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Is there a Jewish Theology?

Is there a Jewish Theology?

by Louis Jacobs

Originally published in Problems in Contemporary Jewish Theology, ed. Dan Cohn-Sherbok (Edwin Mellen Press 1991)

To attempt, as this article does, a presentation of the current state of the art in Jewish theology presupposes that there is a specific discipline so designated, distinct from the study of Jewish history; Jewish philosophy; Jewish literature; the sociology of Judaism and Jewry; the Bible, the Talmud and midrash; halakhah, aggadah and rabbinics. Unlike all these, however, Jewish theology-defined as the systematic consideration of what adherents of the Jewish religion believe or are expected to believe-is notoriously elusive, so much so that voices have been raised to question whether there really is any such thing.

Certainly there is no department of Jewish theology, as there is of Christian, at any university. Even in the foremost higher institutions of specifically Jewish learning, such as the Hebrew Union College, the Jewish Theological Seminary and Yeshivah University in the USA, Jews' College and Leo Baeck College in the UK, where Jewish theology can hardly be ignored, the subject is often treated with amused tolerance as peripheral to the major interests of both teachers and students. The Queen of the Sciences may have been dethroned in Christendom, but, judging by their neglect, many Jewish teachers deny that she ever enjoyed regal status in the first place. Nor is the position much better with regard to written work. Of the numerous learned journals, of the highest quality, devoted to Jewish studies, none is devoted specifically to Jewish theology. No comprehensive work on the subject has ever appeared in Hebrew and only three such works exist in English. [1] Why this indifference, not to say hostility? What is there about theology that makes it seem, in some eyes, to be un-Jewish? Two reasons are generally advanced for why theology is a Jewishly dubious enterprise: 1) because the emphasis in Judaism has been, at least from early rabbinic times, on practice rather than on theory; and 2) because, until the age of the medieval philosophers, Judaism seems to have been averse to any systematization of its beliefs.

The first objection can easily be met. The attitude of what Heschel calls 'pan-halakhism' is self-defeating and question-begging. As was noted in the debate on Mendelssohn's views, [2] the dogma of Jewish dogmalessness is itself a dogma. To be sure, Jewish thinkers, or the majority of them, have placed most of the stress on halakhah, but any defence of their position can only proceed by invoking non-halakhic categories such as revelation, and once a thinker is prepared to invoke these categories, he has thereby stepped beyond the boundaries of the halakhah to do theology. When some Jews say all that matters is obedience to the halakhah, unless they see Judaism as mere behaviourism, they are not saying that beliefs are unimportant, but rather that they are so important as to be beyond the probings endemic to theology. The trouble is that, precisely because of the emphasis in Judaism on practice, the beliefs themselves are none too clearly defined. Even the most determined pan-halakhist has no way out than to use his reason for the definition of his beliefs and in order to establish their truth.

As for the second objection, it is no doubt true that biblical and early rabbinic thought is 'organic' rather than systematic. [3] George Foot Moore [4] virtually admits that, in his systematic treatment of tannaitic theology, he is imposing on the sources that which does not belong there. C. G. Montefiore [5] is way off the mark when he observes how enormously the Rabbis might have benefited 'if, under competent teachers, they had been put through a course of Greek philosophy and literature' [sic]. The Rabbis were not poor philosophers, as Montefiore implies. They were not philosophers or systematic theologians at all, their activity in matters of aggadah, with which Montefiore deals, being much closer to the activity of the poet or the dramatist. It is doubtful whether a more rigorous training in philosophy would have made Shakespeare a better playwright. The likelihood is that it would have made him a worse one. All this is true, and yet, once Jews did begin to think systematically, under the influence of the Greeks, there was no gainsaying theology, as is evidenced by Sa'adiah, Maimonides, Bahya, Halevi, Crescas, Nahmanides, Gersonides and many others in the Middle Ages; the kabbalists and hasidic thinkers like Sheneor Zalman of Liady, Gershon Henoch of Radzyn, Israel of Koznitz and Hayyim of Zans; the Lithuanians, Hayyim of Volozhyn and Israel Salanter and his Musar movement; and, among thinkers belonging to other schools, Samson Raphael Hirsch, Rav Kook, J. B. Soloveitchick, Yeshayahu Leibovitz, Geiger, Krochmal, Montefiore and so many others. [6] At the present time, too, Jewish theology is alive and well, or as well as can be expected considering the buffeting it has received. [7]

In what follows, we examine what contemporaries and near contemporaries have had to say on four central themes of Jewish theology-God, Torah, Israel and the Hereafter-and note is also taken of the new Jewish theologies that have emerged in recent years.

