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Jewish Spirituality : A Brief Introduction for Christians Paperback – August 1, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Series: A Brief Introduction for Christians
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights; 1 edition (August 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580231500
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580231503
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #928,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By JAD on December 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Along comes an illustrious and highly respected rabbi, with a book to give us a look at Biblical roots of the spirituality of our Jewish sisters and brothers. The primary argument of the book is that Christians can appreciate and benefit from Jewish spirituality, so that the fresh insights found there might well inform our own spiritual lives. Timid and cautious, we may ask, "Dare we read it? Not to worry! We will feel right at home, if we have a high view of God whose Word speaks to us in Scripture, as well as a sense of playfulness about our own journey of faith. Why these? Because these are key elements in Jewish spirituality as introduced to Christians by Lawrence Kushner.

Lawrence Kushner was for about 30 years the rabbi of Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. Widely regarded as one of the most creative religious writers in America, he is the author of numerous articles and ten books about personal and institutional spiritual renewal within Judaism, including Eyes Remade for Wonder, God Was In This Place and I Did Not Know It and Honey in the Rock. Now rabbi in residence of Hebrew Union College in New York, he is a regular commentator on NPR's "All Things Considered."

The book is arranged in four sections dealing with the broad topics of Creation, Torah, Commandment, and The Holy One. In a series of brief and highly readable chapters within each section, Rabbi Kushner draws us in to the realm of stories-delightful, entertaining, evocative stories with a purpose. Parable might be the term we know best for these tales that deliver new ideas, insights and questions about the God we love and serve. As we engage our imagination with these stories, they allow God to guide our awareness of the "...
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This little book brought immeasurable delight to me. I am fascinated by spirituality and mysticism; this is especially true as it relates to Christianity. I’m constantly on the lookout for books and other resources that I might learn from to glean deeper understanding about the mysteries of the consciousness and the divine. Since Christianity finds its roots in the Jewish faith, I was excited about reading this book from Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians. It would be an understatement to say I was not disappointed. This is a remarkably winsome book to be so packed with wisdom and spiritual depth… I dearly love when truth and wisdom is packaged in bite-sized nuggets that you can chew on for days…weeks…years, and still continue to plumb deeper and deeper layers of fruit.

There are seventeen chapters not including an introduction, afterword, and suggested resources section. The chapters are collected in sections that relate to Creation, Torah, Commandment, and Holy One. The average length of a chapter is around three pages, and herein lays the beauty of this tiny tome. The chapters are very short and very simple, but for those willing to linger in the simplicity of these stories, they will be rewarded with the wisdom of sages and an understanding of Creator God they may not have previously known. This, of course, affects every facet of life and fuels the consciousness on to deeper awareness and integration with life everywhere. God is. And so are we.

I am grateful for this book as it has sparked an interest in the ancient writings and interpretations of Holy Scripture from the Rabbis of old. I will be looking for additional resources for my study and likely purchasing some translations of Midrash. Fortunately, in the back of this book there are a number of suggested publications for me to start with. I look forward to the journey.
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In Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction For Christians, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner assists members of the Christian community to better understand Judaism in general, and basic Jewish concepts of spirituality in particular. In a complete accessible text, Rabbi Kushner explores how we are all connected to each other and to God, how the Torah is a blueprint for all of creation, how "holy deeds" are required every day by each of us in order to successfully mend the world, the nature of God's "Oneness", how the Jewish experience of teshuva is similar to the Christian experience of Jesus, and a great deal more. Rabbi Kushner also dispels a number of misconceptions about Judaism common among Christians. Jewish Spirituality is an enthusiastically recommended introduction for those with Christian backgrounds who are seeking a better understanding of Judaism and its relation to their own Christian faith from a Jewish perspective.
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Rabbi Kushner's "Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians" is a light introduction to Jewish meditations, but I'm not so sure it's Jewish spirituality. At its most profound moments, it doesn't seem Jewish at all. It's more like Buddha with a yarmulka on.
Make no mistakes: it's a fun and easy read. In less than 100 pages Kushner introduces us to playful Jewish reflections on the Torah (like the story of the two men walking through the Red Sea without realizing where they are), thoughtful word plays (like the acronym on the Hebrew word for "garden"), and motivational meditations on our need to serve others and let God work through us (like the story of the rich man leaving bread at the synagogue. This is a cute collection of stories and illustrations, a few of which will give you pause for reflection.
However, at it's heart, I'm not sure that most orthodox Jews would embrace every word of this. While Kushner notes that it is difficult to define Judaism, he nonetheless includes sweeping sentences like "Jews think this" and "Jewish mysticism teaches that." And the things he credits to all Judaism include, in referece to creation, the belief that "It's all God." Or he will say, you must be fused into the divine until the "borders of your self are erased." While this is spirituality, I'm not so sure it's Jewish.
In the end, it's a quick, easy, fun read. But if this is your first exposure to Judaism, don't stop reading.
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