What Do Jews Believe?: The Spiritual Foundations of Judaism

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9780805210590: What Do Jews Believe?: The Spiritual Foundations of Judaism
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In this fresh and lucid study, Ariel presents the fundamentals of Jewish thought on the profound issues of God, human destiny, good and evil, Torah, and messianism, guiding the reader toward a definition of the beliefs that shape Jewish identity. This lively exploration of Jewish ideas and beliefs provides a rationale and stimulus for anyone seeking to understand or reconnect to the rich and diverse spiritual tradition of Judaism.

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What Do Jews Believe?: The Spiritual Foundations of Judaism, by David Ariel, is a basic exploration of the broad question posed by its title. Ariel's contention is that "Judaism is not a religion of fixed doctrines or dogmas but a complex system of evolving beliefs." And yet despite its diversity, "no matter how literally or metaphorically we choose to interpret them, ... sacred myths form the framework for the Jew's ongoing search for personal meaning in his or her own life, the life of the Jewish community, and society at large." What Do Jews Believe? describes some essential "sacred myths," such as the existence and nature of God, the meaning of the Torah, the importance of prayer, and the significance of chosenness. Ariel's selection and exploration of these myths is guided by the following questions: Which Jewish beliefs have survived from antiquity to the present day, how have they evolved over time, and what beliefs distinguish Judaism today? As he pursues these questions, Ariel enthusiastically describes Judaism's seminal influence on the rise of humanism, which makes his book especially credible for readers whose sympathies are more secular than his own.

Perhaps the best part of this book is its conclusion, a tzavaah, or ethical will, written as an open letter to his children. In it, he quotes a letter from a mother to her child, written while they were living in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1940, before they both were murdered by the Nazis. This letter offers an extraordinarily persuasive and poignant summary of what exactly makes a Jew a Jew: "Judaism, my child, is the struggle to bring down God upon earth, a struggle for the sanctification of the human heart. This struggle your people wages not with physical force but with spirit and by constant striving for truth and justice. So, do you understand, my child, how we are distinct from others and wherein lies the secret of our existence on earth?" To these words, Ariel adds a moving piece of advice to his own children, and to his readers: "Remember, your life is like a book. Write in it what you want to be known about you." --Michael Joseph Gross

From the Back Cover:

Once understood as an inherited tradition, religion is increasingly viewed today as a matter of personal choice, an experience to be examined and explored. Yet while many American Jews feel an emotional attachment to Judaism, they cannot always articulate the beliefs that define their faith. In this provocative study, David Ariel explores the diverse and colorful views of Jewish thinkers on the profound issues of God, human destiny, good and evil, chosenness, Torah, and messianism, among many other subjects. Despite a diversity of views, Ariel finds an overarching structure in the "sacred myths" that Jews of every orientation return to as their core beliefs - the essential ideas that each generation strives to interpret and apply to life. To call these beliefs "myths" does not mean that they are fairy tales, but rather that they are starting points that define the essence of faith. Meaning, Ariel argues, is always presented in the language of the myths, or beliefs, that a culture holds sacred, and the sacred myths of Judaism reveal the special nature of Jewish spirituality. This spirited, clarifying discussion guides us toward a definition of the beliefs that shape Jewish identity, providing the rationale and stimulus for a reconnection to the spiritual tradition of Judaism.

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9780805241198: WHAT DO JEWS BELIEVE?: The Spiritual Foundations of Judaism

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ISBN 10:  0805241191 ISBN 13:  9780805241198
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