Touch of the Sacred: A Theologian's Informal Guide to Jewish Belief


For the first time, Dr. Eugene Borowitz, the "dean" of liberal Jewish theologians, opens his heart as well as his mind as he talks about the mix of faith and doubt, of knowing and not-knowing-the elements of Jewish belief-in an easily accessible style.

In these pages, Borowitz shares with you his rich inner life, which draws from both the rational and mystical Jewish thought ...

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Touch of the Sacred: A Theologian's Informal Guide to Jewish Belief

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For the first time, Dr. Eugene Borowitz, the "dean" of liberal Jewish theologians, opens his heart as well as his mind as he talks about the mix of faith and doubt, of knowing and not-knowing-the elements of Jewish belief-in an easily accessible style.

In these pages, Borowitz shares with you his rich inner life, which draws from both the rational and mystical Jewish thought that have inspired two generations of rabbis, cantors, and educators, and will now inspire you. With him, you will explore:

Seeking the Sacred One

Doing Holy Deeds

Creating Sacred Community

Reading Sacred Texts

Thinking about Holiness

Learning from Holy Thinkers

And much, much more...

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Leading Jewish theologian Borowitz (Hebrew Union College, Liberal Judaism) and coauthor Schwartz (The Jewish Moral Virtues) present a much-needed book. As they note, there are many fine books about Jewish holidays and Jewish history, but too few about Jewish theology-especially liberal Jewish theology-that are accessible to the general reader. Borowitz and Schwartz open with a discussion of how we can talk about God, and then traverse everything from interfaith dialogue to the Psalms to religious authority to Jewish ideas about evil and life after death. Throughout, the authors underscore "humankind's significant role as God's partner." They provocatively suggest that in recent decades, many Jews have become increasingly humble about what they can and cannot know; this philosophical reserve has helped liberal Jews cease trying to be "hardheaded rationalistic types" and to become more open to God and spirituality. Sketches of seven people who have influenced modern Jewish thought, including Hermann Cohen and Judith Plaskow, are useful. The book is marred only by its somewhat confusing organization. Indeed, the authors themselves explain the book can be read in any order and "wasn't written with one in mind"-but that proves to be a weakness, not a boon. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580233378
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,378,735
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Eugene B. Borowitz, the leading theologian of liberal Judaism, is the Sigmund L. Falk Distinguished Professor of Education and Jewish Religious Thought at the New York School of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion where he has taught since 1962. He is a prolific author, having written many articles and books, and was the founding editor of Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility. His book, The Mask Jews Wear, received the National Jewish Book Award in the field of Jewish Thought.

Frances W. Schwartz is coauthor, with Borowitz, of The Jewish Moral Virtues, and is adult learning coordinator of the Union for Reform Judaism. She teaches Jewish adults in many different venues.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction xiii

Part I Seeking the Sacred One

1 We Can't Talk about God but We Must 3

2 Where Is God? Answering a Nine-Year-Old 7

3 God and Mystery 11

4 The Many Meanings of "God Is One" 15

5 IsOur God Experience Authentic? 18

6 The Jewish Idea(s) of God 21

7 Relating to God: Substance or Style? 25

8 Accepting the World God Willed 29

Part II Doing Holy Deeds

9 Being Close to God 35

10 The Act and Art of Praying 39

11 Moses' Prayer for Healing-and Ours 43

12 How Shall We Comfort the Mourner? 47

13 Traditional Words of Condolence 50

14 A New Phase in Jewish Piety 53

15 The Power of Creating New Religious Customs 57

16 Fanaticism and Zeal 61

17 Who is a Mentsh? 65

Part III Creating Sacred Community

18 A Mystical Model for Leaders 71

19 How an Agnostic Community Came to Seek Spirituality 74

20 The Appeal of Transdenominational Judaism 79

21 A Conflict over Interfaith Dialogue 83

22 How Liberal and Orthodox Jews Can Coexist 88

23 The Special Risk of Liberalizing Judaism 91

24 Catholic-Jewish Dialogue: An Autobiographical Note 95

25 The Historical Case for Interfaith Dialogue 99

26 Building a Community of "God-Fearers" 103

Part IV Reading Sacred Texts

27 Letting the Psalms Speak to You 109

28 Reliving the Sinai Experience Each Year 114

29 "Weighing" the Texts That Instruct Us 118

30 Putting Texts in Context 122

31 Religious Authority in Judaism 126

32 Integrating Jewish Law and Jewish Ethics 131

33 Jewish Decision Making 135

34 Innovation in Judaism: Yesterday and Today 139

Part V Thinking about Holiness

35 Why Do We Need Theology? 147

36 Theology as an Afterthought 151

37 WhyHistorical Theology Won't Do 154

38 Jewish God-Talk's Four Criteria 158

39 The Brain-Heart Interplay in Faith 161

40 Four Ways to Understand "God Says ..." 165

41 Clarifying Some Feminist Ideas 168

42 Jewish Beliefs about Evil 172

43 The Messianic Hope Today 176

44 Life after Death 180

Part VI Learning from Holy Thinkers

45 Why I Am a Theologian Rather than a Philosopher 187

46 Seven People Who Shaped Modern Jewish Thought 191

47 Rationalist Thinkers and What They Can Teach Us 196

48 Two Misunderstood Messages of Martin Buber 200

49 Mordecai Kaplan: Ethnicity in Modern Judaism 204

50 The Greatest Contemporary Orthodox Jewish Philosopher 208

51 The Ethics "Mystery" and Abraham Joshua Heschel 213

52 Covenant Theology: An Autobiographical Note 218

Glossary 222

Bibliography of Titles Mentioned in This Book 228

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