Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy)


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The last three decades of the twentieth century witnessed the emergence and growth of these sociopolitical and philosophical concerns, which Jewish ethicists have found irresistible, irritating, or both simultaneously. Elaine Goodfriend opens the volume with a careful reading of biblical ethical concepts. It is therefore difficult to assert a strong and impermeable boundary between religion and ethics in the biblical milieu. Such a boundary does not exist between law and ethics either. For these reasons the Bible contains multiple ways to motivate people to do what is right and good, ways that are championed by later contributors to Jewish ethical theories, as subsequent chapters will demonstrate.

While some of these motivating factors pertain to Israelites alone, the Bible nonetheless assumes that other nations also can and should behave according to at least some basic minimal standards. For this reason many biblical ethical texts concern relations between or among communities, including those between Jews and non-Jews, not just between or among the individuals within them. Charlotte Fonrobert notes that speaking of ethics is rather difficult when one considers rabbinic literature.

Not only does this literature lack the very notion of ethics, it also emerges from various terrains and times and perforce bespeaks not only different moral conclusions, but even differing presumptions on how to reach those positions. Hence claims that there is a single rabbinic ethic are inherently suspect. That said, the rabbis of old certainly do wrestle with ethicality, its interrelationship with both rabbinic and biblical halakhah law , and the desire to balance particularist with universalist concerns.

This absence, Dan maintains, extends primarily from the fact that the genre does not call halakhah into question, as does Jewish ethics generally, particularly through the notion of lifnim mi-shurat ha-din supererogation —that one must act beyond the letter of the law. That the medieval period produced wide-ranging ethical thought is further demonstrated in the chapter by Warren Zev Harvey. Obedience and love, Spinoza asserts, are the ultimate character traits that instantiate the highest forms of ethical existence in these realms.

With the increasing civic and intellectual freedoms that emancipation and the Enlightenment brought to Jews, the nineteenth century witnessed a dramatic flourishing of Jewish thought and activity. Ira Stone traces the challenges this new modernity posed to Jews and shows how they variously responded. Early twentieth-century Jewish theologians and philosophers were no less creative than their predecessors, as Jonathan K.

These three German scholars, writing in the decades surrounding World War I, were both attracted to and repulsed by modernity. On the one hand, the modern drive toward nationalism inspired their commitment to Jews and Judaism, and so each plumbed the Jewish textual tradition to ground his ethical theory. Yet the destructiveness that self-centeredness can and did cause led each man to promote an ethic that attends to others.

Crane explores this turn to others and otherness, a turn that oriented much subsequent Jewish ethical theorizing. Heschel, by contrast, p. Soloveitchik, two luminaries in twentieth-century Orthodoxy in Israel and the United States, respectively. Whereas Kook views the moral impulse as already embedded in Jewish existence, Soloveitchik understands imitatio Dei as the central mechanism through which Jewish ethical behavior comes into being.

In some ways, this difference in focus—on Jews or on God—echoes the primary difference between Kaplan and Heschel in the Conservative Movement. Michael Berenbaum tackles the difficulties the Holocaust posed and continues to raise for Jews, Jewish theology, and specifically Jewish ethics. He identifies eight major commitments made by Jews and non-Jews that have since then inspired Jewish and global responses to such human-made atrocities as genocide and crimes against humanity.

The next several chapters turn our attention to the streams of modern Jewry. Michael Marmur traces the emergence of Reform Jewish ethical sensibility from its early days in nineteenth-century Germany through its evolution to modern America, Israel, and beyond. He identifies four major sensibilities that, while presented chronologically, are nevertheless found among contemporary Reform Jews: the notion that ethics should be the first theology of Judaism, a passion for tikkun olam repairing the world from injustices , a suspicion and critique of modernity, and an ethics of authenticity.

Changing what Jews do and altering the reasons why they should do things differently was not an exclusively Reform endeavor; Conservative Judaism also instituted innovations, especially since World War II. Cherry, in fact, argues for his own approach in contrast to those of some of the other representatives of Conservative Judaism whose theories and legal rulings he discusses. He tests four theses comprising what he calls the maximalist Modern Orthodox position to demonstrate how they go about addressing moral conundrums already embedded in the textual tradition and those that modernity poses to contemporary Jews, illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of each of them and then arguing for the approach that he thinks is best.

