Israelis and the Jewish Tradition: An Ancient People Debating Its Future

Israelis and the Jewish Tradition: An Ancient People Debating Its Future

by David Hartman
     
 

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In this powerful book one of the most important Jewish thinkers in the world today grapples with issues that increasingly divide Israel’s secular Jewish community from its religious Zionists. Addressing the concerns of both communities from the point of view of one who is deeply committed to religious pluralism, David Hartman suggests a more inclusive and… See more details below

Overview

In this powerful book one of the most important Jewish thinkers in the world today grapples with issues that increasingly divide Israel’s secular Jewish community from its religious Zionists. Addressing the concerns of both communities from the point of view of one who is deeply committed to religious pluralism, David Hartman suggests a more inclusive and inviting framework for the modern Israeli engagement of the Jewish tradition. He offers a new understanding of what it means to be Jewish—one which is neither assimilationist nor backward-looking, and one that enables different Jewish groups to celebrate their own traditions without demonizing or patronizing others. In a world polarized between religious and secular and caught within a sectarian denominationalism, Hartman shows the way to build bridges of understanding.

The book explores the philosophies of two major Jewish thinkers of the Middle Ages, Yehuda Halevi and Moses Maimonides. A careful analysis of Maimonides’ approach to Judaism shows that messianism is not the predominant organizing principle that makes Judaism intelligible and significant, Hartman contends. He argues against Halevi’s triumphalism and in favor of using the Sinai covenant for evaluating the religious significance of Israel, for this approach gives meaning to Zionists’ religious commitments while also empowering secular Israelis to reengage with the Jewish tradition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Faced with the profound contemporary polarization between secular and religious in Israel, Hartman, a recipient of two National Jewish Book Awards for previous works (Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest, etc.), proposes a third path: one that allows secular Israelis seeking meaning in their Jewish identity to return to traditional texts without suffering authoritarian condemnation for not adhering to Jewish law. Hartman goes a step fartherDand will ruffle many religious feathersDin arguing for the "demythologization" of the Jewish people, for an abandonment of the "narcissistic frame of mind in which the reality of God revolves exclusively around my people's history, my rituals and my traditions." In seeking a paradigm for this open-ended approach, Hartman turns to the two great medieval Jewish philosophers: Maimonides and Rabbi Judah Halevi. The latter viewed Judaism as a mystical, revelation-based religion oriented toward messianic redemption and the particularity of the Jews. Maimonides, in contrast, took an Aristotelian rationalist approach to Judaism, focusing more on the universalistic spirit of the Bible's creation narrative than on the particularism of the revelation at Mt. Sinai. Halevi's mode of thought, Hartman asserts, underlies the attitudes of religious Zionists who oppose territorial compromise in the Middle EastDa position Hartman rejects, favoring territorial compromise just as he preaches compromise regarding the religious tradition. Judaism, he says, is a text-based interpretive tradition, and secular Jews can reenter the interpretive conversation without committing themselves to halakic observance. Much of what Hartman says will be controversial, but he offers a serious proposal for reimagining Judaism in the modern, secularist world. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300130515
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
10/01/2008
Series:
Terry Lectures Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

Hilary Putnam
Hartman shows, by a daringly original interpretation of the meaning of Judaism, that antagonistic attitudes toward other strains of Judaism than one's own, and toward other religions and secular Jews, not only need not, but must not, be part of our understanding of what Judaism means today.—(Hilary Putnam, Harvard University)
James Ponet
Hartman argues passionately against a grand redemptive reading of Jewish history in favor of a sober embrace of political reality and a pluralist reading of the Torah. He shows us the way to begin to imagine a post-modern Jewish identity that is at once grounded in a serious reading of Jewish texts and profoundly open to the intellectual and cultural currents of our time. In Maimonides he recognizes the model; in Halevi the danger.

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