Renewing the Covenant: A Theology for...

Renewing the Covenant presents the first systematic statement of theology since Abraham J. Heschel set forth his distinctive, comprehensive philosophy of Judaism. This unique book will long be discussed by thoughtful readers.

ix Preface In my 1961 article “ Crisis Theology and the Jewish Community” ( in the July Commentary), I introduced the term “ Covenant Theology” to characterize an emerging paradigm shift in non- Orthodox Jewish thought. I thought then, as I do now, that the critical intellectual ques-tions of belief have little to do with our conventional community labels, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist. Rather, a very large part of modernized Jewry— including many nominally Orthodox— is made up of Jews who know that their Judaism must allow greater personal freedom than the one they inherited, though no consensus has emerged as to how. I was one of a number of thinkers seeking to speak out of and to the Jewish faith of this transdenominational group. To try to keep my meaning clear, I shall speak of this reference group as “ non- Orthodox,” though in prior writings I have also used the term “ liberal” for it and in certain contexts will do so here as well. In the ensuing three decades I have tried to clarify what it meant to speak intellectually of Judaism as “ Covenant,” not as law, ethics, ethnicity, or nationality. This book presents a comprehensive theol-ogy pivoting on my understanding of “ Covenant,” a task I now begin by calling attention to a stylistic matter. I distinguish between the historic relationship between God and the Jewish people and that be-tween God and humankind by using “ Covenant” for the former and “ covenant” for the latter. For all its reach, this book deals with but one aspect of my the-ology. To my surprise and consternation, the theological task I early set for myself refused to remain unified, but ramified into three in-dependent, if correlated, foci of interest: ( 1) the response to our cul-ture, ( 2) the dialogue with Jewish tradition, and ( 3) the testing of these ideas in Jewish action. By 1963 my growing sense of what we have since come to call the “ postmodern” mood had clarified sufficiently that I could specify the critical methodological change we required. In a paper to the Central Conference of American Rabbis meeting that year ( published in the 1963 Yearbook as “ Faith and Method in Jewish Theology”) I argued against supinely accommodating Judaism to the general cul-ture’s models of truth, which in that era were essentially rationalis-tic ones. Instead, out of self- respect as well as belief in Judaism’s   C h a p t e r Home  | T O C  | I n d e x For use on stand- alone, non- institutional computers only. To purchase Scholar PDF version with advanced functionality, go to www. publishersrow. com

