Originally published in Jewish Bookland, September 1965.
PRINCIPLES OF THE JEWISH FAITH: An Analytical Study. By Louis Jacobs. N.Y., Basic Books, 1964. 473 p. $9.50.
RABBI LOUIS JACOBS is a controversial figure in English Jewry. He had been scheduled to take the top post at Jews’ College in London, but the Chief Rabbi vetoed his selection. He, likewise, barred him from serving as minister in any congregation affiliated with the (British) United Synagogue. But Rabbi Jacobs was not to be silenced. His friends organized a new congregation outside the United Synagogue and he continues to write and to disseminate his views to the larger community, including the American Jewish community.
The present work attempts to indicate what a modern Jew can believe. He quotes with approval Solomon Schechter’s thesis that to be a Jew involves assent to certain dogmatic positions, but he goes beyond Schechter in defining what these dogmas are. Identifying the dogmas of Judaism with the Maimonidean creed, the book becomes a detailed examination of each of the thirteen principles in the creed of Maimonides. The author evaluates each principle in the light of modern knowledge of the physical universe and historical knowledge which accounts for the development of the literature and the institutions of the Torah.
There is much valuable information in this volume. Each article in the Maimonidean creed is treated in the context of comparative views in medieval Jewish philosophy and current thought. But the method adopted by the author places his exposition in a strait jacket of the Maimonidean system. Thus the problem of ethics which is today of such profound concern is hardly touched on, because it remained outside the Maimonidean formula.
There are valuable discussion of literature on each subject, which will aid a student in further study. The book is a significant addition to the growing literature on the Jewish religion and is impressive evidence of the intellectual vitality of the Anglo-Jewish community.
Ben Zion Bokser, rabbi, Forest Hills Jewish Center, N.Y.