Is a post-modern liberal Jewish ethics possible? Can the personal freedom today's Jews cherish have an effective role in a life shaped by the claims of Jewish law and tradition?
For more than twenty years, a renowned Jewish thinker has been giving a positive answer to these questions. In the forty papers gathered here, some being published for the first time, Eugene Borowitz rejects the forced choice of either anarchic liberalism or Orthodox legal discipline, halakhah, to create a new approach to Jewish ethics.
The enterprise of modern Jewish ethics, he shows, arose in the nineteenth century in optimistic response to emancipation from the
ghetto. But after the Holocaust and the general disillusion with the moral character of modernity, the old confidence in humankind's rationality seems ludicrous. As a result, many
have gladly surrendered the self to an orthodoxy only to discover it can lead to zealotry or fanaticism.
Borowitz agrees that modern democracy needs a religious foundation but insists it, too, has compelling spiritual insight, most notably in its reverence for individual dignity and group tolerance. Integrating the truths of modernity and tradition, he formulates an ethics of the autonomous Jewish self living in Covenant. His free Jew is intimately bound to the Jewish people-its present community, its past tradition, its messianic future-and to its God, the One who still grounds Jewish duty
and summons Jews to their responsibilities.
Borowitz applies his ethical approach to problems as diverse as marital sexuality, capitalism's temptations, psychotherapy,
leadership styles, the continuing claims of social justice, confidence in government, homosexuality, the Jewish version of imitatio dei, and more. Religion itself comes within his purview and he breaks new ethical ground in trenchant analyses of intra-Jewish relationships and theological inter-faith dialogue with Buddhists as well as Christians.
Readers will be informed, aroused, even angered by some of these papers. They will also be ethically edified by engagement with a thinker who gives the mind full due while living more fundamentally in Jewish faith. Responding to his ideas, they will face anew what they believe and must now do to maintain the Covenant.