Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Traditionby David Sears
For many Jews and non-Jews, the Torah, the Talmud and other rabbinic writings have long been interpreted as saying that the Jews alone are God's chosen people. According to Sears, The Path of the Baal Shem Tov, such readings have led to a struggle among Jews between assimilationlosing their particular Jewish identityand withdrawalpreserving their particular Jewish identity and surviving as a people. Sears contends that this struggle between particularism and universalism is often misguided, for he argues that the particularism of Judaism engenders a "model of spirituality and moral refinement that will inspire the rest of the world to turn to God of its own accord." In order to demonstrate the depth from which Judaism speaks in a universalistic voice, Sears collects a wide range of sources from a number of periods in Jewish history. In the section on "Judaism and Non-Jews," the Talmudic teaching of Rabbi Yochanan, "Whoever speaks wisdom, although he is a non-Jew, is a sage," urges respect for the wisdom of other traditions. In the section on "The Chosen People," two Midrash passages demonstrate the idea of Israel as spiritual model: "God gave the Torah to the Jewish people so that all nations might benefit by it"; "Just as the [sacrifice of the dove] atones for transgression, Israel atones for the nations of the world." Finally, in a section on "Messianic Vision," Sears argues that Jewish writings state that it is the Messiah's primary task to return the "entire world" to God and God's teachings. Sears's extensive sourcebook is a rich collection of primary writings on the role of compassion in the Jewish tradition. (Sept.) Publisher's Weekly
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The source material selections and commentaries in this excellent book are infused with compassion and are especially important and inspiring at this time. These are teachings that can be of benefit for the entire world, if we but open our eyes and ears and hearts. Rabbi David Sears has done an extraordinary job!