Over the last four centuries, a small group of thinkers attempted to answer a series of remarkably challenging questions: In a world having a history of untold suffering - especially, it seemed, for Jews - was the existence of an all-powerful and comforting God still tenable? What were the purpose and meaning of Jewish practices and customs? Could Jews still justify the notion of a chosen people in a social climate in which Jewish integration and full participation with the rest of humanity had become the norm?
Although their approaches and solutions differed, most thinkers shared a common goal: to provide a continuing sense of faith, meaning, and identity for their fellow Jews. Through these 24 necessary lectures, you observe the time-honored intellectual tradition through which Judaism analyzes, rethinks, and reformulates itself. This process of preserving its essential character while still trying to accommodate itself to the modern world has kept Judaism a vital and vibrant, rather than static, religion.
Professor Ruderman introduces you to a new and rich body of thinkers and thinking - particularly the prominent philosopher Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza. This course considers modern Jewish thought largely in terms of two issues: the response to Spinoza and his attack on the very viability of Judaism, and the shift in the standard by which Jews defined themselves and their faith. In the modern age, it became the non-Jewish world.
With these two issues in mind, you'll consider the various thinkers according to three approaches: insiders, outsiders, and rejectionists. In Professor Ruderman's estimation, Jewish thinking is a widespread and necessary part of Jewish life, an effort to find meaning and hope in an uncertain world.
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