Item description for God, Man and History by Eliezer Berkovits & David Hazony...
God, Man and History represents the first volume in a series of reissues of the works of Eliezer Berkovits, published by Shalem Press under the aegis of the Eliezer Berkovits Institute of Jewish Thought at the Shalem Center. Of all of Berkovits work, God, Man and History may be regarded as the keystone. It examines the underpinnings of Judaism as a whole, from theology to law to the meaning of Jewish nationhood. In writing God, Man and History, Berkovits undertook not merely a meditation on, nor an exploration of, a specific facet of the Jewish religion. Instead, he sought to offer a comprehensive construction of Judaism. This construction begins with first principles and then proceeds, on the basis of arguments grounded in the classical Jewish sources, to examine the foundations of the major spheres of Judaism, while at the same time placing itself in the contradistinction to the central themes of modern thought. For this reason alone, it is worthy of being placed among the most important works of Jewish philosophy in the twentieth century.
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More About Eliezer Berkovits & David Hazony
Berkovits was chairman of the philosophy department at Hebrew Theological College in Chicago, and is today recognized as having been one of the leading Jewish thinkers of the last century.
Eliezer Berkovits was born in 1908 and died in 1992.
Eliezer Berkovits has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about God, Man and History?
The Modern Philosophical Basis for Traditional Judaism May 22, 2008
In the years since the passing of Rabbi Dr Eliezer Berkovits, his stature as one of the great thinkers of modern Orthodox/Traditionalist Judaism has only grown. Although Orthodox Judaism has undergone a great revival in the years since the Second World War after 200 years of decline culminating in the destruction of the centers of Jewish religious life in Europe, it seems that Orthodox Jewish intellectual thought has not kept pace with modern ways of looking at philosophical questions and many Orthodox Jews, although attracted to renewed vigor in religious observance, simply turn inwards and ignore the questions that challenge Jewish thought from the outside world. Rav Berkovitz is one of the few who has risen to the challenge. This important volume takes on basic questions in religous philosophy and is written in style fitting for an educated layman. This distinguishes Rav Berkovits's work from that of one of the other giants of modern Orthodox Jewish thought, Rav Joseph D Soloveitchik, whose writings contain a lot of terms and ideas that are accessible only to someone who has a background in advanced philosophical thought. This makes Rav Berkovits' book much more accessible, in my opinion.
Rav Berkovits deals with eternal questions about how finite man can encounter the "infinite G-d", how G-d's creation of the universe both shows and hides his presence, how a perfect G-d creates an imperfect universe through self-limitation (tzimtzum), why man must be created free and why this freedom must be accompanyed by the possibility of evil, the sources of the ethics that man must follow, why the Torah must give man a comprehensive system of "mitzvot" (commandments) in order for man to be truly free and ethical, why justice demands that there be an afterlife and why G-d gave his special revelation of the Torah to a particular people (the Jewish people, "Am Israel") and not to all of mankind.
Important points Rav Berkovits makes is his explanation for why it was not enough for man, particularly the Jew, to be commanded to be "good" and "ethical" to his fellow man, it was also necessary to give the Jew a comprehensive set of mitzvot that regulate not only his interpersonal relations (which appear to be "logical" to the human mind) but also his eating, sleeping, marital relations, speech, and activities on the Sabbath and Holy Days. Many modern Jews, particularly in the non-Orthodox trends among the Jewish people have thought it is adequate to either downgrade the importance of these "ritual mitzvot" or abolish them entirely. Rav Berkovits clearly shows that giving man only "ethical" demands (a la Immanual Kant) has failed throughout history, culminating in the horrors of the 20th century, and that in order to train man to be ethical as he should be, he must be constantly reminded of G-d's presence in ALL of his activities, thus "training" man (like a soldier in Rav Berkovits's example) to be aware of the divine imperative at all times and in all conditions and not simply to be "religious" (as is common in the Western Christian world) one day a week and "secular" the rest of the time. Rav Berkovits also shows that without man having a conciousness of responsibility to G-d, his behavior can often go out of control, leading to the subversion not only of one's persons, but entire nations, as again was seen in the 20th century. Rav Berkovits shows the folly of the views of those like Plato who said people will act "good" if they are educated properly, and Marx who said people will act "good" if their material circumstances are adequate and there is an enforced "equality" in society. Adolph Eichmann quoted Kant's categorial imperative in justifying his actions in the Holocaust (obviously an "educated man" according to Plato), and everyone knows the montrous Communist regimes that were created in the name of Marxism). Man can only really behave responsibily to his fellow man if he knows he is accountable to his Creator. Although these points might seem obvious to a religiously observant Jew, I have observed that many highly learned people have not really absorbed the lessons about man and his relationship to G-d that Rav Berkovitz outlines in this book. This became apparent to me during the period when Israel's Leftist government was trying to get support from religious Jews for its disastrous Oslo Agreements when it was decided to bring Arafat, a mass murderer to Israel and to arm him. Oslo's proponents claimed that "really" Arafat was merely after power and money (something like Marx would say) and even though he had killed many people, once Israel gave him money and power, he would behave. Of course, this is not what happened...he took the money and weapons given him and murdered Jews with them, exactly as he had promised. I couldn't believe how some highly learned Orthodox Jews fell into the trap Oslo's proponents used in justifying their actions by using classic Marxist arguments, even though, as Rav Berkovits has shown, they do not correspond to the reality of the world G-d had created. I hope more Jews will read Rav Berkovits's writings which will bring them to a clearer understanding of what Judaism and the Torah really are and how they relate to the modern world we live in.
Mandatory reading Jul 25, 2006
An incredible book that all Jews should read - period. As a warning, it is not an "easy read" - I could only read a few pages at a time before getting overloaded. It will have more of an appeal to those with a traditional philosophical/academic bent than it will to the "casual reader". I think that I need to read it ~5 more time to best absorb the message that the author puts forth.