Jewish Liturgical Reasoning by Steven Kepnes

By Steven Kepnes

Liturgy, a posh interweaving of observe, textual content, tune, and behaviour is a vital fixture of spiritual lifestyles within the Jewish culture. it truly is distinctive in that it really is played and never basically suggestion. simply because liturgy is played by way of a selected team at a particular time and position it really is mutable. hence, liturgical reasoning is often new and understandings of liturgical practices are regularly evolving. Liturgy is neither preexisting nor static; it truly is came upon and published in each liturgical functionality. Jewish Liturgical Reasoning is an try to articulate the inner styles of philosophical, moral, and theological reasoning which are at paintings in synagogue liturgies. This booklet discusses the connection among inner Jewish liturgical reasoning and the diversity of exterior philosophical and theological varieties of reasoning which have been constructed in glossy and submit liberal Jewish philosophy. Steven Kepnes argues that liturgical reasoning can reorient Jewish philosophy and supply it with new instruments, new phrases of discourse and research, and a brand new sensibility for the twenty-first century. The formal philosophical research of Jewish liturgy started with Moses Mendelssohn and the trendy Jewish philosophers. hence the e-book focuses, in its first chapters, at the liturgical reasoning of Moses Mendelssohn, Hermann Cohen, and Franz Rosenzweig. despite the fact that, it makes an attempt to reinforce and additional advance the liturgical reasoning of those figures with tools of research from Hermeneutics, Semiotic concept, put up liberal theology, anthropology and function concept. those more moderen theories are enlisted to aid shape a modern liturgical reasoning which could reply to such occasions because the Holocaust, the institution of the kingdom of Israel, and interfaith discussion among Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

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So, despite his preference for oral and liturgical expression, Mendelssohn has to address the scriptures. But here, too, Mendelssohn comes up with a novel interpretation that fits his model. The written Torah is inscribed in a purposefully brief, vague, and undetermined manner, with multiple inconsistencies. Therefore, Mendelssohn argues that the written Torah requires an ‘‘oral Torah’’ to clarify it. He writes, ‘‘There were but a few written laws, and even these were not entirely comprehensible without oral instruction and tradition.

This involves a revised interpretation of the chain God–word–world and an expansion of the word of scripture into Enlightenment aesthetics and philosophy. The problem, however, for Mendelssohn and the Jews of Europe, is that most Enlightenment thinkers envisioned the ‘‘stage’’ on which Enlightenment takes place as a kind of secularized Church altar. This meant that they could not find a place on that stage for the Jew and Judaism. It was therefore one of the major tasks of Mendelssohn and other Jewish thinkers to formulate a larger vision of the Enlightenment, in which the Jews would not only participate, but, eventually, take the lead.

Torah is not constrictive or coercive but seeks only to celebrate and increase that which is moral and good. This good is not an abstract good but an embodied social good. Mendelssohn summarizes his eudemonistic view this way: ‘‘God created man for his, that is, man’s, felicity, and He gave him laws for his, that is, man’s, felicity’’ ( J, 123). This means that the laws exist not to punish Jews but to guide them ( J, 121). ’’25 Ceremonial Law as Jewish Law Before we leave Mendelssohn’s semiotics of the ‘‘ceremonial law,’’ we need to bring more clarity to what he means by it.

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