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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 4: Scriptures


c h a p t e r f o u r Scriptures Reprise The first Judaic religious revolution took place with the breakup of the united monarchy, after Solomon’s death in 925 BCE. As we have noted in the previous chapter there is reference in the Pentateuch of much historical and theoric writ- ing before this event. But monarchical division did accelerate the Levites, scribes, priesthood of the Temple to quickly get on with a historic envisionment of the Mosaic tradition, but within the still existing traditions of the northern Elohistic (E) and the southern Yahwist ( J) components of this new religion. Thus were Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers set down in Hebrew. It took the crisis of the Assyrian invasions two hundred years later, c. 725 BCE, and the destruction of Israel as an independent nation to precipitate the uni- fication of these two writings, and then the addition and editing into this material of the (P) priestly component of the Torah, now with the addition of Leviticus. Another hundred years, 630 BCE, and Judah is under foreign pressure and a hur- ried new folio of writings, both historical and sacral appear on the scene, perhaps precipitated by a new group of intellectuals, priests from Shiloh. The separation of Deuteronomy discovered by King Josiah of Judah’s priests, supposed to have been the first book of the new history of the Israelites, but later added onto the four Itzkoff_Book.indb 45 23/10/12 5:42 PM 46 | judaism’s promise, meeting the challenge...

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