S. T. Katz • Boston University, Choice Reviews
This provocative book considers issues relating primarily to Jewish law (Halakah). Lopes Cardozo is a member of the right-wing religious community in Israel, so one would expect this book to offer a very conservative reading of the Halakah and its response to current religious issues within Judaism. Instead, one gets a strident claim that the Halakah is meant to challenge the status quo and prompt deeper spiritual reflection and initiatives. This is what makes the book interesting. The author argues that Halakah should be a spiritual exercise, not merely an obligation. In consequence, he is deeply interested in questions relating to human encounters with the divine, and he takes on such complex and pressing issues as conversion and kosher food. Also striking is his engagement with Jewish and non-Jewish thought more broadly: he writes about Spinoza, Buber, and the Buddha, among many others. In particular, he offers surprisingly frank criticism of the US’s most revered modern Orthodox sage, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. Lopes Cardozo writes that Soloveitchik “was not a mechadesh – a man whose novel ideas really moved the Jewish tradition forward, especially regarding Halcha. He did not solve major Halachic problems.” In the context of Jewish intellectual discussion, this is strong stuff.
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty, professionals.
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