Humanism in Talmud and Midrash

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9780838634684: Humanism in Talmud and Midrash

This study presents material contained in classical rabbinic sources in the Talmud and Midrash that have one characteristic in common: they all reflect an anthropocentric rather than a theocentric view of the world. For the first time, these passages have been arranged in a topical fashion to illustrate how some of the rabbis of the talmudic era subscribed to a view of the world that starts with man rather than with God and is reflected in their observations about the human condition.
Calling his position humanistic, the author contends that this position is not in any way to be inferred as being antithetical to a belief in God but rather to be understood as the dictionary defines it, "Any system or mode of thought or action in which human interests predominate." Although this humanistic approach to the literature is not generally articulated in modern times, it is discernible among prominent rabbinic teachers from the beginning of the Christian era through the period of the Talmud. Theirs is one of several ideological stances that characterize rabbinic Judaism, but one that the religious reactionary of today refuses to recognize, let alone teach as a viable option.
Today, it is not uncommon to hear comments to the effect that Jewish tradition does not speak to the modern who rejects supernaturalism, or a theocentric view of the world. This is simply not true. Jewish classical literature affords abundant evidence that the modern anthropocentric view of the world, held by many today, was espoused by leading rabbis during their most creative period, the era of the Talmud. This volume sets out some of their penetrating ideas on man, God, society, and the Law.
Although this period extends over approximately six hundred years and that of the Midrash another five hundred, this worldview is not limited to one specific era, nor are there changes in its expression from century to century. Together with traditionalism, mysticism, and rationalism, humanism appears throughout the literature starting with the Bible.
The purpose of this study is twofold: first, to show that Jewish theological expression is not monolithic and that humanism is one of several approaches followed by talmudic sages; and second, to put to rest the canard that traditional Judaism does not speak to the humanist of today. In some respects this work is an anthology and purposely so in order to illustrate how prevalent this humanistic stamp is on the literature but ignored by those who see in humanism an affront to divinity and tradition. Those who disagree with the author's interpretation of the passages adduced, or with the pattern formed from them, have the challenge and the responsibility to offer an alternative explanation and so negate his thesis of Jewish humanism in the classical talmudic-midrashic literature.

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Lachs, Samuel Tobias
Published by Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Pr (1992)
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Samuel Tobias Lachs
Published by Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Pr (1992)
ISBN 10: 0838634680 ISBN 13: 9780838634684
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