Renewing the Covenant: A Theology for the Postmodern Jew


About Book Renewing the Covenant: A Theology for the Postmodern Jew

Front MatterBOOKS BY EUGENE B. BOROWITZTitle Page: Renewing the CovenantCopyright PageDedication PageContentsPrefaceIntroduction: The History That Shapes UsPromise, Fulfillment, Destruction, RebuildingSegregation Becomes EqualityThe Survival of the Modern in the Postmodern SpiritWhat Truth Demands Our Mediating Stance?Jewish Religious Experience in Our Time1 Modernization: The Secular MessiahSeparating the Secular from the SacredJudaism for the University-Trained MindFrom German Philosophical Idealism to American NaturalismA Judaism of the Whole Person: ExistentialismThe Jewish Ambivalence of Personal Autonomy2 Modernity: The BetrayerLosing Morality's Religious and Philosophical BasisPostmodernity: An Intuition Seeking Self-understandingBeyond the Self, Even to FundamentalismHeschel, Precursor of Jewish PostmodernityThe Postmodern Resistance to OrthodoxiesA Preliminary Indication of My Religious Stance3 Through the Shadowed ValleyBreaking the Barriers to Debating the HolocaustRubenstein's Death-of-God ChallengeRejecting God's Management of HistoryDenying the Qualitative Uniqueness of the HolocaustOur Good God, Limited or Inscrutable?The Latent Content of the Holocaust DebatesHuman Tzimtzum Makes a Place for GodThe Corollary Ethnic Turn of the Postmodern SensibilityDoes God Still Have a Role in Jewish Particularity?The Postmodern Integrity of Folk and FaithAs We Move to a New Secular MillenniumThe Modern in the PostmodernThe Particular Self That Undertakes This EffortA Postliberal Theology of Jewish Duty I4 God-Israel-Torah: Our Holistic ContextWhat is the Characteristic Jewish Interest in God?The First Criterion: Mandating Jewish DutyThe Second Criterion: Shaping Sacred CommunityThe Third Criterion: Validating a Commanding PietyLiving Experience: The Ultimate ArbiterFour Paradigms for Structuring Jewish Belief(1) The revelation-dominated paradigm of Heschel.(2) The rationalistic model of Cohen and Baeck.(3) Kaplan's socially based philosophy.(4) The Buberian model of the mediating self.The Key to a Fifth Model: The Notion of the Jewish Self5 Not Absolutely AbsoluteThe Weak Absolute in Modern Jewish ThoughtThe Downward Philosophical Career of the AbsoluteSecular Jewish Surrogates for a Religious AbsoluteCan Our Reaction to the Holocaust Be Our Absolute?Where Is the Ultimate Ground for Our Commitments?6 More then ImmanentRationalism's Strategy: God as Logically Necessary IdeaFeeling and Ethnicity as Surrogates for FaithReligiosity as Aesthetics or Behavioral PatternsIs Piety Good Relationships or Deep Self-Knowledge?Mysticism, the Communion of the Self and the OneWords and Symbols for the IneffableOf Continuity, Duty, and Serenity, and Shaping a Life7 Reaching for TranscendenceMoving Back from a Functional God to a Real GodThe Rationality of the Concept of TranscendenceAuthorizing Duty without Debasing AnyoneWhat Do We Mean by “Transcendence”?The Varieties of Experiencing the TranscendentBuber's Version of Transcendence in RelationshipsThe Lesson of Heschel's Strong Teaching of Transcendence8 Sparks: The Transcendent in the EverydayIn Search of a Jewish “Rumor of Angels”Brushing up against the Sacred in Ordinary LifeRecognize the Signals amid the StaticEvading the Transcendent via Jewish EducationUltimately, What Else Powers Jewish Duty?9 The Who/What of GodSince Evil Is Real, God Cannot Be GoodAnother Approach to a Neutral GodGod, the Grounding Premise of GoodnessRadically Limiting God's PowerThe Limited, Real God of Process ThoughtFrom Rational to Nonrational Notions of God's NatureRosenzweig and Buber's Personalistic Views of GodThe Exalted, before Whom Questions Become Silence10 What Does God Still Do?Demythologizing Science as True ExplanationGod, the Agent of CreationCohen and Rosenzweig: Two Philosophical ApproachesTwo Experiential Approaches to CreationCohen and Kaplan: God's Revelation as Human InsightWhat Does an Independent God Reveal?Overcoming the Scandal of a God Who ChoosesBuber and HescheFs Understanding of God the ChooserThe Great Jewish Silence about RetributionA Personal Effort to Break the SilenceHumanizing the Ultimate Jewish HopeOur Experience of the God Who Saves UsA Postliberal Theology of Jewish Duty II11 What Can We Do about Our Will-to-Do-Evil?Trusting the Self to Be the Measure of All ThingsApproaching Hope Pragmatically and PoliticallyTransposing the Optimism to PsychotherapyThe Hopefulness of Jewish ExistentialismThe Rabbis, Premoderns as PostmodernsThe Nearness of Dualism in Heschel's NeokabbalismCombining Mystical Realism and Ethical ActivismThe Rift Within, the Snake Without12 The Social Side of SelfhoodPersonal Autonomy as the Heart of EthicsSocial Surrogates for Reason as the Self's Moral GuideThe Existentialist Ambivalence about the SelfWhat Can Rationalism Now Say to the Sovereign Self?The Related Self: Individual, Yet SocialFrom the Related Self to the Jewish Self13 Fully Human, Fully JewishParticularity: From Subordinate to PartnerJudaism Now Mandates My UniversalismParticularity, the Necessary Ground ofUniversalism TodayMany Religions: An Argument against All Particularity?The Perils of “Explaining” ParticularityThe Interplay of the Particular and the Universal14 The Sparks of ChosennessEquality, Contemporary Jewry's Great PassionIf Everyone Is Equal, How Can We Be Special?Can Our Beliefs Support Chosenness?Tracking the Benefits and the Difficulties of ChosennessFlashes of Chosenness amid Our Secularized Existence15 Covenant, Not ChosennessTwo Early Efforts to Fashion a Rationalistic ParticularismA Third Solution: Redefining Judaism SociologicallyWhat Depth of Value Adheres to Jewish Particularity?The Shift to the Mutuality of PartnershipThe Necessity and Limits of IndividualismToward a Jewish SelfhoodThis Concept Helps Us Understand Jewish Life TodayThe Covenantal Basis of the Rabbis' Uncommon Logic16 The Dialectic of Living in CovenantThe Group's Rightful Authority over Autonomous SelvesThe Special Responsibilities of Religious GroupsGod's Uniqueness Demands a Universal HorizonThe Sovereign God and the Proper Authority of NationsThe Unique Character of the Nation Covenanted to GodThe Theological Context of Jewish PoliticsA Postliberal Theology of Jewish Duty III17 When God DominatesThe Social Causes behind the Turn to FundamentalismsThe Orthodoxies' Limited ToleranceThe Positive Consequences of Finite Religious KnowledgeWhat Legislative Power Properly Rests in the People?What Role Shall We Grant to the Rights of Conscience?How Broad Our Vision? How Deep Our Tradition?Our Clashing Views over the Torah's AuthorshipShould Our Religion Be Segregated from All Else We Know?18 When Community Takes PriorityTaking Our Jewishness SeriouslyGiving the Authoritative Self Covenantal ObligationKaplan's Effort to Empower the Jewish CommunityCan Kaplan's Community “Command” Us?When Ethics Outranks Critical Folk NeedsThe Need for a Theological Theory19 Knowing What God Wants of UsCritiques of the Relational MetaphorMight Objects Disclose God to Us?Is There Direct, Unprocessed Apprehension?Prerational, Personal Religious ExperienceCan We Be Certain Now or Tomorrow?Can Personal Relationship Provide for Social Ethics?Can Relational Revelation Mandate Steady Jewish Action?20 The Jewish SelfThe Truth and the Limits of Secular SelfhoodCan the Noahide Self Take JewishParticularity Seriously?Five Premises for Jewish DutyCommunity, Tradition, and Messianic HopeThe Compelling Selfhood of the Jewish SelfAn Odd but Instructive CaseExercising Responsibility as a Jewish Self: Four InstancesAfterwordGlossaryTwo Bibliographical NotesIndex
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