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The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion

Mordecai M. Kaplan Introduction by Mel Scult

Publication Year: 1995

In this book, Kaplan enlarges on his notion of functional reinterpretation and then actually applies it to the entire ritual cycle of the Jewish year-a rarity in modern Jewish thought. This work continues to function as a central text for the Reconstructionist movement, whose influence continues to grow in American Jewry.

Published by: Wayne State University Press


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pp. 1-2


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pp. 3-4


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p. 6-6


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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xxi

Mordecai Kaplan (1881-1983), the father of Reconstructionism, has been called the prophet of Jewish renewal. Throughout his life he searched for ways to help the modern Jew relate meaningfully to the Jewish tradition. In his present work, published three years after his magnum opus Judaism as a Civilization, Kaplan translates the major categories of traditional Jewish life ...

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Foreword to 1962 Edition

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pp. xxii-xxiii

At first blush it might appear that any book written in 1936 would be hopelessly out of date in 1962. For, during this fateful period, a second World War was fought, the first atomic explosion occurred, the United Nations came into being and the Cold War began. As for the Jewish People, six millions were done to death in ...

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pp. xxiv-xxvi

Irreligion among Jews is only one phase of Jewish maladjustment, and therefore cannot be treated apart from the whole of Jewish life, which is nowadays in an unhealthy state. In Judaism as a Civilisation and in Judaism in Transition, I have attempted to formulate the organic and dynamic view of Jewish life, ...

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I. Introduction: How to Reinterpret the God Idea in the Jewish Religion

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pp. 1-39

Traditional Jewish religion belongs to an altogether different universe of discourse from that of the modern man. The ancients took for granted that the cosmos was maintained and governed not by forces which inhere in its very substance, but by a personal will which differed from the human will in being all-mighty and all-perfect. ...

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II. God as the Power that Makes for Salvation

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pp. 40-103

The Sabbath is named as the first of the "appointed seasons of the Lord, holy convocations,"1 whose purpose it was to bring Israel into closer kinship with its God. Although archeologists may identify the origin of the Sabbath with a superficially similar institution of ancient Babylonian civilization, ...

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III. God as the Power that Makes for Social Regeneration

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pp. 104-148

The foregoing chapter has shown how the Sabbath may be reinterpreted for the modern Jew. It can be made to symbolize the meaning of God as the Power that makes for salvation. An examination of the other sacred days of the Jewish calendar will show us other meanings of the God idea as it might function in Jewish life. ...

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IV. God as the Power that Makes for the Regeneration of Human Nature

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pp. 149-187

The theme of the Day of Atonement, as the name implies, revolves about the conception of sin and repentance. As sin alienates us from God, we are urged on this day to seek reconciliation,1 through religious exercises that are to effect a change of heart. ...

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V. God in Nature and in History

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pp. 188-201

The distinctive achievement of the Jewish spirit lies neither in philosophy, music, letters, or the arts, although Jews have made their mark in all these fields. Its unique contribution consists in having enriched the most difficult and inclusive of arts, the art of living. ...

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VI. God as the Power that Makes for Cooperation

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pp. 202-242

Of the three Pilgrimage Festivals, Sukkot is the one which illustrates most strikingly the unique way in which the Jewish religion has conceived of God as manifesting Himself both through history and through nature. At first entirely an agricultural festival, Sukkot assumed by the beginning of the Second Jewish Commonwealth ...

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VII. God Felt as a Presence

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pp. 243-264

Shemini Azeret commemorates no particular event, and is observed by no distinctive rites. Although coming immediately after the festival of Sukkot, it is declared to be a holiday in its own right.1 These facts constituted an enigma sufficient to elicit from the ancient Rabbis explanations in keeping with their general outlook. ...

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VIII. God as the Power that Makes for Freedom

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pp. 265-296

It is fairly well established that Passover was originally a nature festival. Though it became an occasion for making pilgrimage to some central sanctuary much later than did Sukkot, it antedates the latter as an Israelitish festival. It was observed by the Israelite tribes when they were still nomads, when sheep and goats constituted the main source of their food supply, ...

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IX. "God as the Power that Makes for Righteousness—Not Ourselves"

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pp. 297-329

The festivals of Pesah and Sukkot achieved already in biblical times the synthesis implied in recognizing the power of God both in nature and in history. It was otherwise with Shabuot. No historical event was originally associated with it in the biblical ordinances which commanded its observance. ...

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X. Jewish Religion as a Means to Jewish National Survival

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pp. 330-368

The striking feature of the celebration of Hanukkah is the fact that, although the occasion which it commemorates was incidental to a successful war of independence fought against an oppressive foreign ruler, that occasion itself was neither a victory on the field of battle nor a political transaction that gave official recognition to the hard-won independence of Judea. ...


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pp. 369-382

Back Cover

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p. 416-416

E-ISBN-13: 9780814339923
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814325520

Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 1995