Page 142 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
ality must incorporate the rights of conscience and the practice
of democracy and pluralism. An abandonment of this legacy
bequeathed by modernity and the Enlightenment to the con­
temporary postmodern Jew can be neither countenanced nor
imagined. It comprises an irreversible element in the nature
and character of present-day liberal Judaism.
Borowitz’s commitment to the concept of “se lf’ must there­
fore be acknowledged if one is to grasp the nature of his Jewish
theological position. Even so, such recognition should not ob­
scure the distinct way in which he understands and employs
the concept. In contrast to his modernist predecessors who “con­
sidered it axiomatic that contemporary Jewish thought must be
constructed on the basis of universal selfhood,” Borowitz claims
that in the postmodern setting it is essential to “rethink” the
meaning of this concept in Jewish terms. Simply put, “Jewish
selfhood arises within the people of Israel and its Covenant with
God.” It is a “self that is autonomous yet so fundamentally
shaped by the Covenant that whatever issues from its depths
will have authentic Jewish character. The secular concept of
self must be transformed in terms of its Covenantal context.”
For Borowitz, only a selfhood radically grounded in God and
community can mandate postmodern Jewish duty.
Renewing the
Covenant
represents the statement of a mature theologian. In
it one can identify the dialectical themes of Covenant and self,
God and community, that Borowitz has emphasized throughout
his theological writings. Here those themes find their ultimate
definition. How they find normative expression remains the task
of
Exploring Jewish Ethics.
Borowitz affirms over and over again throughout the pages
of
ExploringJ ewish Ethics
that Judaism provides a powerful com­
munitarian ethos and sense of morality that can inform the life
of the postmodern Jew. The integrity and wisdom of the Jewish
ethical tradition can also contribute much to a modern society
that all too frequently flounders in its quest for values and di­
rection. In business, government, and intergroup relations the
distinctive Jewish emphasis upon everyday life and the com­
mand to infuse that life with the sanctity of God’s holiness pro­
mote a moral attitude which society sorely requires. This does
not mean that ethical conflicts can thereby be avoided. Indeed,
Borowitz frequently notes that it is precisely the distance which
often obtains between the ethical prescriptions of Judaism and