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A Philosophy of Jewish Law
Every generation of Jews in every denomination of Judaism finds itself facing complex legal questions. The status of same-sex unions and the plight of the agunah (a woman who cannot obtain a divorce), are just two of a myriad of thorny questions Jewish legal experts grapple with today. These are not esoteric problems but issues with a profound impact on the daily happiness of countless people. How do the rabbis who draft responses to these questions reach their conclusions? What informs their decisions and their approach to Jewish law? Acclaimed writer and legal expert Elliot Dorff addresses these and other questions in this intelligent, accessible guide to the philosophy behind Jewish law. In his view, Jewish law is an expression of the love we have for God and for our fellow human beings. This theme permeates his discussion of important aspects of the law. For example, what motivates modern Jews to follow Jewish law? How does Jewish law strike the balance between continuity and change? On what grounds and under what circumstances do human beings have the authority to interpret or even change God's laws? Dorff also offers a systematic comparison of Jewish law and U.S. law, based on his course on this subject at UCLA School of Law. Whether you are a lawyer or simply interested in the philosophy behind recent rabbinic decisions, this is a book that will deepen your understanding of the Jewish legal system and its role in the modern world.
Jesuits Encounter Contemporary Judaism
The largest order of religious in the Roman Catholic Church, the Society of Jesus has been at the forefront of the Church's efforts at dialogue across religions.Understanding and improving relations between the Church and the Jewish people has been a major focus of the Holy See and the Society of Jesus for many years. This book, the fruit of a major conference on the history,nature, and dynamics of relations between Jesuits and contemporary Jewish life, brings together a rich, wide-ranging selection of essays by Jesuit scholars and pastoral leaders, a leading Jewish studies scholar,and a leading rabbi. Drawing on a variety of approaches in historical and constructive theology, literary criticism, and spirituality, the contributors explore historical, philosophical, theological, cultural, and institutional themes-from Ignatian perspectives on Halakhic spirituality and the role played in Jesuit history by Jews forced to convert to Christianity to Jesuit perspectives on Hannah Arendt, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Harold Bloom.
Before the Nazis sent members of the Filar family to Treblinka, these were the last words Marian Filar's mother said to him: "I bless you. You'll survive this horror. You'll become a great pianist, and I'll be very proud of you."
Born in 1917 into a musical Jewish family in Warsaw, Filar began playing the piano when he was four. He performed his first public concert at the age of six. At twelve he played with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and went on to study with the great Polish pianist and teacher Zbigniew Drzewiecki at the State Conservatory of Music.
After the German invasion, Filar fled to Lemberg (Lvov), where he continued his music studies until 1941, when he returned to his family in the Warsaw Ghetto. The Nazis killed his parents, a sister, and a brother, but he and his brother Joel survived as workers on the German railroad. After taking part in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Marian and Joel were captured and sent to Majdanek, Buchenwald, and other concentration camps. After liberation Filar was able to resume his career by studying with the renowned German pianist Walter Gieseking. In 1950 he immigrated to the United States and soon after was performing concerts with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He made his Carnegie Hall debut on New Year's Day, 1952. He became head of the piano department at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia and later a professor of music at Temple University, while continuing to perform in Europe, South America, Israel, and the United States.
Filar does not end his story with liberation but with the fulfillment of his mother's blessing. Without rancor or bitterness, his memoir comes full circle, ending where it began--in Warsaw. In 1992 Filar traveled to Poland to visit the school next to what had once been the Umschlagplatz, the place from which Jews had been sent to Treblinka and where he said farewell to the mother who blessed him.
Marian Filar, an internationally acclaimed concert pianist and retired professor at Temple University, has performed throughout the world and with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, and many others. He lives in Pennsylvania.
Charles Patterson is the author of Anti-Semitism: The Road to the Holocaust and Beyond, Marian Anderson, and The Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust.
Jews and Comic Books
Jews created the first comic book, the first graphic novel, the first comic book convention, the first comic book specialty store, and they helped create the underground comics (or "Comix") movement of the late '60s and early '70s. Many of the creators of the most famous comic books, such as Superman, Spiderman, X-Men, and Batman, as well as the founders of MAD Magazine, were Jewish. From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books tells their stories and demonstrates how they brought a uniquely Jewish perspective to their work and to the comics industry as a whole. Over-sized and in full color, From Krakow to Krypton is filled with sidebars, cartoon bubbles, comic book graphics, original design sketches, and photographs. It is a visually stunning and exhilarating history.
Myth, History, and the Interpretation of Scripture in Lurianic Kabbala
In From Metaphysics to Midrash, Shaul Magid explores the exegetical tradition of Isaac Luria and his followers within the historical context in 16th-century Safed, a unique community that brought practitioners of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam into close contact with one another. Luria's scripture became a theater in which kabbalists redrew boundaries of difference in areas of ethnicity, gender, and the human relation to the divine. Magid investigates how cultural influences altered scriptural exegesis of Lurianic Kabbala in its philosophical, hermeneutical, and historical perspectives. He suggests that Luria and his followers were far from cloistered. They used their considerable skills to weigh in on important matters of the day, offering, at times, some surprising solutions to perennial theological problems.
Expounding the Bible in Talmudic Babylonia
The Bible has always been vital to Jewish religious life, and it has been expounded in diverse ways. Perhaps the most influential body of Jewish biblical interpretation is the Midrash that was produced by expositors during the first five centuries CE. Many such teachings are collected in the Babylonian Talmud, the monumental compendium of Jewish law and lore that was accepted as the definitive statement of Jewish oral tradition for subsequent generations.
