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Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition

ISBN: 9780765799876
Publisher: Jason Aronson, Inc.
Publication Date: 1998-07-01
Number of pages: 256
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For many Jews and non-Jews, the Torah, the Talmud and other rabbinic writings have long been interpreted as saying that the Jews alone are God's chosen people. According to Sears, The Path of the Baal Shem Tov, such readings have led to a struggle among Jews between assimilation―losing their particular Jewish identity―and withdrawal―preserving their particular Jewish identity and surviving as a people. Sears contends that this struggle between particularism and universalism is often misguided, for he argues that the particularism of Judaism engenders a "model of spirituality and moral refinement that will inspire the rest of the world to turn to God of its own accord." In order to demonstrate the depth from which Judaism speaks in a universalistic voice, Sears collects a wide range of sources from a number of periods in Jewish history. In the section on "Judaism and Non-Jews," the Talmudic teaching of Rabbi Yochanan, "Whoever speaks wisdom, although he is a non-Jew, is a sage," urges respect for the wisdom of other traditions. In the section on "The Chosen People," two Midrash passages demonstrate the idea of Israel as spiritual model: "God gave the Torah to the Jewish people so that all nations might benefit by it"; "Just as the [sacrifice of the dove] atones for transgression, Israel atones for the nations of the world." Finally, in a section on "Messianic Vision," Sears argues that Jewish writings state that it is the Messiah's primary task to return the "entire world" to God and God's teachings. Sears's extensive sourcebook is a rich collection of primary writings on the role of compassion in the Jewish tradition. (Sept.) ―Publisher's Weekly

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