The Doctrine of God

Chiefly through the writings of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, religious existentialism seems to have become the dominant methodology in Jewish theological thought. [8] In this approach the great questions that bothered the medieval thinkers-divine providence, divine foreknowledge versus human free will, faith and reason-are of no relevance to the life of religion. According to Buber one cannot talk about God, but one can talk to Him. The divine Thous behind all the particular thous can only be met in dialogue. [9] Granting the important insights of the existentialist approach, its pervasiveness in contemporary Jewish theology ('Kierkegaard with a yarmulke') is unfortunate, often coming perilously close to religious escapism, as if the medieval thinkers had laboured in vain when they discussed the objective truth of Jewish beliefs about God. It is no accident that the traditional arguments for the existence of God are virtually ignored by Jewish thinkers. [10]

The Jewish religious naturalists, on the other hand, of whom Mordecai Kaplan was the pioneer, [11] deal with the whole question of God's existence by a radical transformation of meaning. On this view, God is the name given to the power that makes for righteousness in the universe. God is not a Person to whom prayer can be addressed for Him to answer, and, it is claimed, when our ancestors offered their prayers, what they were really doing deep down was to attune themselves to this power in the universe and in themselves for the spiritual enrichment of their lives. Kaplan anticipated the Death-of-God theologians in the 1960s, though he has never been given the credit for it. [12]

Religious naturalism can be faulted on two grounds. First, the doctrine is logically incoherent in a way in which traditional theism and traditional atheism are not. The theist postulates that there is a God, both transcendent and immanent, the Supreme Being who brought the universe into existence and who extends His providence over it. The atheist denies that this Being exists. Either view can be argued for, say, by whether design in the universe points to a Designer or whether contingent being implies that there is a necessary Being. After Kant, few theists will see the traditional arguments as knockdown proofs and will fall back eventually on faith, but they will have no doubts about the kind of Being the existence of which they affirm by faith. That there is a 'natural' power in the universe that makes for righteousness but one that is impersonal is pure dogma. It is a belief that can neither be verified nor falsified and hence, as the linguistic analysts would say, is logically meaningless. Secondly, religious naturalism seems to be totally insensitive to religious psychology. There is no word in classical Hebrew for 'person' but surely Pascal's distinction holds good between the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It might be added that for all the negations of the Jewish philosophers and the kabbalists with their doctrine of the Ein Sof, utterly beyond all human comprehensibility, they were reaching out to that which is more than a person, not less. [13]

In recent years there has emerged a Jewish theological approach in which the direct experience of God is as prominent as it was for the Jewish mystics in the past. The massive researches of Scholem and his school into the kabbalah and Hasidism, [14] indispensable though they are for the understanding of Judaism, belong to historical studies rather than to theology, but attempts have been made to draw out the theological implications of Jewish mysticism. Unfortunately, the majority of these attempts involve no more than a repetition of the kabbalistic doctrines with no critical or historical understanding-the Zohar was written by R. Simeon ben Yohai in the second century, the Ari was visited by Elijah who imparted to him divine truths, and that is the end of it. [15] All too frequently, interest in the kabbalah is part of an unhealthy interest in the occult. [16] To date there has not emerged anything like a real neo-kabbalah in which the system is drawn upon the theological insights it undoubtedly possesses, without the whole system being swallowed whole as revealed truth. Buber's neo-Hasidism is not really Hasidism at all [17] in that Buber has used the teachings and especially the tales of this richly mystical movement, in which the ideal of self-annihilation is a constant theme, to further his own, basically anti-mystical, I-and-Thou philosophy. Aryeh Kaplan [18] has tried to draw on the kabbalah for use in mystical meditation, and Rabbi A. I. Kook has tried to develop a complete theological system in a fairly modern garb based on the kabbalah, [19] though these efforts, too, are vitiated in part by their unhistorical stance.

Revelation and Torah

It is sobering to find that the battles over the doctrine of the divine inspiration of Scripture in the Christian world of the last century are still being fought by Jews. The majority of non-Orthodox Jewish theologians accept the findings of biblical criticism and the scientific picture of the age and structure of the universe, at variance with the plain meaning of the Bible, and have examined anew the meaning of revelation. The general tendency has been to give a far greater acknowledgement to the human element in revelation-the Torah being seen as given not only to the people of Israel but also through them, though there is, naturally, much discussion on how such an idea affects the traditional doctrine of Torah min ha-shamayim (Torah from Heaven) and on how far this has implications for changes in the halakhah. [20]

