Tradition vs. Traditionalism

Contemporary Perspectives in Jewish Thought


This book is a first attempt to examine the thought of key contemporary Jewish thinkers on the meaning of tradition in the context of two models. The classic model assumes that tradition reflects lack of dynamism and reflectiveness, and the present’s unqualified submission to the past. This view, however, is an image that the modernist ethos has ascribed to the tradition so as to remove it from modern existence. In the alternative model, a living tradition emerges as open and dynamic, developing through an ongoing dialogue between present and past.
The Jewish philosophers discussed in this work—Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, David Hartman, and Eliezer Goldman—ascribe compelling canonic status to the tradition, and the analysis of their thought discloses the tension between these two models. The book carefully traces the course they have plotted along the various interpretations of tradition through their approach to Scripture and to Halakhah.

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Editorial Foreword
Returning to Tradition: Paradox or Challenge
The Tense Encounter with Modernity
Soloveitchik: Jewish Thought Confronts Modernity
Compartmentalization: From Ernst Simon to Yeshayahu Leibowitz
The Harmonic Encounter with Modernity
Religious Commitment in a Secularized World: Eliezer Goldman
David Hartman: Renewing the Covenant
Between Old and New: Judaism as Interpretation?
Scripture in the Thought of Leibowitz and Soloveitchik
Halakhah in the Thought of Leibowitz and Soloveitchik
Eliezer Goldman: Judaism as Interpretation
Epilogue “My Name’s my Donors’ Name”
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