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Renewing the Covenant

A Theology for the Postmodern Jew

Authored by Eugene B. Borowitz

Publication Year: 2010

Borowitz creatively explores his theory of Covenant, linking self to folk and God through the contemporary idiom of relationship.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society

Title page

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pp. iii


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pp. 5-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

In my 1961 article "Crisis Theology and the Jewish Community" lin the July Commentary', I introduced the term "Covenant Theology" to characterize an emerging paradigm shift in non-Orthodox Jewish thought. I thought then, as I do now, that the critical intellectual...

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pp. 1-6

Belief has been so intimately associated with historical experience and memory in Judaism that some thinkers have felt they could present the contemporary meaning of Jewish religious ideas by tracing their evolution. I shall...

Jewish Religious Experiencein Our Time

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1 Modernization: The Secular Messiah

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pp. 9-19

To analyze the Jewish communal experience to which my theology responds, I must first, even sketchily, provide its immediate historical basis and its general social context. I therefore devote this chapter to the spiritual ethos...

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2 Modernity: The Betrayer

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pp. 20-31

Modernity, which once had a sense of historical inevitability about it, lost its cultural preeminence during the last third of the 20th century. Often, as in the resurgence of fundamentalism in Iran, one could not distinguish...

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3 Through the Shadowed Valley

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pp. 32

Our Jewish turn from messianic modernism has pivoted on the Holocaust and our response to it. I seek to probe its spiritual footings afresh by analyzing the many anomalies of our religious discussion of the Holocaust...

A Postliberal Theologyof Jewish Duty: I God, the Ground of Our Values

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4 God-Israel-Torah: Our Holistic Context

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pp. 55-71

A simplistic distinction between philosophy and theology lauds the fonner for beginning without assumptions and asserting only what reason requires, hence yielding new truth. It belittles theology as proceeding from faith,...

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5 Not Absolutely Absolute

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pp. 72-81

The genius of religious modernism lay in disclosing humankind's creative role in shaping religion, the very insight that has now led to its deprecation for letting humanism replace reverence for God. However, in the...

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6 More than Immanent

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pp. 82-94

If we assert a very strong Absolute, we demean our non-Orthodox appreciation of human religious creativity; yet, to move to the other extreme, if we substantially weaken our Absolute by equating it with some aspect of human...

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7 Reaching for Transcendence

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pp. 95-107

Any Jews are inhibited from seeking a theological position between the absolutism of Orthodoxy and the modernist immanentism of the non-Orthodoxies by Mordecai Kaplan's insistence that we must make a stark choice...

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8 Sparks: The Transcendent in the Everyday

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pp. 108-117

Religions glory in celebrating their cycle of sacred moments even as individuals rejoice in the great transitions in their lives. Mystics extend this capacity for greeting the Sacred by their genius for making the exceptional the...

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9 The Who/What of God

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pp. 118-134

In this and the following chapter I want to broaden our theological reach by considering the best way to talk about what God "is" and what God does. I use quotation marks about the word "is" to signal the special difficulty we face when we attempt to verbalize about God's nature. Contemporary Jewish thinkers, reflecting a major...

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10 What Does God Still Do?

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pp. 135-152

If theodicy has been the major human problem requiring us to rethink our images of God, science has been its intellectual counterpart. The Bible and Talmud unhesitatingly describe what God did, does, and will yet do. Modem...

A Postliberal Theologyof Jewish Duty: II Israel, the People That Creates the Way

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11 What Can We Do about OurWill-to-Do-Evil?

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pp. 155-169

The enlightenment powerfully reinforced by social and political forces, gnve indi.viduals a radically enhanced stature in human affairs, thereby beginning an increasing moralization of society. Dialectically, as individualism...

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12 The Social Side of Selfhood

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pp. 170-181

A theory of Jewish responsibility that accentuates self-determination must give special attention to the social nature of human selfhood and I propose doing so by tracing some important philosophical developments that have led...

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13 Fully Human, Fully Jewish

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pp. 182-194

The Kantian vision of the mature person as a rational self-legislator provided two philosophically justified rationalizations for disdaining Jewish identity. The one endorsed a self-satisfied individualism; the other, an embrace of...

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14 The Sparks of Chosenness

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pp. 195-206

So much has been written about the doctrine of the chosen people-mostly to defend the rabbis from the charge of teaching the superiority of the Jews-that I believe a fresh approach will give us greater insight into the concept and...

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15 Covenant, Not Chosenness

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pp. 207-220

A polemical motive largely prompted me to select the word "covenant" to characterize the substantive focus of the theological movement that emerged in the 1950s. We rebels thought it unseemly for the ruling rationalisms to rely on general culture to tell us what remained true in Judaism and...

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16 The Dialectic of Living in Covenant

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pp. 221-234

I have been critical of the modem notions of the solitary self and self-validating universalism in the hope of permitting the consciousness of our particularity to make itself felt and make its proper claim on our selfhood. At the...

A Postliberal Theologyof Jewish Duty: III The Torah Born of Covenant

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17 When God Dominates

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pp. 237-253

How do we know what properly constitutes a life of Covenantal mitzvah? The two most widely accepted responses, Orthodoxy and ethnic loyalty, fail us by overemphasizing the role of either God or the people of Israel...

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18 When Community Takes Priority

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pp. 254-265

Where shall non-Orthodox Jews, who deny that God's revelation comes to us in verbal form, find a compelling sense of Jewish duty? For nearly two centuries this question has been at the heart of Jewish non-Orthodoxies. Despite our intellectual and...

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19 Knowing What God Wants of Us

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pp. 266-283

As an adult, I have often been conscious of the Transcendent coming directly into my life. Sometimes its presence has been fairly clear and definite; mostly it has been rather general and unspecific; always, as I have reflected on it,...

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20 The Jewish Sell

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pp. 284-299

Modern and postmodern non-Orthodox Jewish theologies diverge decisively in their views of the self's Jewishness. All the great modem systematizers considered it axiomatic that contemporary Jewish thought must be...

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pp. 301

WHILE WRITING this book I often became conscious of the stream of personal history flowing through me onto these pages and thus into the future. My father grew up in the home of his maternal grandfather,...


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pp. 303-305

Two Bibliographical Notes

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pp. 307-310


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pp. 311-319

E-ISBN-13: 9780827609853
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827606272

Publication Year: 2010

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