Workers of Wonders: A Model for Effective Religious Leadership from Scripture to Today

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9780742514935: Workers of Wonders: A Model for Effective Religious Leadership from Scripture to Today
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Why do people follow a leader, particularly a religious leader? Is it because of personality, or a particular vision or set of values, or perhaps a felt need for direction or authority? And why, given that Americans are still an overwhelmingly religious people, is the clergy declining in influence? Sherwin argues that what is missing is the perception that religious leaders today are capable of working wonders.

Sherwin supports his claim by showing that throughout the history of the Jewish people, certain leaders were regarded as having wonder-working ability; this was an essential feature of a "holy person." Sherwin leads the reader through five periods of Jewish history: the era of biblical prophets, Jesus and first-century Israel; Babylonian rabbis of the third and fourth centuries; the east European Hasidic Masters of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and twentieth century North African rabbis. In all cases, the moral authority of the leaders came primarily from popular belief in their power to work wonders for the people.

Sherwin applies history to the current situation. If the clergy is to be re-empowered, to reclaim leadership and authority as holy people, they must reassert the ability to work wonders. This does not require dramatic miracles, but deeds that might well be perceived by people as nothing short of miraculous: saving a marriage, finding someone a job, finding homes for the homeless, bringing hope to the hopeless.

This is a book that every member of the clergy and every religious leader should read, ponder and take to heart.

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About the Author:

Byron L. Sherwin is Distinguished Service Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Mysticism at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago. He is an internationally recognized authority on Jewish theology, ethics, and mystical traditions, and the prize-winning author of twenty-four books, including Crafting the Soul, Why Be Good?, Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century, and most recently Golems Among Us published by Ivan R. Dee.

Review:

Byron Sherwin's controversial thesis that the most influential Jewish leaders throughout history were also miracle workers makes this book must reading for every person who takes religion seriously. No rabbi or faith community leader can afford to ignore this pioneering work by a great scholar. (Harold Kasimow)

In this comprehensive overview of "wonder-working" in religion, Rabbi Sherwin points out that "wonder-working" has been a central feature of Jewish religious leadership from biblical times onward and that rabbis need to recognize, appreciate, and utilize that aspect of their work today. Though "wonder-working" is, in the eye of the beholder, it is also in the "I" of both laity and clergy, who in relationship make ordained clergy "symbolic exemplars" of God, possessed of attributes that provide efficacy, influence, potency and power. (Rabbi Jack H Bloom, Ph.D.,)

In Workers of Wonders, Byron Sherwin does some wonder working of his own, shedding light on the secrets of religious leadership by linking it to the miraculous acts attributed to great religious figures from biblical prophets such as Elijah, to more recent mystical masters such as the Ba’al Shem Tov. ...[Sherwin] provides a sumptious history that makes its case with magical tales worthy of Scheherazade. (Schwartz, Howard)

In clear and accessible language, Sherwin leads the reader through an examination of one of the major questions confronting religion today: what gives religious figures their authority. Through a masterful analysis of Jewish texts from the Bible forward, Sherwin constructs an argument that throws light on all religious traditions. Thus, this is an important book not only for those interested in models of religious leadership in Judaism, but for all those interested in how religion can find a voice today. (Haas, Peter J.)

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780742514928: Workers of Wonders: A Model for Effective Religious Leadership from Scripture to Today

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ISBN 10:  0742514927 ISBN 13:  9780742514928
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004
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