Author : David Birnbaum,Martin S. Cohen
Publisher : New Paradigm Matrix
Release : 2021-09-24
ISBN : 0987650XXX
Language : En, Es, Fr & De
Book Description :
The Book of Deuteronomy depicts Moses addressing Israel before hisown death as he imagines that some day in the future children willask their parents to explain the meaning of the “testimonies, statutes,and judgments” (Deuteronomy 6:20) that are the foundation of thecovenant that binds Israel to its God. He thus frames in specificallyJewish terms the same set of haunting intimations that all thoughtfulpeople bring to the contemplation of their own lives—and, indeed,to life itself: the sense that being alive can or should mean morethan merely not being dead; that the contemplation of even the mostbanal features of daily life can yield rich insight about the nature ofexistence; and the feeling that life itself can be understood as a kindof scrim that might allow us to see through it to the secrets andmysteries that lie beyond.That set of hopeful suppositions inspires moderns just as stronglyand enticingly as it did the ancients. Yet, the specific question of whatit actually means for this or that part of life to mean anything at allother than what it overtly is (or, at least, appears to be) does not seemto have exerted anywhere near as siren a call on our ancient forebearsas it does on us moderns. Still, as we seek meaning in the world andin our lives, it behooves us to ponder the meaning of meaning as well.These twin notions—that life has meaning beyond what the2 Martin S. Cohencasual observer can see easily, and that the effort to uncover anddecipher that meaning can be profound enough to be spirituallytransformational—have animated the contributors to this volume, astheir work demonstrates just how meaningful the search for meaningcan be. Some have approached this from a spiritual point of view,grounding themselves in traditional biblical, talmudic, or mysticalsources. Others have framed their efforts in political terms or in deeplypersonal ones. And still others have attempted to consider the issuethrough the lens of modern philosophical inquiry. But regardless ofthe specific perspective of any individual author, all have in commonthe deep-seated conviction that life bears meaning…and that thatmeaning can best be discovered not by spending a lifetime hoping formomentary satori but rather by standing on the shoulders of fellowtravelers from earlier eras, and from that slightly elevated vantagepoint seeing just a bit further than they could or did. For almost allof our authors, then, the search for meaning is best understood as anon-going, intergenerational effort that links the seekers of all agesto each other through the contemplation of earlier efforts to mineprofundity and significance from the quarry of human life itself. It is,at best, a slow march forward!As readers will see from the Table of Contents, the ancient Bookof Kohelet has served several of our authors as the framework for theirinterpretive work. (Kohelet is the Hebrew name of the biblical bookalso known as Ecclesiastes, which name is derived from the Greektranslation of the work.) Others have chosen to grapple with thequestion Moses imagined future Jewish children eventually puttingto their parents as they wondered what the commandments actually“mean” in terms of the larger picture of Israelite culture and Jewishlife in our own day. Still others have addressed the search for meaningin life today by taking into account the question of human suffering,considering the issue both generally as a philosophical challenge and3 Prefacemore specifically with reference to the Shoah.Taken all together, the contributors to this volume have put forththe notion that life is ennobled, not trivialized, by the contemplativeeffort to seek meaning in the ebb and flow of life’s experiences…andparticularly in those life-experiences related to the service of God.And yet, for all they are united in that conviction, our authors in thisvolume of the Mesorah Matrix series are nonetheless a diverse group:older and younger women and men, North Americans and Israelisliving at home and abroad, seasoned scholars and newly-mintedrabbis and teachers. They are teachers and researchers trained indifferent schools of thought and affiliated with different movementsand institutions within the mosaic of Jewish life that characterizesthe House of Israel as it enters, by its own reckoning, the final quarterof the fifty-eighth century. They are a varied lot, our authors. But inmany ways, they are are, all of them, cut from the same cloth.Our authors work with the original sources and generally presentthem in their own translations. Citations of “NJPS” refer to thecomplete translation of Scripture first published under the titleTanakh: The Holy Scriptures by the Jewish Publication Society inPhiladelphia in 1985. In this volume, as in all books in the MesorahMatrix series, the four-letter name of God is generally representedby “the Eternal” or “Eternal God.” Authors who are specificallydiscussing the actual four-letter name, on the other hand, mayoccasionally depart from this usage in order to more clearly makethe point of their argument. .I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the othersenior editors of the Mesorah Matrix series: David Birnbaum andRabbi Benjamin Blech, as well as Rabbi Saul J. Berman, our associateeditor. They and our able staff have all supported me as I’ve laboredto bring this volume to fruition and I am grateful to them all.As always, I must also express my gratitude to the men and4 Martin S. Cohenwomen, and particularly to the lay leadership, of the synagogueI serve as rabbi: the Shelter Rock Jewish Center in Roslyn, NewYork. Possessed of the unwavering conviction that their rabbi’s bookprojects are part and parcel of his service to them—and, throughthem, to the larger community of those interested in learning aboutJudaism through the medium of the well-written word—they areremarkably supportive of my literary efforts as author and editor. Iam in their debt, and I am therefore very pleased to acknowledgethat debt formally here and wherever I publish my own work or thework of others.