However, many of the Talmud’s interpretations of biblical passages appear bizarre or pointless. From Sermon to Commentary: Expounding the Bible in Talmudic Babylonia tries to explain this phenomenon by carefully examining representative passages from a variety of methodological approaches, paying particular attention to comparisons with Midrash composed in the Land of Israel.
Based on this investigation, Eliezer Segal argues that the Babylonian sages were utilizing discourses that had originated in Israel as rhetorical sermons in which biblical interpretation was being employed in an imaginative, literary manner, usually based on the interplay between two or more texts from different books of the Bible. Because they did not possess their own tradition of homiletic preaching, the Babylonian rabbis interpreted these comments without regard for their rhetorical conventions, as if they were exegetical commentaries, resulting in the distinctive, puzzling character of Babylonian Midrash.
Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women between Religion and Culture
A fascinating look at the lives, culture, and religious and ritual observance of three generations of Iranian Jewish women in the United States. Saba Soomekh offers a fascinating portrait of three generations of women in an ethnically distinctive and little-known American Jewish community, Jews of Iranian origin living in Los Angeles. Most of Iran’s Jewish community immigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the government-sponsored discrimination that followed. Based on interviews with women raised during the constitutional monarchy of the earlier part of the twentieth century, those raised during the modernizing Pahlavi regime of mid-century, and those who have grown up in Los Angeles, the book presents an ethnographic portrait of what life was and is like for Iranian Jewish women. Featuring the voices of all generations, the book concentrates on religiosity and ritual observance, the relationship between men and women, and women’s self-concept as Iranian Jewish women. Mother-daughter relationships, double standards for sons and daughters, marriage customs, the appeal of American forms of Jewish practices, social customs and pressures, and the alternate attraction to and critique of materialism and attention to outward appearance are discussed by the author and through the voices of her informants.
Israel's Ancient Wisdom Re-presented
Future of the Prophetic argues that in the persistence of the prophetic, the legacy of the ancient Jewish world spread beyond the boundaries of the Jewish community and took root throughout the world. As a way of wisdom and hope, this dual rooting—its grounding in the tradition of ancient Israel and its uncontained itinerancy—unveils a startling but promising new context: a re-presentation of the prophetic from outside the Jewish world to the Jewish community. The new situation of contemporary prophetic challenges the fixed religious landscape by reversing traditional boundaries, eschewing power and privilege, and brokering peace through solidarity and common struggle in ecumenical and interfaith contexts.
Apophasis and Overcoming Theomania
This book explores the co-dependency of monotheism and idolatry by examining the thought of several prominent twentieth-century Jewish philosophers Cohen, Buber, Rosenzweig, and Levinas. While all of these thinkers were keenly aware of the pitfalls of scriptural theism, to differing degrees they each succumbed to the temptation to personify transcendence, even as they tried either to circumvent or to restrain it by apophatically purging kataphatic descriptions of the deity. Derrida and Wyschogrod, by contrast, carried the project of denegation one step further, embarking on a path that culminated in the aporetic suspension of belief and the consequent removal of all images from God, a move that seriously compromises the viability of devotional piety. The inquiry into apophasis, transcendence, and immanence in these Jewish thinkers is symptomatic of a larger question. Recent attempts to harness the apophatic tradition to construct a viable postmodern negative theology, a religion without religion, are not radical enough. Not only are these philosophies of transcendence guilty of a turn to theology that defies the phenomenological presupposition of an immanent phenomenality, but they fall short on their own terms, inasmuch as they persist in employing metaphorical language that personalizes transcendence and thereby runs the risk of undermining the irreducible alterity and invisibility attributed to the transcendent other. The logic of apophasis, if permitted to run its course fully, would exceed the need to posit some form of transcendence that is not ultimately a facet of immanence. Apophatic theologies, accordingly, must be supplanted by a more far-reaching apophasis that surpasses the theolatrous impulse lying coiled at the crux of theism, an apophasis of apophasis, based on accepting an absolute nothingness to be distinguished from the nothingness of an absolute that does not signify the unknowable One but rather the manifold that is the pleromatic abyss at being's core. Hence, the much-celebrated metaphor of the gift must give way to the more neutral and less theologically charged notion of an unconditional givenness in which the distinction between giver and given collapses. To think givenness in its most elemental, phenomenological sense is to allow the apparent to appear as given without presuming a causal agency that would turn that given into a gift.
The Hidden Legacy of Abraham
The story of Abraham smashing his father’s idols might be the most important Jewish story ever told and the key to how Jews define themselves. In a work at once deeply erudite and wonderfully accessible, Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin conducts readers through the life and legacy of this powerful story and explains how it has shaped Jewish consciousness.
Offering a radical view of Jewish existence, The Gods Are Broken! views the story of the young Abraham as the “primal trauma” of Jewish history, one critical to the development of a certain Jewish comfort with rebelliousness and one that, happening in every generation, has helped Jews develop a unique identity. Salkin shows how the story continues to reverberate through the ages, even in its connection to the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.
Salkin’s work—combining biblical texts, archaeology, rabbinic insights, Hasidic texts (some never before translated), philosophy, history, poetry, contemporary Jewish thought, sociology, and popular culture—is nothing less than a journey through two thousand years of Jewish life and intellectual endeavor.