If fundamentalism means an acceptance that every word of the Pentateuch was conveyed directly by God to Moses, with the corollary, since God cannot be wrong, that the Pentateuch is inerrant in all its parts, Orthodox Jewish theologians are fundamentalists, though, one gathers, they find the actual term highly offensive in that it is said to denote fanaticism or obscurantism. [21] With regard to the rest of Scripture, too, and even with regard to the Talmud, the doctrine of inerrancy is applied in some quarters. The popular and well-produced ArtScroll series of biblical commentaries accepts as revealed truth that each of the biblical books was compiled by the writer said to be its author in the rabbinic literature. [22]

On the theological agenda of the non-fundamentalist at least is the investigation of the mystery of revelation. There is too little reference to the numinous, the tremendous, the overpowering experience of the Wholly Other by the biblical authors, as if the statement 'God gave the Torah to Israel' can be treated like the statement: 'Cohen gave Levy a present.' While, of course, all Jewish theologians reject the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, [23] Jewish theologians have a not entirely dissimilar problem on their hands from that which has exercised Christian theologians throughout the ages; of the relationship between the divine and human elements in the Torah, the infinite and the time-conditioned, the permanent and the changing, the transient and the eternal.


The idea, basic to every version of Judaism, that the Jewish people as a whole has a special role to play in God's universe has always given rise to severe theological tensions. Since Judaism maintains that God is concerned, so to speak, with the conduct and destiny of every individual person, how is the special role He is said to allot to the 'chosen people' to be reconciled with His purpose for all mankind and for the individuals of which mankind is comprised? In the history of Jewish theology, while both particularism and universalism have been advocated, some Jewish thinkers, probably the majority of them, have tended to place the emphasis on the Jewish people as a group and others on the individual and on mankind as a whole. [24]

Contemporary Jewish theologians are similarly divided in their understanding of the choice of Israel. At one extreme are the Chabad-Lubavitch thinkers following the kabbalah, according to whom the Jew is endowed with a special, holy soul, different in kind, not only in degree, from other human beings. [25] To some extent this view was anticipated by Judah Halevi [26] and held, oddly enough, by the famous Reform leader, Abraham Geiger, [27] who naturally prefers to dress the notion in modernistic garb by calling it 'the Jewish genius for religion'. At the opposite extreme is Mordecai Kaplan [28] who, obedient to his functionalism, felt that, whatever function the doctrine of the choice possessed in the past, it does so no longer. In Reconstructionist synagogues, where Kaplan's followers pray, the words 'who has drawn us near to His service' are substituted for the traditional 'who has chosen us from all peoples', though to the non-Reconstructionist, the difference between the two formulations is obscure; unless psychological relief is afforded when no explicit reference is made to God 'choosing'. Between these two extremes are the majority of contemporary Jewish theologians who are content to continue to live with all the tensions.

Jewish theology today has also to contend with the role of Zionism and the State of Israel in the theological scheme. Is Zionism to be seen as a secular political movement with little direct implication for Jewish theology, and is the State of Israel, to which Zionism has given birth, to be seen solely as the realization of the magnificent dream of providing a secure home for the storm-tossed Jewish people, tired of wandering from nation to nation? Or can the State of Israel be seen, as it is by many religious Zionists, in messianic terms, as the 'beginning of the redemption' (athalta de-geulah)? Opinions differ widely on the question, [29] as they do on messianism itself. In the last century Reform Judaism substituted the notion of a messianic age for a personal Messiah, [30] though here, too, there has been a considerable diminution of the numinous quality of the traditional messianic hope. Orthodox Jewish theologians still uphold the full-blooded traditional doctrine, according to which God will send a scion of the House of David who will succeed in redeeming the Jewish people and eventually bring all human beings to acknowledge the One God and serve Him with a perfect heart. The Messiah will rebuild the Temple and the sacrificial system will be reintroduced.

Non-Orthodox traditionalists, who do not believe in the restoration of the sacrifices, are embarrassed by the prayers in the traditional liturgy in which God is supplicated to bring about this very thing. [31] The militant Gush Emunim movement in Israel believes that the advent of the Messiah is very near and his coming can be speeded by Israel holding on firmly to the land it has acquired in its victories over the Arabs. [32] The movement claims, with some justice, to be based on the views of Rabbi A. I. Kook, a prominent Orthodox thinker, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine, as it then was, who accepted the theory of evolution as fully compatible with the kabbalistic view that humanity is rising to ever greater heights, towards its culmination in the coming of the Messiah. [33] In the commentary to the prayer book he edited, [34] Kook makes the astonishing observation that in the messianic age animals will become so spiritually advanced that human beings will have no right to offer them as sacrifices and that only the meal-offering of fine flour will then be allowed, though it is difficult to see how Kook can square his view with the prayers for the restoration of all the sacrifices which he records in the same prayer book.

