Beyond Reasonable Doubt (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization) Paperback – 2 Jan 2014
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Brims with scholarship and is powerfully argued. Jacobs's mastery of the full range of Jewish religious sources legal, philosophical, and mystical is apparent on every page, and is well deployed in making his case for liberal supernaturalism as a breakthrough religious synthesis. And that case is hardly a timely one, for Jacobs is hardly alone in hungering for a form of traditionalism that can combine halakhic observance with an open intellectual outlook. Indeed, this is today the shared meeting ground of the right wing of Conservative Judaism and the left wing of the Orthodox movement. --David Singer, Commentary
A learned and compelling argument for an enlightened form of traditional Judaism . . . written in a lucid, accessible style for lay readers, who will benefit enormously from Rabbi Jacobs's honest and critical assessment of the major tendencies in contemporary Judaism . . . a major critique of Jewish fundamentalism and a compelling alternative to it.' --Allan Nadler, Forward
A very personal, and very mature and honest, statement of where I stand . --Norman Solomon, Journal of Jewish Studies
About the Author
Louis Jacobs, founding rabbi of the New London Synagogue, was a renowned scholar with an international reputation as a lecturer. He was the author of The Jewish Religion: A Companion (1995) and of many other distinguished books, several of them published by the Littman Library, including A Tree of Life (second edition 2000), Hasidic Prayer (paperback 1993), and Theology in the Responsa (paperback 2005), as well as an edition and translation of Zevi Hirsch Eichenstein s Turn Aside from Evil and Do Good (1995). He died in 2006.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The strenght of Louis Jacob's theology is that he moves beyond the "Do it because I told you God said so" approach so popular among the Orthodox. Orthodox Jews claim that the text of the Torah is a direct quote from God, and thus we are obligated to follow its rules. Non-religious Jews use the findings of modern critical Bible study to show that since our understanding of how the Bible was edited is now known to be flawed, then it can't possibly be inspired in any way; therefore, humanity is free from trying to follow the word of God in this way (or in any way). In between these paths lies a view promoted by Rabbi Jacobs, and by Masorti and Conservative Judaism in general. He notes that *how* God inspired man is one question; whether or not God does so is another. If God does exist, and does inspire mankind in some way, then the Torah may well contain man's understanding of God's will, as Judaism has always claimed. Unfortunately, no brief review can do justice to the subtle and convincing arguments that Rabbi Jacobs makes for his views: non-fundamentalist, observant, authentic Judaism. You will have to read it for yourself - and you'll be the better for it.
Also, I strongly suggest obtaining "Halakha for Our Time" by Rabbi David Golinkin, published by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and "The Dynamics of Judaism", by Rabbi Robert Gordis.
The first book criticizes the traditional Jewish belief in the Torah as divine revelation, and proposes "Liberal Supernaturalism" as an alternative (i.e. accepting man-made halacha even if it rests on a man-made Torah rather than a purely Divine Torah). Contrary to what one reviewer wrote, Jacobs does not limit his justification for this view to Psalms; he goes over a few inconsistencies in the Pentateuch itself. Nevertheless, the broader point stands: Jacobs devotes one chapter to an issue that really is worth a full book or something close to it.
Jacobs then justifies halacha on the ground that it connects us with the Jewish tradition and with holiness generally- a point of view likely to persuade more-or-less observant Jews, but less likely to persuade the apathetic.
The second book is an excellent little guide to the factions within Judaism (leaving aside Conservative Judaism, which the author's "Liberal Supernaturalism" chapter implicitly argues for). Jacobs seems to maintain an OK balance between criticism of and respect for both Reform and for various tendencies within Orthodoxy (including Hasidism, mysticism, Modern Orthodoxy, and other more traditional variants of Orthodoxy).
It is also quite boring to read the history of English Jewry and the personal adventures of Jacobs the person.
Still, it is a good read.
There are several Talmudic references to Psalms as a composite work and many later commentators such as David Kimkhi and the Malbim also explain how Psalms was the work of over 10 authors, edited in his generation by David and that later editions added Psalms written in the Babylonian exile. Therefore the supposed authorship of Psalms has not a jot to do with the authorship of the Pentateuch. This a bad book full of bad scholarship. It is also an insult to any academic or traditionally learned Jew who is aware of the sources.
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