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Future of Prophetic Cover

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Future of Prophetic

Israel's Ancient Wisdom Re-presented

by Marc H. Ellis

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.

Giving Beyond the Gift Cover

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Giving Beyond the Gift

Apophasis and Overcoming Theomania

Elliot R. Wolfson

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.

God's Voice from the Void Cover

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God's Voice from the Void

Old and New Studies in Bratslav Hasidism

New and classic explorations of the work of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav, a major Hasidic thinker, using a wide range of approaches. 'Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav was one of the most celebrated masters of late Jewish mysticism and Hasidism, and his writings have become classics. This volume brings together translations of three seminal studies on Rabbi Nahman in German, Hebrew, and Yiddish with six new studies from scholars in various fields of Jewish studies. The presentation of new scholarly work widens the conversation about Hasidism in general and Rabbi Nahman in particular by viewing his ideology from the perspective of contemporary hermeneutic, philosophical, and literary perspectives incorporating the insights of postmodernism, gender theory, and literary criticism. New ground is covered in essays on Rabbi Nahman’s attitude toward death, his approach to gender, his interpretation of circumcision, the impact of his tales on Yiddish literature, and his hermeneutic theory. The combination of classic and new studies in God’s Voice from the Void offers a window into the trajectory of scholarship on Hasidism, including ways in which contemporary scholars of Hasidism and Hasidic literature both continue and develop the work of their predecessors.

The Gods Are Broken! Cover

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The Gods Are Broken!

The Hidden Legacy of Abraham

Jeffrey K. Salkin

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.

Halakhah in the Making Cover

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Halakhah in the Making

The Development of Jewish Law from Qumran to the Rabbis

Aharon Shemesh

Halakhah in the Making offers the first comprehensive study of the legal material found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and its significance in the greater history of Jewish religious law (halakhah). Aharon Shemesh's pioneering study revives an issue long dormant in religious scholarship: namely, the relationship between rabbinic law, as written more than one hundred years after the destruction of the Second Temple, and Jewish practice during the Second Temple. The monumental discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran led to the revelation of this missing material and the closing of a two-hundred-year gap in knowledge, allowing work to begin comparing specific laws of the Qumran sect with rabbinic laws. With the publication of scroll 4QMMT-a polemical letter by Dead Sea sectarians concerning points of Jewish law-an effective comparison was finally possible. This is the first book-length treatment of the material to appear since the publication of 4QMMT and the first attempt to apply its discoveries to the work of nineteenth-century scholars. It is also the first work on this important topic written in plain language and accessible to nonspecialists in the history of Jewish law.

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A Heart Afire

stories and teachings of the early Hasidic masters

Authored by Netanel Miles-Yepez and Zalman Schachter Shalomi

The interpretations in A Heart Afire are as rich and meaningful as the teachings and tales themselves in this intimate guided tour of Hasidism and Hasidic storytelling led by Reb Zalman, an old-world Hasidic elder who is also profoundly connected to modern culture. As a bridge between both worlds, Reb Zalman, and his co-author and student Netanel Miles-Yepez, introduce the reader to rare and unique translations of Hasidism with their own personal reflections on their meaning. This book gives the readers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of Hasidic wisdom and narrative and in the teachings of a modern Hasidic master.

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The Heart of the Matter

Studies in Jewish Mysticism and Theology

Art Green

Judaism, like all the great religions, has a strand within it that sees inward devotion, the opening of the human heart to God’s presence, to be the purpose of its entire edifice of praxis, liturgy, and way of life. This voice is not always easy to hear in a tradition where so much attention is devoted to the how rather than the why of religious living. The devotional claim, certainly a key part of Judaism’s biblical heritage, has reasserted itself in the teachings of individual mystics and in the emergence of religious movements over the long course of Jewish history. This volume represents Arthur Green’s own quest for such a Judaism—as a rabbi, as a scholar, and as a contemporary seeker. 

This collection of essays brings together Green’s scholarly writings, centered on the history of early Hasidism, and his highly personal approach to a rebirth of Jewish spirituality in our own day. In choosing to present them in this way he asserts a claim that they are all of a piece. They represent one man’s attempt to wade through history and text, language and symbol, and an array of voices both past and present while always focusing on the essential questions: “What does it mean to be a religious human being, and what does Judaism teach us about how to be one?” This, the authors considers to be the heart of the matter.

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The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy

Edited by Joseph R. Hacker and Adam Shear

The rise of printing had major effects on culture and society in the early modern period, and the presence of this new technology—and the relatively rapid embrace of it among early modern Jews—certainly had an effect on many aspects of Jewish culture. One major change that print seems to have brought to the Jewish communities of Christian Europe, particularly in Italy, was greater interaction between Jews and Christians in the production and dissemination of books.

Starting in the early sixteenth century, the locus of production for Jewish books in many places in Italy was in Christian-owned print shops, with Jews and Christians collaborating on the editorial and technical processes of book production. As this Jewish-Christian collaboration often took place under conditions of control by Christians (for example, the involvement of Christian typesetters and printers, expurgation and censorship of Hebrew texts, and state control of Hebrew printing), its study opens up an important set of questions about the role that Christians played in shaping Jewish culture.

Presenting new research by an international group of scholars, this book represents a step toward a fuller understanding of Jewish book history. Individual essays focus on a range of issues related to the production and dissemination of Hebrew books as well as their audiences. Topics include the activities of scribes and printers, the creation of new types of literature and the transformation of canonical works in the era of print, the external and internal censorship of Hebrew books, and the reading interests of Jews. An introduction summarizes the state of scholarship in the field and offers an overview of the transition from manuscript to print in this period.

The Hebrew Folktale Cover

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The Hebrew Folktale

History, Genre, Meaning

Eli Yassif. Foreword by Dan Ben-Amos. Translated from Hebrew by Jacqueline S. Teitelbaum.

"The most comprehensive account of its subject now available, this impressive study lives up to the encyclopedic promise of its title." -- Choice

The Hebrew Folktale seeks to find and define the folk-elements of Jewish culture. Through the use of generic distinctions and definitions developed in folkloristics, Yassif describes the major trends -- structural, thematic, and functional -- of folk narrative in the central periods of Jewish culture.

Historicism, the Holocaust, and Zionism Cover

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Historicism, the Holocaust, and Zionism

Critical Studies in Modern Jewish History and Thought

Steven Katz

"[Of] the 12 well-crafted essays in this volume...the most useful are those dealing with the Holocaust."

"Especially recommended for college-level students of Jewish history and culture."
The Bookwatch

This is a critical exploration of the most repercussive topics in modern Jewish history and thought. A sequel to Katz's National Jewish Book Award-winning study, Post-Holocaust Dialogues, this book identifies the main issues in the contemporary Jewish intellectual universe and outlines a larger, more synthetic understanding of contemporary Jewish existence.

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