- Hardcover: 160 pages
- Publisher: Jewish Lights; 1 edition (September 15, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1580233759
- ISBN-13: 978-1580233750
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 22.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,312,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Conscience: The Duty to Obey and the Duty to Disobey 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
In this articulate and cogent treatise, Schulweis, longtime congregational rabbi and founding chairman of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, argues that acts of disobedience can be appropriate and moral when law violates conscience. Referencing the Midrash, Bible and Talmud, he argues that both the popular understanding of God as a being who cannot be contradicted and of Judaism as a religion that requires uncompromising obedience to authority is mistaken. Throughout Jewish history, he explains, rabbis have created ingenious legal maneuvers to eliminate laws they found unconscionable, such as making capital punishment so difficult to implement that it became obsolete. Furthermore, God's engagement with humanity, most famously his interaction with Abraham before he destroys Sodom, indicates a willingness for confrontations promoting morality and righteousness. Schulweis's broad knowledge is evident as he intersperses biblical anecdotes with philosophical theories, as is his ability to make his thesis relevant by including material on the Holocaust and references to Abu Ghraib. Whether religious or not, readers concerned with the culture of mindless complicity will find this volume revealing and enlightening. (Nov.)
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The book analyzes the idea of conscience and the role it plays in our relationships to law, ethics, religion, human nature, and God—as well as to each other. Schulweis delves into history, the Bible, and the works of many contemporary scholars, looking for great ideas about critical disobedience and what he labels uncritical obedience. His goal is to interpret and understand the potential for evil and the potential for good in us and in our society. Schulweis has given us a readable treatment of some difficult issues. --George Cohen
Top customer reviews
Highly readable with short chapters and "pull quotes" (those boxes with a quotation from the text set in the margin of a page), the book seems designed for faith-based study groups in synagogues. Schulweis writes very clearly and uses quotations thoughtfully -- even a group with people of different ages and from very different walks of life would be able to read it together easily.
Schulweis argues emphatically against a literal reading of Scripture. Specifically, he shows how Judaism has a rich tradition of reading the Bible that is willing to challenge even the words on the page in the name of the values that God stands for. Even explicit laws can be retired in the name of deeper principles.
The challenge for faithful people, he argues, is to seek to live under the direction of those deeper principles, and to build a world that is based upon them.
It is a good book, but not a great one. Simply, it is too short, and it leaves the reader wanting more...actually, a little too much more.
Nevertheless, fans of Schulweis' work, especially the magnificent "For Those Who Can't Believe," will be glad to have another useful, thought provoking volume to add to their libraries.