On Personal and Public Concerns: Essays in Jewish Philosophy

On Personal and Public Concerns: Essays in Jewish Philosophy


Eliezer Schweid
Translated and Edited by Leonard Levin 

Series: Reference Library of Jewish Intellectual History
ISBN: 9781618114457 (hardcover)
Pages: 240 pp.
Publication Date: November 2014

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Eliezer Schweid’s career as philosopher, scholar, educator and public intellectual has spanned the history of the State of Israel from the pre-war Yishuv period to the present. In these essays he recalls his formative years in the Zionist youth and the Hebrew University. He reflects on the existential loneliness of the modern Jew. He examines the perennial problem of theodicy through a Jewish lens in its broadest human parameters. Finally, he offers a challenging critique of the postmodern culture of the “global village,” in which the marketplace and skepticism have crowded out humane values rooted in the traditions of historical culture.

Eliezer Schweid is Professor Emeritus of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University. He has published 40 books in general and specific areas of Jewish thought of all periods, and has commented frequently on the relevance of the legacy of Jewish thought to contemporary issues of Jewish and universal human concern. He is the recipient of the distinguished Israel Prize and two honorary doctorates.

Leonard  Levin teaches Jewish philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York.

On Personal and Public Concerns: Essays in Jewish Philosophy by Eliezer Schweid is a wonderful book for all those interested in a powerful and self-critical analysis of the central problems confronting Jewish existence over the past few decades. The essays contained in this book present in a clear and inspiring manner, the ways in which one of Israel’s leading thinkers grapples with questions concerning the character and meaning of Jewish existence in times of radical change; the role to be played by Jewish cultural and educational traditions in the formation of a healthy and just society; as well as with such theological issues as the problem of evil and divine justice in Jewish sources and recent history. In these and other areas, the book reflects the thought of one of the contemporary Jewish world’s profoundest intellectuals for whom the universally human and the particularly Jewish are always inextricably tied to each other.
— Yossi (Joseph) Turner, Professor of Jewish Thought and Philosophy at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies Jerusalem
In his astonishingly fruitful lifetime of scholarship and teaching, Eliezer Schweid has absorbed the many generations of Jewish religious thought into historical consciousness. He has done so with probing insight into its creators; inclusiveness of its different forms of expression; and commitment to its inner continuity. In this volume, translated from the Hebrew with devotion and excellence by Leonard Levin, the English reader is graced with access to Schweid’s own place atop the historical body of the Jewish thinking which he has analyzed until now. Following autobiographical essays on an upbringing which distilled the richness of Jerusalem, and the author’s path through the Hebrew University as he sculpted his own approach to the varieties of Jewish thought, we have an analysis of Jewish identity and the lonely Jewish individual in the context of modern Jewish religious and intellectual history. Then, a classical probe into the dynamics of the concept of faith as an answer to the question of God’s justice, from the Bible into the Holocaust. Thereafter comes a study of postmodernist abandonment of the metanarrative along with any overarching reality for creating transcendent values. Lastly, an analysis of the difference between monotheism and paganism as context for understanding the idolatry of postmodern civilization. These essays convey the soul, the thought and the culture of an individual who realizes in his person, the very ideals of the Land of Israel as it developed into a Jewish state. With this and other works being translated into English, Schweid’s status as the greatest historian of Jewish thought of our era will become increasingly clear to the universal audience.
— Gershon Greenberg, Professor of Philosophy and Religion, American University

Table of Contents

Editor’s Introduction by Leonard Levin

A Personal Viewpoint: Autobiographical Essay
My Way in the Research and Teaching of Jewish Thought
Judaism and the Lonely Jew
Faith: Its Trusting and Testing—The Question of God’s Righteousness
History in the Postmodern Age
The Idolatrous Values and Rituals of the Global Village