The Hereafter

Traditionally, Judaism is both this-worldly and other-worldly. Nowhere is this stated more cogently than in the saying in Ethics of the Fathers: [35] 'One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than all the life of the World to Come. But one hour of bliss in the World to Come is better than all the life of this world.' It is for historians to consider the development of Jewish eschatological doctrine but, as late as the Middle Ages, Maimonides and Nahmanides [36] could still debate whether the World to Come (olam ha-ba) of rabbinic eschatology refers to the resurrection of the dead or to the immortality of the soul. In modern times, Reform Judaism gave up the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, placing all the emphasis on the hope of eternal spiritual bliss of the soul after the death of the body. Orthodox thinkers continue to affirm the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, though many tend to leave this as an impenetrable mystery safely to be left to God, or to speak, as did Nahmanides, of a spiritual, refined body. [38] The silence of more recent Jewish theologians on the whole question of the Hereafter is extremely puzzling. [39] Rejecting the notion of a resurrected body, they apparently find it hard to accept the idea of the soul as a disembodied entity. And yet many modernists seem to find no difficulty in the traditional doctrine of God as a Person to whom it is heretical to ascribe corporeality.

It is not as if the doctrine of immortality belongs to harmless speculation. The whole nature of Judaism as a religion is at stake here. For Jew, Christian and Muslim in the past, the reason for believing that death is not the end of the individual is that God does not create only eventually to destroy. Part of the unfinished business of contemporary Jewish theology is, consequently, the exploration of the meaning that can be given to the traditional Jewish view that this life is, in relation to the sabbath of the Hereafter, the eve of the sabbath when preparations are made for the enjoyment of the eternal sabbath; in Keats's famous expression, this life is a vale of soul-making. Religious people have always understood that the whole quality of life that leads to eternal bliss in the nearness of God differs profoundly from a life conceived of as doomed ultimately, like the universe itself, to total extinction. It is a source of regret that there is nothing to compare in modern Jewish theological thought with John Hick's splendid Death and Eternal Life, [40] even though, in the nature of the case, so much in this area is pure speculation. [41]

New Jewish Theologies

In the main two new Jewish theologies have emerged after the Second World War: [42] Holocaust theology and feminist theology, on both of which there is now an extensive literature. [43]

Holocaust Theology

The theological problem of how the All-good can allow evil to exist has always been with us. It is no doubt the most stubborn obstacle to theistic belief. In a sense the problem is acutely presented to the believer even when a single innocent child dies of cancer; the kabbalistic solution that the child is a reincarnation of an adult sinner of former times [44] is hardly adequate for those who cannot view the kabbalah as revealed truth. Why, then, is the problem seen as especially aggravated beyond measure as a result of the terrible Holocaust? Some would argue that, indeed, in the Holocaust we are confronted not with a new problem, demanding a specific theological inquiry, only with the old problem in a more acute form. But the majority of Holocaust theologians do see the Holocaust as a unique form of evil, challenging particularly the old Jewish idea that God works in human history. It is absurd to speak of a solution to the problem to satisfy all minds, and none of the Holocaust theologians seek to provide one. What they do try to achieve is to produce a glimmer of light in the darkness for the believer. It is preferable not to speak of solutions at all but rather of reflections on how believers ought to approach the horror while retaining their faith in the Creator; although thinkers like Richard Rubenstein [45] hold that this can no longer be achieved and all that the Jew can do is to hold on courageously, in the face of what he calls the divine Nothing, to faith in the survival of the Jewish people and in the goodness still inherent in mankind.

At the opposite extreme are those who try to see the Holocaust entirely within the confines of traditional theodicy. On this view the Holocaust was God's judgement on the Jews for particular sins, not because Jews were worse than others but because more is expected of them. [46] This attitude has been met with fierce resistance as an insult to the memory of those who perished, to the martyrs or kedoshim as they came to be called by a kind of consensus among Jews. Neither is it any more acceptable to see the Holocaust as a necessary means for the emergence of the State of Israel, since it is extremely hard to see why God should have demanded such a fearful price, and in any event, it offers no explanation of why those who suffered and died in the Holocaust should have perished for the benefit of those who came later.

A theological idea that has frequently been invoked in discussions of the Holocaust is that of hester panim, the hiding of God's face. It is argued that at certain periods in human history God removes His providential care to leave human beings to their own devices, as it were. But this idea merely aggravates the problem of divine providence in general, the problem of how God refuses to intervene and allows naked evil to triumph.

