Page 140 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
himself has maintained, must be seen as companion volumes.
These works reflect his intensity, and the reader cannot fail
to admire the personal witness he offers in both of them. Here,
as in all his books, one appreciates Borowitz’s clarity and candor,
the directness with which he allows the reader to share not only
in his struggles and his doubts, but also in his certainties and
his faith. Borowitz’s ability to allow the intelligent lay reader
to follow his arguments and the humility his efforts reflect can­
not but command sympathy and respect from even the most
ardent critic. These are works that express liberal religious
thought and ethics, with all their “hesitancy,” at their authentic
best.
Exploring Jewish Ethics
and
Renewing the Covenant
permit
one to see how Borowitz strives to allow God’s presence to enter
and direct his life — no matter how painstaking and uncertain
the process.
FAILURE OF SECULARISM
In
Renewing the Covenant
Borowitz argues that the major mo­
tivation for the invigoration of Jewish religious life in our time
is the spiritual crisis that has beset all of western religion as
a result of a growing recognition that a secular ground for val­
ues is no longer possible. Borowitz argues that the confidence
our forbears exhibited in the power of the Enlightenment and
the certitude they displayed about the adequacy of reason as
a ground for human values can no longer be sustained. The
utter evil of the Holocaust has forced Jews and others to a rad­
ical reassessment of the humanistic heritage of the Enlighten­
ment and compelled many of them to face the limits of tolerance
and relativism. The horror of the Holocaust and the failure
of some later commentators upon it to draw a categorical dis­
tinction between Nazis and their victims, between genocidal
death camp operators and their Jewish prey, has compelled
many contemporary Jews to assert that modernity is not mes­
sianic. The moral nihilism of the modern world, and the in­
ability, in light of the Holocaust, to sustain a faith in humanity
as an adequate source of values, has led, Borowitz avers, to the
creation of a postmodern religious situation for many Jews. It
is one where an unbridled modernist confidence in reason must
be tempered.
The contemporary world, as Borowitz sees it, has been