Page 143 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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ELLENSON / EUGENE B. BOROWITZ: A TRIBUTE
135
the practices of a surrounding society — whether in Israel or
the Diaspora — that permits Judaism to fulfill its highest role
by pricking the conscience of a contemporary world.
ETHICAL GUIDELINES
Exploring Jewish Ethics
also does not shrink from displaying
the ongoing dialectical tensions that exist among the poles of
autonomy, community, and Jewish tradition to which Borowitz
feels bound. There is a palpable sense of struggle among the
various competing pulls each of them, at times, exerts. Most
striking is the valence Borowitz assigns in so many places to
the moral sensibilities and consensus of the contemporary Jew­
ish community. In response to his own theology, Borowitz per­
mits the Covenantal community within which he stands as a
Jew to inform his moral judgments. His variegated responses
on matters of sexual morality reflect this. For example, the com­
munity’s overwhelming affirmation of the principle of gender
equality makes any defense of traditional attitudes and laws that
would discriminate in any way against women intolerable. Con­
versely, Borowitz’s judgment concerning the Covenantal com­
munity’s commitment to the ideal of the procreative, hetero­
sexual family causes him to argue that avowed homosexuals
should not be ordained as rabbis. These contrasting positions
bespeak the dialectical nature of his own approach to Jewish
ethics. It is one in which “autonomy is not subservient to (Jewish
law] . . . but at the same time, the law, in all its details, does
not hesitate to make its claims on the autonomous Jewish self.”
The seeming paradoxes in the normative positions Borowitz
enunciates in such matters reflects his own understanding of
the theological task as unending. This is precisely why it is best
validated by a community seeking to live it through time. What
is clear at one moment may be murky at another. However,
with all the ambiguities that mark Judaism and the Jewish moral
enterprise as Borowitz portrays them, what is undeniable is that
the Jewish self cannot vitiate the ultimacy and urgency of human
responsibility and the moral passion that emanates from a Jew­
ish religious posture.
In his
Contemporary Christologies,
Borowitz concluded with a
“personal reflection” and a “blessing” of thanks for the Divine
wisdom the Christian theologians he had studied imparted to