These Holy Sparks

These Holy Sparks : Rebirth of the Jewish People

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This book is a fusing of what some call neo-conservative and neo-political theory with traditional Christian philosophy and theology. Experiences of the 20th century have demolished the expectations with which modernity began: nowhere is there the same unshakeable belief in historical progress or the invincible power of technology. The author argues that we are in the age of reduced expectations, of limits, of the exhaustion of ideology. The struggle to recover order in the midst of disorder can only be successful, Walsh states, with a transcendent foundation of shared ultimate meaning and value. Walsh explores for the reader the works of Dostoyevski, Solzhenitsyn, Camus and Voeglin, thinkers who have plumbed the depths of this crisis and discovered the existential truth that is capable of overcoming it. The modern experiment of secular humanism has failed. Without God, without moral absolutes, without divine order, the author argues that we end up mired in the 20th century morass of international and local violence, genocide, corruption, meaningless and hopelessness. From the author of "The Mysticism of Innerworldly Fulfilment".
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Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 147.32 x 213.36 x 22.86mm | 453.59g
  • HarperSanFrancisco
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 60th
  • index
  • 0060692634
  • 9780060692636

Table of contents

The dead end of modernity - power beyond good and evil, the collapse of every moral response, the crisis of Nihilism exposed, the necessity of penetrating the existential core; catharsis - biographical experience, the descent into the abyss, release, the empirical evidence of history, the roots of the crisis within Christianity; ascent from the depths - the redemptive opening of grace, the recognition of Christ; restoration of order - the transcendent foundation, the nature of postmodern order, repentance, regeneration, prospects.
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Review Text

Can Judaism survive its ongoing encounter with modernity? Can a religious Jew be a whole-hearted feminist? Can havurot ("participatory congregations") relieve the stagnation afflicting so many synagogues? Can the heavy setbacks suffered by Labor Zionism in Israel and the traditional Jewish liberal consensus in America be overcome and their secular-spiritual humanistic vision preserved? To these hard questions and others like them Waskow (a history Ph.D., former congressional aide, and professor at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia) gives a hopeful yes. Waskow thinks and dreams on the grand scale: the renewal he's calling for in this impassioned manifesto would amount to nothing less than the third world-historical era of Judaism - after the Biblical and Talmudic eras (assuming the latter to have ended with the Holocaust). In pleading for this inchoate transformation, Waskow inevitably treats much of the Jewish religious establishment rather harshly: by 1960, he argues, "Jewish learning" was almost totally sterile and futile, Reform rabbis were taught simply "how to give a bombastic sermon on a magazine article or on the social issues of the day," organic communities where Torah, tzedakah, and the old ideals of gemilut hassadim (now translated into impersonal social-service agencies) and pidyon shevuim (now = concerted defense against anti-Semitism) were still integrated had practically ceased to exist. Then came the upheavals of the '60s - and Waskow's own conversion from classical secularized liberal to Utopian-activist Jew. From this individual-cum-generational standpoint Waskow makes an eloquent case for such things as a self-governing "place" for the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza; new, non-sexist, freely structured forms of worship; process theology, Jewish style; "Torah therapy"; a strong, Jewishly-oriented assault on the nuclear build-up; and so forth. In his earnest headlong fashion, Waskow races back and forth across an immense spectrum from midrash to the social sciences, and not surprisingly he often slips into naivete and contradictions (glorfying the Sinai experience, forgetting the subsequent catastrophic let-down). Still, this is a vigorous, stimulating book for anyone debating what it means to be a Jew today. (Kirkus Reviews)
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