One of the defining religious trends of our time is the gradual reconciliation of Christianity and Judaism, which usually takes the form of churches (most notably, the Vatican) accepting responsibility for the anti-Semitic aspects of their worship, theology, and history. No amount of official proclamation, however, can reconcile these religions until individual Christians and Jews recognize their common religious heritage and learn to respect the differences between their traditions. Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians
is an important resource for cultivating such awareness. The author, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, has long been known for his sophisticated, accessible books on Jewish spirituality (including Honey from the Rock
and God Was in This Place and I, I Did Not Know
). His definition of spirituality, which loops and spirals in rabbinic fashion, includes the following observations: "Spirituality is religion experienced intimately.... Spirituality is where you and God meet--and what you do about it." And Jewish spirituality, he writes, is distinguished as "an approach to life in which we strive to become aware of God's presence and purpose--even and especially in what might strike the casual observer as gross or material things." This, he points out, is a fact that bridges the gap between Judaism and Christianity: the incarnation of Christ, as one pastor explains to Kushner, demands that believers "continuously seek to find God in every person." Beginning with a summary of Jewish ideas about Creation, and then exploring topics such as the Torah, the Commandments, and the nature of God, Kushner expertly defines many of the similarities and differences between the religions. His lively, storytelling style makes Jewish Spirituality
a pleasurable and challenging book that would serve well as a personal devotional, a Bible-study or Sunday-school text, or an occasion for Jewish and Christian friends to set aside time to learn more about each other's faith. --Michael Joseph Gross
From Publishers Weekly
As the dust-jacket blurbs from Peter Gomes and Joan Chittister suggest, Rabbi Kushner's explorations of Jewish mysticism and spirituality have long attracted Christian readers. At last, he has written a book designed especially for Christians. However, it's not quite clear how this book's content differs from Kushner's other volumes (Honey from the Rock; Invisible Lines of Connection). Much of the content the midrash about Reuven and Shimon crossing the Red Sea, for example, or the discussion of Torah as a "blueprint for creation" will be familiar to Kushner fans; they are among his favorite motifs. The afterword does explain some of the differences between Judaism and Christianity: Kushner sketches a distinction between Jewish Torah and Christian nomos; he reminds readers that Judaism has no incarnate God; and he explains that Judaism is not a proselytizing religion. Christian readers may find some sections of this afterword illuminating, but they may take issue with other passages, such as Kushner's insistence that Judaism is this-worldly and Christianity is other-worldly. This short book is in many ways classic Kushner: the writing is felicitous, the spiritual insights often profound and the rendering of complicated kabbalistic ideas into simple prose (intelligible not only to Christians but also to Jews not steeped in Jewish text) praiseworthy. The book's flaw is also that it is too much classic Kushner a promising project that recycles old ideas for a new, ecumenical audience.
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