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God, Man and History 4th Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 004-9600010132
ISBN-10: 9657052157
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Born in 1908 in Romania, Berkovits was educated in Berlin before he was forced to flee Germany in the late 1930s. After serving in rabbinates in England, Australia and Boston, he joined the faculty of Hebrew Theological College in Chicago in 1958. Although he wrote 19 books and numerous articles, his name is less familiar today than some of his contemporaries like Martin Buber or Abraham Joshua Heschel. Perhaps the republication of this, his "keystone" work, will attract more attention to the Jewish philosopher, who died in 1992. "In contrast to other twentieth-century thinkers, who employed the classic Jewish sources to defend a modernist outlook…. Berkovits's work offers an argument for the independence and validity of a traditional Jewish worldview in a style more reminiscent of Judah Halevi, Maimonides, and Sa'adia Gaon," writes Hazony, a Ph.D. candidate at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. As Hazony notes, Berkovits's writing is challenging and methodical, but intellectually rewarding.
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Review

"God, Man and History is cause for celebration in the Jewish and academic worlds" -- Dr. David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College

"David Hazony has done a remarkable service to the Jewish world by re-issuing Eliezer Berkovits’ masterwork." -- Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union

"Hazony has done a great service to a new generation of Jews concerned with the central issues of our time." -- David Novak, J.Richard and Dorothy Shiff Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Toronto
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 215 pages
  • Publisher: Shalem Press; 4th edition (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9657052157
  • ISBN-13: 978-9657052150
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
In the years since the passing of Rabbi Dr Eliezer Berkovits, his stature as one of the great thinkers of modern Orthodox/Traditionalist Judaism has only grown. Although Orthodox Judaism has undergone a great revival in the years since the Second World War after 200 years of decline culminating in the destruction of the centers of Jewish religious life in Europe, it seems that Orthodox Jewish intellectual thought has not kept pace with modern ways of looking at philosophical questions and many Orthodox Jews, although attracted to renewed vigor in religious observance, simply turn inwards and ignore the questions that challenge Jewish thought from the outside world. Rav Berkovitz is one of the few who has risen to the challenge.
This important volume takes on basic questions in religous philosophy and is written in style fitting for an educated layman. This distinguishes Rav Berkovits's work from that of one of the other giants of modern Orthodox Jewish thought, Rav Joseph D Soloveitchik, whose writings contain a lot of terms and ideas that are accessible only to someone who has a background in advanced philosophical thought. This makes Rav Berkovits' book much more accessible, in my opinion.
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Format: Paperback
This is the second time I'm reading God, Man and History. I read it a few years ago but felt that it deserved a second, much slower, read. So I left it on my desk at the synagogue, and for the past few weeks I've been reading a few pages at a time every shabbat, trying to absorb this masterpiece of Jewish thought more thoroughly.

Eliezer Berkovits is one of the less-known Jewish thinkers of the past century, and the Shalem Institute in Jerusalem should be commended for publishing several of his works in new editions. This edition of God, Man and History was the first book to be published in this series, and rightly so, as it is considered Berkovits' keystone work. It is a small volume (just over 150 pages) and yet it manages to explain in clear language some of the most fundmental questions of Jewish theology.

The book has three sections, corresponding to the title of the book. The first, and most detailed section, deals with the encounter with God which is the core of Berkovits' philosophy. It lays the foundations for the rest of the book. The second section deals with ethics, that is the practical translation of the encounter into Jewish law and deeds (mitzvot). The last, and shortest section, is about the manifestation of God in history (or rather, lack thereof), particularly the history of the people of Israel. As Berkovits himself states in the introduction, the book follows the footsteps of that "most Jewish of Jewish philosophers", Yehudah HaLevi, the 12th-century Spanish philosopher and poet who sought to define Judaism from within (particularly in The Kuzari).

I will not even attempt to summarise Berkovits' philosophy here. But I will highlight one theme that permeates throughout the whole book, that of man's responsibility for his actions.
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A serious philosophical attempt to provide a Jewish theology. Berkovits attempts to explain and justify the philosophical fundamentals of belief in God and following the Halacha (the Jewish ritual and moral commandments -- mitzvot). If one is already somewhat sympathetic to the premises of the author then I think he does a pretty good job of it. The answers he provides are, if not unassailable, at least intellectually satisfying and rewarding. I particularly liked his rejection of Maimonides and the Greek Absolute.
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This is a masterful and insightful theological treatise. Berkovits brilliantly explains the foundation that revelation is to jewish understanding of its relation to a supreme being. The encounter between man and God is experiential knowledge that transcends reason. He goes further to the actual implications of a deity that would relate itself to its creation in such a fashion.
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An incredible book that all Jews should read - period. As a warning, it is not an "easy read" - I could only read a few pages at a time before getting overloaded. It will have more of an appeal to those with a traditional philosophical/academic bent than it will to the "casual reader". I think that I need to read it ~5 more time to best absorb the message that the author puts forth.
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