Some feel that Holocaust theology has been overworked and can be positively harmful in that it might encourage an attitude of total despair, which is why many agree with Emil Fackenheim [47] that the most significant affirmation with regard to the Holocaust is not to allow Hitler to have the last word, though, of course, such a response does not belong to theology.

Feminist Theology

With the rise of the feminist movement in the 1960s, voices were raised in the Jewish world that Judaism is too much male-oriented. The Jewish feminist movement has not been content simply to demand greater equality for women in Jewish law, in matters of the get, for instance, or even to demand greater participation of women in the services, to form a minyan, for example, and to be called to the Torah on an equal footing with men. These demands would not constitute in themselves a feminist theology. Feminist theology, in fact, seeks to interpret the Jewish religion in a new way, as seen through the eyes of women as well as of men. [48]

Jewish feminist theologians, men as well as women, feel that sexist language used in Jewish prayers and in statements about the Deity tend to be implicitly weighted in favour of the understanding of Judaism as a religion for men. True, it is argued, women are given an important role in the religion, but it is a role given to them by the hitherto male interpreters. For instance, according to the halakhah women are exempt from performing positive precepts dependent on a particular time, so that they have no obligation to wear a tallit or tefillin, and they have no obligation to study the Torah. But these limitations are based on the teachings of the talmudic rabbis who were men, with a masculine way of looking at things. Some Jewish feminist theologians have tried to adopt insights found in the kabbalah. The kabbalah postulates, in its doctrine of the divine wisdom as Abba (Father) and the divine understanding as Imma (Mother), as well as in the doctrine of the Shekhinah, that there is a female element in God, demonstrating that in some varieties of Judaism, at least, there is room even for God to be referred to as a She as well as a He. It should be said, however, that in the kabbalah it is the male principle that represents mercy while the female principle is the source of sternness and judgement, and that the kabbalah was itself produced by men, the absence of Jewish women mystics often having been noted by scholars.

The question of whether women can become rabbis [49] has emerged as a burning issue but, from the theological point of view, the pros and cons are quite different from those in the Christian debates about the priesthood of women. This is a particularly good example of how Christian theology may provide the background and the spur to new Jewish theological thought while being different in essence. The Christian debate is based on doctrinal questions-the apostolic succession and the role of the priest as representing Jesus-whereas in Judaism, if there is an issue at all, which some would deny, it is purely halakhic.

To sum up, a sufficient number of Jewish writers and thinkers in the contemporary world are committed to Judaism as a religion and are concerned with investigation into the implications of their faith for Jews (and, to some extent, for mankind as a whole). Whether or not they prefer to use the term, they are doing theology and qualify as Jewish theologians. Jewish theology, overshadowed by other Jewish scholarly disciplines, is gradually moving out into the light. Jewish theology may have been static for a time. Thank God (appropriate expression) it is now on the move again.

