Page 130 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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But even that form of support is in tension with his thought,
because he argues in
Totality and Infinity
that politics must be
criticized by ethics. Ethics is a realm of infinite duties, while
politics is the translation of those duties into a market-place
where responsibilities are rationalized and finitized. As a result,
politics both receives its impetus from ethics and remains always
vulnerable to the critique of ethics — the teaching of the other.
No state, therefore, has its justification in itself, but any state
is in ambiguous relation to ethics.
When Levinas then turns his attention to Israel he attempts
to hold Zionism to the image of ethical politics he developed.
He repeatedly denies that Israel is a state like any other or that
it is politics as usual, and in so doing he insists on the ethical
challenge of Israel. He insists that Judaism depends ultimately
on its books and not on national politics for its existence. The
teaching of Jewish books, though yearning for that land, sets
a clear priority of people over land — and in ‘people’ Levinas
does not limit himself to Jews.
Levinas has had an impact on Jewish studies in France parallel
to that upon the philosophical community. His interest in both
rabbinic and philosophical texts has been influential on the pub­
lication of many new translations of Jewish books. A series called
“Les Dix Paroles” has appeared by Verdier. Volumes include
tractates of Talmud, works of Maimonides, midrashic texts,
mystical texts, and so on. A full translation of Rosenzweig’s
Star of Redemption
appeared recently from another press.1
Levinas has written prefaces for several of these translations.
Moreover, several authors have emerged directly influenced by
Levinas who are writing about both philosophical and rabbinic
topics in ways consonant with his thought. Stephane Moses,
Catherine Chalier, David Banon, Marc-Alain Ouaknin, Alain
Finekielkraut, and others have written books which explore ei­
ther the issues of contemporary Jewish philosophy or those of
traditional texts, or both. The result has been a resurgence of
both general and Jewish interest in Jewish thought in France.
11. Franz Rosenzweig,
L’Etoile de la Redemption,
trans. by A. Derczanski and
J.L. Schlegel, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1982.