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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 12: Values and the Future


c h a p t e r t w e l v e Values and the Future “It is better to strip hides off animal carcasses than to say to other people, ‘I am a great sage, I am a priest, provide me there fore with maintenance.’ So did the Sages command us. Among the great sages there were hewers of wood, carriers of beams, drawers of water to irrigate gardens, and workers in iron and charcoal. They did not ask for public assistance, nor did they accept it when offered to them.” [Maimonides Mishneh Torah “Gifts to the Poor” x, 18, (c. 1177 CE)] A Model for the Secular The Pharisees: “What counted was the life worthy of the world to come, the dogged trudging on the road to life eternal, the surmounting of every external and internal obstacle barring the way to the day of resurrection. The Patriarchs had lived such paradigmatic lives and they were even now with their Father in heaven; Moses had lived such a life and was even now basking in celestial bliss; the prophets had lived such lives and were even now awaiting the day of resurrection; the teachers of the twofold Law lived such lives as they yearned for the life which death could never snatch away.”1 Itzkoff_Book.indb 187 23/10/12 5:43 PM 188 | judaism’s promise, meeting the challenge of modernity Leadership Choices Judaism today represents itself to the world in three ways. One is the synagogue and the rabbi....

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