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Judaism’s Promise, Meeting the Challenge of Modernity

Seymour W. Itzkoff

Judaism’s Promise, Meeting The Challenge Of Modernity follows Seymour W. Itzkoff’s well-received three-book series, Who Are the Jews? Judaism’s Promise, confronts the many revolutions that have reshaped Judaism over the centuries allowing it and its people a path of leadership into the modern world. It takes the writings of the Torah, Holy Scriptures, and Talmud seriously as exemplars of the human search for civilizational and moral intellectuality. The book’s basic concern is with the withering of Judaism as a force in contemporary Western civilization.
Sadly millions of Jews have left the faith. Others venture forth only hesitantly into a synagogue, now a bastion of fossilized ritual and conspicuous consumption. These millions needed more from the orthodoxy, and this book attempts to show them the way back by giving renewed life to the heritages of Judaism, and, consequently, to its meaning for the modern world. Judaism’s Promise argues for a return to the synagogue’s originating Hellenistic commitment «to come together» in intellectual and moral study. As Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan argued, Judaism must once more become in the 20–21st century the civilization that it once represented to the wider world, and not a fossilized ceremonialism.


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Chapter 5: Talmudic Republic 63


c h a p t e r f i v e Talmudic Republic The Challenge of Internationalism Both the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE and the rise of Christian proselytism—Paul, were goads for the completion of the Holy Bible in Yavneh, c. 90 CE. The Galilean intellectual, Josephus, was in Rome c. 65 CE on a diplomatic mission for the Judeans. He became acquainted with Poppaea, Nero’s wife who was well-disposed toward the Jews, and who possibly directed the scapegoating for the great fire of 64 CE toward the Christian schismatics from Judaism. Paul was executed during this period, c. 62-65 CE. In Chapter 4, we noted that the Pharisee/Rabbi Gamaliel II of Yavneh, him- self deeply involved in assembling the final orthodox Judean version of the Holy Scriptures, was at the same time apparently directing a school for Hellenic studies, usually literature and philosophy. This fact seems to characterize the bifurcated state of the Jewish mind during these chaotic late first-century times. Josephus, a Judean with a middling knowledge of Greek, wrote the first of his books on Jewish history in Aramaic, and in Rome, the later works in assisted Greek. In Alexandria, Egypt, a very considerable Diaspora Jewish population was assembling its own version of the Holy Scriptures, this written in Greek. Increasingly during the latter half of the 1st century CE, Christian converts were utilizing this Greek version of the Old Testament. Itzkoff_Book.indb 63 23/10/12 5:42 PM 64 | judaism’s promise, meeting...

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