Jewish Faith in a Changing World: A Modern Introduction to the World and Ideas of Classical Jewish Philosophy

Jewish Faith in a Changing World: A Modern Introduction to the World and Ideas of Classical Jewish Philosophy


Rafael Shuchat

Series: Reference Library of Jewish Intellectual History
ISBN: 9781936235681 (hardcover) / 9781618112163 (paperback)
Pages: 264 pp.
Publication Date: January 2011

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Ever since the first encounter between Judaism and the western world in the second century BCE, Jewish thinkers like Maimonides, Gersonides, R. Moses Hayyim Luzzatto, and Rabbi A. I. Kook have grappled with issues of Jewish faith and modernity. The works they published, which comprise Jewish classical philosophy, were products of the highest intellectual caliber, and no question of faith, no matter how embarrassing or heretical, was overlooked. In this book Raphael Shuchat presents the reader with some of the main and timeless issues of Jewish philosophy over the ages and updates them to twenty-fi rst century thinking, making each issue relevant for the modern reader. This book off ers a fresh intellectual outlook on the Jewish faith, and contains a timely message for all religionists and thinkers in the twenty-fi rst century. It will be of great use to both students and laymen.

Rafael Shuchat (PhD Bar-Ilan University, Rabbinic ordination Jerusalem Rabbinate) is a lecturer in Jewish philosophy and mysticism at Bar-Ilan University and Hebrew University.  His publications include The Gaon of Vilna and His Academy and A World Hidden in the Dimension of Time: The Theory of Redemption in the Writings of the Vilna Gaon.  He is also the founder and director of Project Chaverim, the Jewish Identity Program for new immigrant students, at Ner L’Elisheva in Israel.

Shuchat’s keen pedagogical skills are always in evidence. This is a rich, thoughtful, and enjoyable introduction to Jewish philosophy, aimed at the general reader.
— Zeev Harvey, chair of the Department of Jewish Thought, Hebrew University

Table of Contents


CHAPTER 1 What is Jewish Philosophy?
CHAPTER 2 What is Man 1: A Rationalist Approach
CHAPTER 3 The Place of Moral Judgment and the Garden of Eden Story
CHAPTER 4 What is Man 2: A Kabbalistic Approach and an Alternate Explanation of the Garden of Eden Story
CHAPTER 5 Free Will vs. Determinism, Divine Pre-Knowledge vs. Human Free Will, Divine Knowledge of the Present
CHAPTER 6 The Human Soul and Personality: Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Al-Farabi and Maimonides
CHAPTER 7 The Human Soul: A Kabbalistic View
CHAPTER 8 A Theory of Morality—Maimonides’ take on Aristotle’s Golden Mean
CHAPTER 9 Understanding the Afterlife and Messianism: A Rationalist Approach
CHAPTER 10 Understanding the Afterlife and Messianism: A Kabbalistic Approach
CHAPTER 11 Belief in God: Is it a Mitzvah? An Unusual Problem Among the Legalists
CHAPTER 12 Belief in God: The Classical Approach in the Middle Ages, Halevi’s Critique, and the Problems with the Logical Proofs
CHAPTER 13 Belief in God: A Modern Approach
CHAPTER 14 Changes in the Perception of Monotheism Over the Ages
CHAPTER 15 Why Mysticism is So Popular Today
CHAPTER 16 Attitudes Towards Modern Cosmogony and Evolution Among Rabbinic Thinkers in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries: The Resurgence of the Doctrine of the Sabbatical Years
CHAPTER 17 The Resurgence of Religion in the Late Twentieth Century and Judaism’s Unique Contribution to a Moderate and Meaningful Life

APPENDIX I Development of the Oral Torah
APPENDIX II The World of Maimonides: An Unorthodox Modern History
of an Orthodox and Modern Thinker
APPENDIX III Brief Biographies of Well-Known Jewish Thinkers