Judaism: Jewish Thought and Philosophy

Shofar, January 31, 2000 | Go to article overview

Judaism: Jewish Thought and Philosophy


Judaism: Jewish Thought and Philosophy

Alchemy of the Word: Cabala of the Renaissance, by Philip Beitchman. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998. 364 pp. ISBN 0-7914-3737-X (c); 0-7914-3738-8 (P).

This book is a study of the literary, philosophical, and cultural ramifications of Cabala during the Renaissance. Important intellectual figures from 1490 to 1690 are considered, including Agrippa, Dee, Spenser, Shakespeare, Browne, and Milton; Cabala's more recent impact is also discussed. Cabala is based on the notion that Moses received a secret, oral supplement to the written Decalogue that provides a symbolic, allegorical, and moral qualification of the literal law of religion.

Bioethical Dilemmas: A Jewish Perspective, by J. David Bleich. Hoboken, NJ: Ktav Publishers, 1998. 375 pp. ISBN 0-88125-483-8.

In this volume Rabbi Bleich discusses such questions as assisted procreation, surrogate motherhood, pregnancy reduction, sperm banking, disclosure of information, care of the terminally ill, AIDS, HIV screening, and conjoined twins. He explores the principles and concerns that enter into a Jewish response to each of these issues and demonstrates how Jewish teaching addresses them within the context of a morally coherent value system.

Divine Law in Human Hands: Case Studies in Halakhic Flexibility, by Yaacov Katz. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1999. 552 pp. ISBN 965-223-980-1.

These articles, some written in English but most of them translated from the author's two Hebrew books, Halakhah and Kabbalah and Halakhah in Straits, are presented here. The term Halakhah appears in all these articles in relation to other spiritual, historical, or social elements. By following the Halakhic arguments applied to concrete cases, we gain an insight into the essence of its system and the dynamics of its methodology. At the same time the reciprocity between Halakhah as an abstract system and the realities of life in the Jewish community is revealed.

The Exegetical Imagination: On Jewish Thought and Theology, by Michael Fishbane. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998. 256 pp. ISBN 0-674-27462-8.

Michael Fishbane delineates the connections between biblical interpretation and Jewish religious thought. Focusing on questions often pondered in Midrash, he shows how religious ideas are generated or justified by exegesis. He also explores the role exegesis plays in liturgy and ritual.

Exodus to Humanism: Jewish Identity Without Religion, by David Ibry. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1999. 143 pp. ISBN 1-57392-267-6.

For thousands of years, Jewish identity has been joined with the beliefs and rituals of Judaism. Since the rise of Zionism, Judaism has also been connected with the political movement to establish and defend a Jewish homeland in Israel. Yet for increasing numbers of Jews today the sense of who they are is not defined by either religion or politics. David Ibry calls for a new humanism among Jews. He examines what it means to be a nonreligious Jew and explains how to cope with the obsolete tenets of the faith.

Eyes Remade for Wonder: A Lawrence Kushner Reader, by Lawrence Kushner. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 1998. 240 pp. ISBN 1-58023-014-8.

Kushner focuses on spiritual renewal in this book of samplings from each of his books plus some new material.

A Heart of Many Rooms: Celebrating the Many Voices within Judaism, by David Hartman. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 1999. 300 pp. ISBN 1-58023-048-2.

David Hartman addresses the spiritual and theological questions that face all Jews and all people today. He shows that commitment to both Jewish tradition and to pluralism can create bridges of understanding between people of different religious convictions.

Hermann Cohen's Philosophy of Religion: International Conference in Jerusalem 1996, edited by Stéphane Moses and Hartwig Wiedebach. Hildesheim, Germany: Georg Olms Verlag, 1997. 294 pp. ISBN 3-487-10509-8. …

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