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Israelis and the Jewish Tradition: An Ancient People Debating Its Future (The Terry Lectures Series) Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Series: The Terry Lectures Series
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300083785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300083781
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,331,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers 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 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Hartman, founder and director of Jerusalem's Shalom Hartman Institute, addresses "the crisis facing secular and religious Zionists in Israel today" in a book based on the 1998 Terry Lectures he delivered at Yale Divinity School. Palestinian peace negotiations challenge "a central ideological tenet" of many religious Zionists' messianism, while many secular Israelis seek to reengage with Jewish tradition without rejecting Western culture. Hartman examines contrasting Middle Ages approaches to Jewish tradition in the chapters "The God of History in Yehuda Halevi" and "The Cosmic God of Maimonides' Thought." In "The Maimonidean Sensibility," he offers "a meaningful precedent and model for individuals seeking ways to reclaim their tradition while at the same time sharing in the values and cultural traditions of the broader human community." Mary Carroll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on March 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is a not-very-well connected series of lectures in book form.

The first and most readable section discusses the four major ideologies in Israel: religious anti-Zionism (which views Zionism as theologically meaningless, if not harmful), religious Zionism (which tends to view the state of Israel as the first step towards messianic redemption), secular Zionism (which views Zionism as an important means of preserving Jewish identity, but isn't so interested in religion) and secular post-Zionism (which views Israel as just another democracy).

The second and third essays compare two medieval Jewish philosophers, Judah Halevi and Moshe ben Maimon (also known as "Maimonides" and "Rambam"). Halevi believed that spirituality and the Torah's laws are based on relevation but not on reason, while Rambam believed that even the most seemingly irrational Torah commandments have a rational basis, and that the best way to know God is "through philosophical reflection on the nature of being, which is independent of history." Hartman tends to favor Rambam, because a overly relevation-oriented Judaism tends to be susceptible to dangerous bursts of messianic enthuasiasm. Hartman even claims that an "event-grounded theology" leads to "manic-depressive episodes", which strikes me as perhaps a stretch.

The fourth essay asks: how is Rambam' rationalism compatible with Judaism? After all, says Hartman, the Jewish Bible ("Tanach") constantly discusses divine reward and punishment, while Rambam emphasizes human reason. According to Hartman, the Talmud supplies the missing link between the Tanach and Rambam, by emphasizing the role of human reason in turning the generalities of the Torah into specific legal rules.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Rabbi David Hartman is a courageous thinker who dares to look honestly at the problems facing the Jewish people today, and to attempt real and innovative answers to them. He is also a distinguished Jewish thinker and scholar as is made evident in this work in his writing on the 'Kuzari' and on the Rambam. It is not necessary to agree with all that he has to say, but there is value in listening and thinking carefully to what this most engaged Jewish thinker has to say.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Baruch Frydman-Kohl on August 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
David Hartman has applied his considerable intellectual talent to 1) articulate a problem facing contemporary Israel (and much of the Jewish people), 2) explore two medieval thinkers - Yehudah Halevi, the romantic, and Maimonides, the rationalist - regarding their attitudes toward both miracle and messianism, and 3) apply the insights of their two approaches to the current situation. Hartman illustrates the hopeful allure of Halevi, the enduring sobriety of Maimonides, and his own continuing concern for questions of political and social ethics which also characterises contemporary philosophical discussion. Quite worthwhile.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
David Hartman is: kind, smart, compassionate, wise, learned and a good writer. All that is in evidence in this book, and more: An update on Israel, always welcome especially by one Who Know. And too few are in that category.
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