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Strauss, Spinoza & Sinai… takes Strauss’s critique of Spinoza to a new and deeper level. The seventeen contributions are erudite, insightful, and thought-provoking. And while all the authors are committed to the Jewish tradition, each brings unique perspectives to the age-old question of how and why a rational person can believe in God and Torah. These questions are serious ones and far too often the Orthodox community just ignores them. It is truly an exhilarating pleasure to encounter Orthodox thinkers who not only engage with these questions but do so at such a high level of scholarship, sophistication and intellectual depth. This augurs well for the vitality of the Jewish community. — Yitzchak A. Breitowitz, Rav, Kehillat Ohr Somayach, Jerusalem; Professor of Law (ret.), University of Maryland
Strauss, Spinoza & Sinai… is an excellent, diverse, stimulating, and provocative set of essays that anyone interested in Strauss, modern Judaism, or modern religion more broadly ought to take very seriously. — Professor Leora Batnitzky, Princeton University
Strauss, Spinoza & Sinai provides a diversified and often deep advocacy of Orthodoxy’s claim to religious knowledge…. It’s all good, meaningful reading, and highly recommended. – Dr. David Shatz, Tradition
The volume is a comprehensive, deep, nuanced, and thoughtfully assembled anthology. Whether or not one is well-versed in notoriously challenging Straussian thought or is actively bothered by the need to rationally defend Orthodoxy, there is much to be gained in its pages. – Rabbi Dr. Stuart Halpern, Yeshiva University
Strauss, Spinoza, and Sinai: Orthodox Judaism and Modern Questions of Faith presents a collection of multi-disciplinary perspectives…. In presenting these varied voices, the volume aims to provide anyone from thoughtful students or laypeople to seasoned philosophers with a substantial conversation about the often-ignored assumptions that underlie Orthodoxy itself. – Rabbi Steven Gotlib, Lehrhaus
Bloom and his learned co-editors have provided a great service for anyone interested in a thinking person’s understanding of Orthodox Judaism today. They have put together in one intellectually jam-packed volume, some of the best thinking in print, of the rational basis for Orthodox belief. – Rabbi Nathan Laufer, Jewish Link
This unique collection puts Leo Strauss into conversation with some of the most thoughtful contemporary representatives of Orthodox Judaism. The result is a feast for the mind. — Steven B. Smith, Yale University
A truly fantastic volume, and long overdue. Half a century ago Strauss raised profound questions about Spinoza that have demanded responses, and now we have some. First-rate scholars exploring a variety of perspectives at the intersection of two of the most seminal Jewish thinkers, in a volume that belongs on the shelf of every philosopher, thinker, and serious Jew. — Professor Andrew Pessin, Connecticut College
More than three centuries after Baruch Spinoza’s excommunication from the Jewish community of Amsterdam, his legacy remains contentious. Born in 1632, Spinoza is one of the most important thinkers of the Enlightenment and arguably the paradigm of the secular Jew, having having left Orthodoxy, i.e. traditional Jewish beliefs, without converting to another faith.
One of the most unexpected and provocative critiques of Spinoza comes from Leo Strauss.
Strauss grew up in a nominally Orthodox home and emigrated from Germany to the United States in the 1930s. He taught at the University of Chicago and was one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth century until his death in 1973.
Though Strauss was not an Orthodox Jew, in a well-known essay that prefaced his study of Spinoza, he critically examines modern philosophy’s challenge to traditional religion. There he argues that while the Enlightenment had failed to decisively refute Orthodoxy, at the same time, Orthodoxy could only claim to believe its core tenets were true but could not claim to know they were true. Strauss leaves the question at an impasse; both the Enlightenment and Orthodoxy rest on axioms that neither side can fully prove or fully refute.
Curiously, Strauss never asks Orthodox Jewish thinkers if his approach to defending Judaism against the claims of the Enlightenment is the same as theirs. This volume poses the question to a group of serious Orthodox Jewish thinkers in an attempt to find out if Orthodoxy has a better answer to the questions raised by Strauss than the one Strauss advanced on its behalf.
The seventeen essays in this volume use a variety of approaches, drawing on traditional primary Jewish sources like Scripture, Talmud, and Midrash; medieval rationalists like Maimonides; Enlightenment-era Orthodox sources; Jewish mystical writings like Kabbalah and Chasidut; modern philosophical movements including postmodernism and analytic philosophy; and contemporary Jewish Bible interpretation. While the answers differ, what unites these essays is the willingness to take Strauss’ question seriously and to provide “inside” answers, that is, answers given by Orthodox Jews.
Much of modern thought tries to square the circle of how to live in a world without belief. The better question is whether it is possible to recover authentic religious belief in the modern world. This volume is an Orthodox Jewish attempt to answer that question, one that no serious person can approach with indifference.
Contributions by: Jack Abramowitz, Shalom Carmy, Avraham Edelstein, Paul Franks, Joshua Golding, Alec Goldstein, Mark Gottlieb, Jeremy Kagan, Ari Kahn, Moshe Koppel, Samuel Lebens, Simi Peters, Shmuel Phillips, Gil Student, Meir Treibitz, Joshua I. Weinstein, and Eliezer Zobin.
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