each in the light of the other, are Levinas's project for escaping the totality of the Western philosophical tradition and his recognition of the Talmud as a vehicle for exhibiting a literary discourse in which this escape is, in fact, accomplished. Therefore, I would like to emphasize this point even at this preliminary juncture and make sure that this essential idea -- totality -- is understood, in order for it to be overturned.

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