Page 92 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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BYRON L. SHERWIN
Books inJewish Thought:
The Decade of the 1970s
S
om eo n e
on c e
ex pla ined
why the
tefillah
which is placed on the
arm differs from the
tefillah
which is place on the head. T he
tefillah
placed on the arm contains a single com partm en t while the
tefillah
placed on the head is divided into a num be r o f visibly
separate compartments. T h e
tefillah
placed on the arm rep resen ts
Jewish law, while the
tefillah
placed on the head rep resen ts Jewish
thought. Jewish law requ ires univocal action while Jewish though t
encourages diverse and separate views. T he commandments
which comprise Jewish law rema in the same, while the exp lana­
tions fo r those commandments provided by Jewish though t may
differ.
This b r ie f survey attempts to review some o f the more signifi­
cant and representative works in Jewish religious though t which
have been published in the 1970s in English. Limitations o f space
perm it mention o f bu t a sparse number o f these contributions to
Jewish self-understanding. As the field o f Jewish though t is so
am o rphous as to be all-encompassing, ou r subject must be n a r ­
rowed to include only the th ree central areas o f Jewish religious
thought: theology, philosophy, and mysticism.
THEOLOGY
For many years, it has often been claimed tha t the re is no such
entity as Jewish theology. Many scholars and laymen maintain
tha t theological speculation is foreign to Juda ism , tha t it is a
Christian en terprise engaged in by a few misguided Jews. O thers
maintain tha t Judaism is only a cultural tradition , or exclusively a
legal system, bereft o f theology. Solomon Schechter and Ab­
raham Joshua Heschel were in the fo re fron t o f those who have
tried to combat this prejudice against adm itting the existence o f
Jewish theology. As both Schechter and Heschel claimed, J u d a ­
ism is a way o f
thinking
as well as a way o f
living.
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