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September 22, 2006

Book: Questions and Answers: Intellectual Foundations of Judaism
Author: Jacob Neusner
Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA. 2006. Pp. 254

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Can someone ever stop being a Jew? How is suffering part of God’s plan? When will the Messiah come? How is death overcome? Did rabbinic Judaism look down on, or subjugate women? What kinds of actions does God really admire? Here, these and 200 other questions are ably answered by a respected Jewish scholar.

An Excerpt from the Book:

What was the doctrine of virtue in rabbinic Judaism?

In line with the Creation narrative, virtue is humility, and vice is arrogance. The emotions encouraged by rabbinic Judaism are humility, forbearance, accommodation, a spirit of conciliation. What disrupts the perfection of creation is the sole power capable of standing on its own against God’s power, and that is humanity’s will. What humanity controls and God cannot coerce is humanity’s capacity to form intention and therefore choose either arrogantly to defy, or humbly to love, God. So the Shema bears the message: “You wil love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might” — the commandment to love. But love cannot be commanded, only yearned for.

Table of Contents:

Part I: Defining Rabinic Judaism

Part II: The sources of Rabbinic Judaism: Scripture and Midrash

Part III: The Sources of Rabbinic Judaism: Law (Halakah)

Part IV: The sources of Rabbinic Judaism: Lore (Aggadah)

Part V: Aggadah and the theology of Rabbinic Judaism

Part VI: Halakah and the theology of Rabbinic Judaism: How does the law embody the Torah’s narrative theology?

Part VII: Social doctrines of Rabbinic Judaism: Family, gender, virtue, and work

Part VIII: Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity: Points of intersection of two coordinate scriptural systems