Answers from Practical Judaism Books

Your Price: $1.00
In Stock.
Part Number:35

3G Practical Judaism  

by Dr. Sarah Imhoff

Dr. Sarah Imhoff is an Assistant Professor in the Religious Studies and Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University, Bloomington.

C:\Users\Owner\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\TVXJ9CJ7\MC900072686[1].gif

How do people live Jewish lives? Historical and cultural differences over time and space mean that there is no one single way of living Jewishly, but there can be essential continuities. The idea of ritual, although some of the details have changed, serves to create a cross-culturally and transhistorically meaningful Judaism. A Time to Every Purpose, Jonathan Sarna’s epistolary introduction to Judaism and its rituals, provides an accessible and yet sophisticated route into thinking about Jewish religious practice today. Abraham Joshua Heschel’s 1951 classic The Sabbath presents a philosophical articulation of a time-centered approach to observance of Sabbath laws in the modern world. Joseph Soloveitchik’s Halakhic Man and Lonely Man of Faith likewise consider the place of the modern observant Jew within a predominantly secular world.

Living a Jewish life also means theorizing how one can be Jewish and also maintain other parts of one’s identity. The last three decades of the twentieth century saw significant scholarship on the topic of Jewish theology and its relationship to gender and sexuality. One strand, in which self-identified Jewish feminists sought to envision a Judaism inclusive of women’s experiences and authority and critique sexism, includes Rachel Adler’s Engendering Judaism, Judith Plaskow’s Standing Again at Sinai, Susannah Heschel’s On Being a Jewish Feminist, and Blu Greenberg’s On Women & Judaism. Another strand hews more closely to traditional Judaism and asks how women and feminism might fit with Jewish practice. Tova Hartman’s Feminism Encounters Traditional Judaism provides essays relating to the challenges of creating a community that incorporates both; Tamar Ross’s Expanding the Palace of Torah offers a philosophical reading of traditional Jewish law that opens a space for women’s distinctive experience. Other scholars describe and analyze how Jewish women have negotiated their own lives and changed Jewish communal life. The edited collections Jewish Women in Historical Perspective, Women and American Judaism, and Women Remaking American Judaism are valuable here. Daniel Boyarin’s Unheroic Conduct demonstrates the construction of Jewish masculinity through text and culture in historical context. The idea of sexuality and its relationship to Judaism has also become a site of scholarly inquiry. Danya Ruttenberg’s Passionate Torah and Steven Greenberg’s Wrestling with God and Men both seek to highlight ways that Jewish tradition might provide resources for positive sexualities of varying types.

Like every religious tradition, Judaism has a history speckled with fascinating characters. Biographies of religious leaders, thinkers, and even scholars illuminate not only the lives of the individuals themselves, but also broader patterns of community, interpretation, and authority. Maimonides, Joel Kraemer’s definitive biography of the twelfth-century philosopher, presents a rich and wide-ranging account of the rabbi and his life. Moshe Rosman’s biography of the Ba’al Shem Tov, Founder of Hasidism, tells the story of the first Hasidic leader who left few writings but many followers and oral teachings. Maiden of Ludmir, Nathaniel Deutsch’s biography of an early nineteenth century Hasidic holy woman, presents the fascinating life story of religious authority and charisma. In the American context, Lance Sussman’s Isaac Leeser and the Making of American Judaism describes the early nineteenth century American Jewish leader and his relationship to a growing Jewish community. Edward Kaplan’s Spiritual Radical details the extraordinary life of rabbi, theologian, and social activist Abraham Joshua Heschel. Mark Raider discusses another mid-twentieth century American Jewish leader in Abba Hillel Silver and American Zionism. A number of biographies of the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe make claims to interpreting his life and work. Even scholarly works from outside the Chabad movement have been polarizing. Samuel Heilman and Menachem Freedman’s biography, The Rebbe, focuses on the rabbi’s life and community, while Elliot Wolfson’s Open Secret analyzes his religious writings. David Biale’s biography Gershom Scholem tells the story of how the scholar of Kabbalah made the ideas of mysticism and messianism integral to the modern study of Judaism; Scholem’s Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism remains a field-defining classic.