Though founded as a stream within Conservative Judaism in and becoming a separate movement only in , the Reconstructionist Movement may be the youngest mainstream branch of modern Jewry, but its commitment to ethics has always been central to its self-understanding. David A. Indeed, as shaping actual Jewish living has continuously been its major goal, the movement eventually developed what is now called values-based decision-making that is to guide collective as well as personal ethical deliberation and concrete action.

Feminist methodologies creatively critique halakhah , theology, liturgy, ritual, and textual interpretation, all with implications for social and political analysis and activism.


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Nearly concurrent with the rise of feminist criticisms in recent decades was the emergence of postmodernism that both endorsed particularity as against the universality championed by modernity and simultaneously critiqued the totalizing effects inhering in particularity. He then turns to the ethical philosophy of embodiment and self-mastery by Jonathan Schofer and Chaya Halberstam, to show that postmodern Jewish ethics is simultaneously intensely personal while also procedural and communal.

Lest the reader assume that these chapters cover the totality of Jewish ethical theorizing, it should be stressed that it is only limited space that prevents additional Jewish ethical theories to be addressed at length here. Their exclusion is not a reflection on the sophistication of these approaches but more their prevalence relative to the other approaches included here.

In this view, everything in the universe is characterized by experience not to be confused with consciousness ; there is no mind-body duality under this system, because "mind" is simply seen as a very developed kind of experiencing entity. Intrinsic to this worldview is the notion that all experiences are influenced by prior experiences, and will influence all future experiences. This process of influencing is never deterministic; an occasion of experience consists of a process of comprehending other experiences, and then reacting to it.

This is the "process" in "process philosophy". Process philosophy gives God a special place in the universe of occasions of experience. God encompasses all the other occasions of experience but also transcends them; thus process philosophy is a form of panentheism. The original ideas of process theology were developed by Charles Hartshorne — , and influenced a number of Jewish theologians, including British philosopher Samuel Alexander — , and Rabbis Max Kadushin , Milton Steinberg and Levi A.

Abraham Joshua Heschel has also been linked to this tradition. Kabbalah continued to be central to Haredi Orthodox Judaism , which generally rejected philosophy, although the Chabad strain of Chasidism showed a more positive attitude towards philosophy. Meanwhile, non-Orthodox Jewish thought in the latter 20th century saw resurgent interest in Kabbalah. In academic studies, Gershom Scholem began the critical investigation of Jewish mysticism, while in non-Orthodox Jewish denominations , Jewish Renewal and Neo-Hasidism , spiritualised worship.

Many philosophers do not consider this a form of philosophy, as Kabbalah is a collection of esoteric methods of textual interpretation. Mysticism is generally understood as an alternative to philosophy, not a variant of philosophy. Among modern the modern critics of Kabbalah was Yihhyah Qafahh , who wrote a book entitled Milhamoth ha-Shem , Wars of the Name against what he perceived as the false teachings of the Zohar and the false Kabbalah of Isaac Luria.

He is credited with spearheading the Dor Daim. Yeshayahu Leibowitz publicly shared the views expressed in Rabbi Yihhyah Qafahh 's book Milhhamoth ha-Shem and elaborated upon these views in his many writings. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries there have also been many philosophers who are Jewish or of Jewish descent, and whose Jewish background might influence their approach to some degree, but whose writing is not necessarily focused on issues specific to Judaism.

These include:. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. All philosophy carried out by Jews, or in relation to the religion of Judaism. Philosophy and Kabbalah are two common approaches to Jewish theology.

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Retrieved 3 July Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, Leiden: E. Montgomery Watt, Free will and predestination in early Islam, London , , Lasker Ben-Shammai ed. On the role of Abu 'l-Barakat's writings in the resurrection controversy of the twelfth century; in Hebrew. Published in the Jewish Quarterly Review journal Vol.

God, Torah, Israel: traditionalism without fundamentalism. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press. Wurgaft, Emmanuel Levinas , myjewishlearning. Archived from the original on Archived from the original PDF on New York: Fordham University Press. Then came the semantic theory of truth formulated by the logician Alfred Tarski and published in Popper writes of learning in of the consequences of Tarski's theory, to his intense joy. The theory met critical objections to truth as correspondence and thereby rehabilitated it.

The theory also seemed, in Popper's eyes, to support metaphysical realism and the regulative idea of a search for truth. Popper coined the term critical rationalism to describe his philosophy.

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Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy) Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy)
Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy) Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy)
Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy) Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy)
Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy) Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy)
Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy) Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy)
Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy) Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy)
Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy) Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy)
Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy) Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century (Library of Jewish Philosophy)

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