  1. Kaufmann Kohler: Jewish Theology Systematically and Historically Considered, new ed. with an introduction by Joseph L. Blau, Ktav, New York, 1968; Samuel S. Cohon: Jewish Theology: A Historical and Systematic Interpretation of Judaism and its Foundations, ed. Jakob J. Petuchowski and Lou S. Silberman, Royal Vangorcum, Assen, the Netherlands, 1971; Louis Jacobs: A Jewish Theology, Behrman House, New York, 1973. Cf. Cohon: Essays in Jewish Theology, ed. Jakob J. Petuchowski, Hebrew Union College Press, Cincinnati, 1987, and Jacobs: Principles of the Jewish Faith, new ed. Jason Aronson, Northvale, London, 1988, and the bibliographies in these works. Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought, ed. Arthur A. Cohen and Paul Mendesflohr, Scribner's, New York, 1987, is a symposium by diverse thinkers on theological topics.
  2. See Solomon Schechter's famous essay 'The Dogmas of Judaism' in his Studies in Judaism First Series, Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1948, pp.147-81, where, on p.148, the reference is made, in connection with Mendelssohn's thought, to 'the dogma of dogmalessness'. On Mendelssohn generally see Alexander Altmann: Moses Mendelssohn: A Bibliographical Study, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1971.
  3. For 'organic' in contradistinction to 'systematic' thinking in early Judaism see Max Kadushin: The Rabbinic Mind, 2nd edn. with an appendix by Simon Greenburg, Blaisdell, New York, Toronto, London, 1965 and I. Heinemann: Darkhei ha-Aggadah, Magnes Press, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1970.
  4. See George Foot Moore: Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of the Tannaim, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1927. In the Preface (p. viii) he remarks: 'I have avoided imposing on the matter a systematic disposition which is foreign to it and to the Jewish thought of the time. The few comprehensive divisions under which it is arranged are not sharply bounded, and the same subject often naturally belongs in more than one of them.'
  5. C. G. Montefiore and Herbert Loewe: A Rabbinic Anthology, Macmillan, London, 1938, p. xix.
  6. It matters little that some of these thinkers only discuss theology in passing, since when they do examine theological topics, they do so in a more or less systematic way.
  7. In 1966 the editors of Commentary published a series of theological questions and the replies to them by rabbis of all three denominations, Orthodox, Reform and Conservative. This has now been republished as The Conditions of Jewish Belief: A Symposium by the Editors of Commentary Magazine, ed. Milton Himmelfarb, Jason Aronson, Northvale, London, 1989. See the remarks of the editor (pp. 5-6) deploring the minimum theological activities in rabbinical seminaries and observing that in Jewries of advanced culture such as the Spanish there was a greater need to theologize, and that we live in such a Jewry. 'In these terms, we live in Spanish and not Franco-German conditions, and we too need theology. How much? More, I would say, than we are getting.'
  8. Himmelfarb in the Commentary symposium, above, n. 7, notes (p. 3) that Frank Rosenzweig, Buber's associate in theology, dominates non-Orthodox theology, as evidenced by the replies given in the symposium. Himmelfarb wrote this in 1966. Since then, Buber's thought has become rather more popular in these circles, or so it would seem. Rosenzweig's Stern der Erlosung has been translated by William W. Hallo: The Star of Redemption, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1971. Cf. Nahum N. Glatzer: Franz Rosenzweig: His Life and Thought, Schocken, 1953, and Rosenzweig's Understanding the Sick and the Healthy: A View of World, Man, and God, edited with an introduction by N. N. Glatzer, Noonday Press, New York, 1953.
  9. Buber's classic I and Thou was translated long ago by Ronald Gregor Smith, Scribner's, New York, 1937. Cf. The Philosophy of Martin Buber, ed. Paul Arthur Schilpp and Maurice Friedman, La Salle, IL, CUP, 1967, and Pamela Vermes: Buber on God and the Perfect Man, Scholars Press, Chico, CA, 1980.
  10. ln general religious philosophical thought the traditional proofs for the existence of God have made something of a comeback, see e.g. Reason and Religion, ed. Stuart C. Brown, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY and London, 1977; Richard Swinburne: The Existence of God, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1979; Leszek Kolakowski: Religion, Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford, 1982. Two Jewish theologians who strongly favour the approach through reason are Milton Steinberg: Anatomy of Faith, ed. with an introduction by Arthur a. Green, Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1960, and Isidore Epstein: The Faith of Judaism, Soncino Press, London, 1954.
