The Horizontal Society: Understanding the Covenant and Alphabetic Judaism (Vols. I & II)

The Horizontal Society: Understanding the Covenant and Alphabetic Judaism (Vols. I & II)

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José Faur

Series: Emunot: Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah
ISBN: 9781934843130 (Vol. I, hardcover)
           9781934843185 (Vol. II, hardcover)
           9781936235049 (Vols. I & II combined,
           paperback)
Pages: 456 pp. / 220 pp. / 676 pp.
Publication Date: June 2008

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The Horizontal Society is a comprehensive exposition of biblical and rabbinic thought as exemplified in the Geonic and Andalusian traditions, with special emphasis on Maimonides. Other intellectual traditions, including those of Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Spanish sages, are also properly noted and carefully integrated in the discussion. In the course of these studies, Western parallel concepts, old and new, are discussed with insight and understanding. As a result, biblical and rabbinic texts do not appear as something dead and buried and gone, but rather they help provide a pivot point of argument with mainstream views concerning Judaism and Western values and tradition.

This work is written in the Hebrew rhetorical tradition of melisa, whose principal aim is to open a dialogue rather than bright the subject to a close. It contains five sections—The God of Israel, The Books of Israel, The Governance of Israel, The Memory of Israel, and The Folly of Israel. It includes copious references, both from rabbinic and modern sources, to help orient the reader. The mode is similar to the author’s previous work, Golden Doves with Silver Dots: Semiotics and Textuality in Rabbinic Tradition, bringing classical texts and ideas to interact with contemporary thought.

The Horizontal Society proposes that only Jews were organized along horizontal lines because of two overwhelming principles.First, the Hebrew Scriptures alone propose that every person is created in the image of God, thus establishing absolute equality among every human being. Second, the Sinai covenant establishes the Law as the supreme authority. Whereas in other societies, might is the source of authority, in Judaism, authority is limited by a supreme Law standing above the political, ecclesiastical, and civil authorities.

The book is supplemented by a subdivided bibliography of forty pages, including both Rabbinic and Western sources. The scholarly apparatus includes indices of terms, names, and subjects. There are also seventy appendices of interest to a rabbinic readership.


José Faur is professor emeritus of law at Netanya Academic College, Netanya, Israel. He obtained a PhD in semitic philology from the University of Barcelona in 1964, and was the first Jew to receive a doctorate there since the Expulsion in 1492. He has taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Bar-Ilan University. His publications include Golden Doves with Silver Dots: Semiotics and Textuality in Rabbinic Tradition (Indiana UP, 1986); In the Shadow of History: Iberian Jews and Conversos at the Dawn of Modernity (SUNY Press, 1992); Homo Mysticus: A Guide To Maimonides's Guide for the Perplexed (Syracuse UP, 1998).


An extraordinary synthesis of his three previous English-language works, particularly his groundbreaking study Golden Doves with Silver Dots. . . . It is the indispensable concept of Religious Humanism that has served as the central theme of Jose Faur’s many writings, and in The Horizontal Society he gives the reader the summa of his thinking on the subject, thus offering the most illuminating introduction to Jewish civilization that we currently possess.
— David Sasha, Director of the Center for Sephardic Heritage, Brooklyn, NY
[Faur is] a great specialist in Talmudic literature in whom we can see a scholarship of the same caliber as Saul Lieberman or David Weiss Halivni.
— Thierry Alcoloumbre