This book aims to set the record straight by presenting Judaism on its own terms, from the inside but in a way accessible to non-Jewish readers. Doing away with the artificial categories imposed by comparisons with Christianity allows the reader to focus on and understand perhaps for the first time the unique features of Judaism: the extraordinary emphasis on tradition ("The Jew, confronted with new ideas or changed circumstances, instinctively turns for guidance to the established norms of the past, since he has neither a canon of faith nor a human authority he can turn to"), the deep sense of community even when there is a total lack of religious commitment ("Religion is only one aspect of Jewish identity. One cannot become a Jew through subscribing to a set of religious beliefs, any more than one ceases to be a Jew by losing one's religious faith. We do not speak of 'a lapsed Jew'."), and much more.
This fascinating book ranges over the entire contemporary scene in all its diversity (Orthodoxy, ultra-Orthodoxy, Conservatism, Reform, Reconstruction, secular Judaism, Zionism), always tracing the roots of contemporary phenomena to the heritage of the past, so that the superficial diversity is balanced by an investigation of the essential unity of the tradition. Key terms are not only translated but explained and the implications explored. The language of worship plays a crucial role, familiarizing the reader with words and thoughts which are at the heart of everyday Jewish life.
About the Author:
Nicholas de Lange is Lecturer in Rabbinics at the University of Cambridge. He is also a rabbi. In addition, he has translated the works of the novelist, Amos Oz, into English.
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