  11. The best and clearest statement of Kaplan's thought is in his replies to questioners originally published in The Reconstructionist and later collected under the title Questions Jews Ask: Reconstructionist Answers, Reconstructionist Press, New York, 1956.
  12. For the debate of religious naturalism on the Christian side see John A. T. Robinson and David L Edwards: The Honest to God Debate, SCM Press, London, 1963. Kaplan's thought was widely known as early as the 1930s.
  13. See the discussion in Louis Jacobs: God Torah Israel: Traditionalism without Fundamentalism, Hebrew Union College Press, Cincinnati, 1990, pp. 3-17.
  14. See especially Gershom Scholem: Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 3rd edn., Thames and Hudson, London, 1955; Gershom Scholem: Kabbalah, Keter, Jerusalem, 1974; Isaiah Tishby: Mishnat hazohar, Mosad Bialik, vol. I, Jerusalem, 1957, vol. II, Jerusalem, 1961, transl. David Goldstein, The Wisdom of the Zohar, Oxford University Press, The Littman Library, Oxford, 1989.
  15. See e.g. the publications of the Research Centre of Kabbalah, Jerusalem, New York, of which an example is General Principles of the Kabbalah by Rabbi Moses C. Luzzatto, transl. Dr. Philip S. Berg. Research Centre of Kabbalah, Jerusalem. 1984. See the preface to this work (pp. 8-31) by Dr. Philip S. Gruberger (presumably this is another name for Dr. Berg, the translator).
  16. As in Zeev ben Shimon Halevi (Warren Kenton) Kabbalah: Tradition and Hidden Knowledge, Thames and Hudson, 1979, and other works of this prolific writer. It is no compliment to Scholem that the publishers of his Major Trends are also the publishers of this type of pop-kabbalah.
  17. See the critique of Buber in Gershom Scholem: The Messianic Idea in Judaism and Other Essays on Jewish Spirituality, Schocken, New York, 1971, 'Martin Buber's Interpretation of Hasidism', pp. 227-50, and that of Rivkah Schatz Uffenheimer: 'Man's Relation to God and World in Buber's Rendering of the Hasidic Teaching' in The Philosophy of Martin Buber (above, n. 9), pp. 403-34, and see Buber's reply on pp. 731-41.
  18. See Aryeh Kaplan: Meditation and the Bible, Samuel Weiser, York Beach, Maine, 1978, and the same author's Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide, Schocken, New York, 1985. Cf. The Aryeh Kaplan Reader, Mesorah Publications, Brooklyn, 1983. Another work in similar vein is Jacob Immanuel Schochet: The Mystical Dimension, 3 vols., Kehot Publishing House, Brooklyn, 1990.
  19. Rabbi Kook's classic work is Orot ha-Kodesh, ed. David Cohen, Mossad Harav Kook, Jerusalem, 1938. On Rabbi Kook's thought see Zevi Yaron: Mishnato shel ha-Rav Kook, Alfa Press, Jerusalem, 1974, and Abraham Isaac Kook: The Lights of Penitence, The Moral Principles, The Lights of History. Essays, Letters, and Poems, transl. with an introduction by Ben Zion Bokser, preface by Jacob Agus and Rivka Schatz, Paulist Press, New York, Ramsey, Toronto, 1987.
  20. Among the many discussions on this topic see The Conditions of Jewish Belief, above, n. 7; Seymour Siegel, ed.: Conservative Judaism and Jewish Law, the Rabbinical Assembly, New York, 1977; Elliot N. Dorf and Arthur Rosen: A Living Tree: The Roots and Growth of Jewish Law, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1988; Louis Jacobs: A Tree of Life: Diversity, Flexibility, and Creativity in Jewish Law, Oxford University Press, The Littman Library, Oxford, 1984; Eliezer Berkovitz: Not in Heaven: The Nature and Function of Halakha, Ktav, New York, 1983.
  21. See the observations by the Orthodox participants in The Conditions of Jewish Belief, above, n. 7; Reuven P. Bulka, ed.: Dimensions of Orthodox Judaism, Ktav, New York, 1983; Aryeh Carmel and Cyril Domb, ed.: Challenge: Torah Views on Science and its Problems, 2nd revised edn., Feldheim, Jerusalem and New York, 1978.
  22. See e.g. the Overview to the ArtScroll Esther, translated by Meir Zlotowitz with an overview by Nosson Scherman, Mesorah Publications, Brooklyn, 1979, pp. xv-xxxviii, and to the ArtScroll Ecclesiastes, same publishers, authors, place and date, pp. xviii-xlviii. The ArtScroll series generally takes every statement in the talmudic-midrashic literature as conveying infallible information, see e.g. the ArtScroll Jonah, same publishers, authors, place, 1980, p. 108, where midrashic statements that Jonah was not swallowed by only one fish but by two are accepted as factual accounts.
  23. But see Michael Wyschograd: 'A New Stage in Jewish-Christian Dialogue', in Judaism, 31 (1982), pp. 355-65, who puts forward the very odd view that Judaism only affirms that the Incarnation did not happen with regard to Jesus but does not deny that an Incarnation could happen, otherwise limits would be imposed on divine omnipotence. Surely the Jewish monotheistic position is that God, being God, cannot become flesh any more than He can will Himself out of existence.
  24. See the essays 'Israel and the Oikoumend' by Samuel Hugo Bergman and 'The Idea of Humanity in Judaism' by Kurt Wilhelm in Studies in Rationalism, Judaism and Universalism in Memory of Leon Roth, ed. Raphael Loewe, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1966, pp. 47- 66 and 289-310.
  25. See the opening chapters of R. Shneor Zalman of Liady's Tanya, Vilna, 1930, and numerous other editions.
  26. See Judah Halevi: Sefer ha-Kuzari, ed. Yehudah Ibn-Samuel Kaufman, Dvir, Tel-Aviv, 1973. Kaufman, pp. 30-1, defends Halevi against the charge of racism levelled against him by the maskilim.
  27. See the study of Geiger's views in Jacob B. Agus: Modern Philosophies of Judaism: A Study of Recent Philosophies of Religion, Behrman House, New York, 1941, pp. 5-11.
  28. See Kaplan's chapter 'Jewish Peoplehood' in his Questions Jews Ask (above, n. 12), pp. 1-73.
  29. These discussions have appeared and continue to appear in practically every book on the State of Israel and in all the Jewish periodicals and newspapers, though, so far as I know, there has never been any comprehensive bibliography on the subject.
  30. But see the stimulating article 'The personal Messiah-Towards the Restoration of a Discredited Doctrine' by Steven S. Schwarzschild in Judaism, 5 (1956), pp. 123-35.
  31. Conservative Judaism in the USA copes with the problem by retaining all the references to the sacrifices but substituting the words 'and there our fathers offered' for 'and there we will offer'.
  32. See David Newman, ed.: The Impact of Gush Emunin: Politics and Settlement in the West Bank, Croom Helm, London and Sydney, 1985, and Thomas Friedman: From Beirut to Jerusalem, Collins, London, 1990, Index s.v. Gush Emunim.
  33. See Kook, Orot ha-Kodesh (above, n. 19), Part V, pp. 19-22.
  34. Olat Riayah, Mossad ha-Rav Kook, Jerusalem, 1963, p. 292.
  35. Avot 4: 17.
  36. See Jacobs, A Jewish Theology (above, n. 1), ch. 23, 'The Hereafter', pp. 301-22, for an account of the subject with bibliographical notes.
  37. See Nahmanides' 'Sha'ar ha-Gemul' in his Torat ha-Adam, Collected Writings of Ramban, ed. C. D. Chavel, Mossad Harav Kook, Jerusalem, 1964, vol. II, pp. 264-316; Joshua Finkel, 'Maimonides' Treatise on Resurrection: A Comparative Study', in Salo W. Baron, ed.: Essays on Maimonides, Columbia University Press, New York, 1941, pp. 93-121; 'Gan Eden ve-Gehinom', in Collected Writings of Rabbi Joseph Seliger, ed. Leah Seliger, Ha-Ivri, Jerusalem, pp. 71-96; Jacob I. Dienstag, ed.: Eschatology in Maimonidean Thought, Ktav, New York, 1983.
  38. See e.g. Epstein: The Faith of Judaism (above, n. ), pp. 323-48, 'On the Resurrection'; J. H. Hertz: Commentary to the Prayer Book, Shapiro and Vallentine, London, 1947, p. 255.
  39. See Dan Cohn-Sherbok: Holocaust Theology, Lamp Press, London, 1989, ch. 10, 'The Holocaust and the Afterlife', pp. 127-9, on the remarkable fact that in all the theological discussions on the Holocaust there is hardly any reference to the doctrine of the Hereafter. There is no question on the subject in Conditions of Jewish Belief (above, n. 7).
  40. John Hick: Death and Eternal Life, 2nd edn., Macmillan, London, 1985.
  41. Aryeh Kaplan in The Aryeh Kaplan Reader (above, n. 18), 'On the Immortality of the Soul', pp.175-83, suggests, on the basis of kabbalistic statements, that the individual soul continues to exist in the divine Memory while retaining its individual identity.
  42. Liberation theology has found little expression among Jewish theologians, but see Marc H. Ellis: Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation.
  43. Holocaust theology: see, especially, Dan Cohn-Sherbok: Holocaust Theology (above, n. 39), and David Birnbaum's treatment of the problem of evil in God and Evil: A Jewish Perspective, Ktav, Hoboken, 1989. On feminist theology see Sussanah Heschel: On Being a Jewish Feminist, Schocken, New York, 1983, and the bibliography in Judith Romney Wegner: Chattel or Person? The Status of Women in the Mishnah, Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford, 1988.
  44. See e.g. the views of Joseph Ergas: Shomer Emunim, Daat, Jerusalem, 1965, II, 81, pp. 91-6.
  45. On Rubinstein see Cohn-Sherbok: Holocaust Theology (above, n. 39), pp. 80-91.
  46. See e.g. the works of R. Joel Teitelbaum, the Sotmarer Rebbe: Va-Yo'el Mosheh, Jerusalem Publishing House, Tel Aviv, n. d., and: Al ha-Geulah ve-al ha-Temurah, Deutsch, Brooklyn, 1967.
  47. Emil L. Fackenheim: God's Presence in History: Jewish Affirmations and Philosophical Reflections. Harper and Row, New York, 1972.
  48. Although very few Jewish feminists go so far as to speak of the Deity as She, it is certainly far from unusual for them to add to the expression in prayer 'God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob', 'God of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah'.
  49. See the symposium Women as Rabbis in Judaism, 33 (1984), and Simon Greenberg, ed.: The Ordination of Women as Rabbis: Studies and Responses, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York, 1980.
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