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  Home > Books > Bible & Prophets > General Bible/Torah >

The Biblical View of Man
The Biblical View of Man
 
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Product Code: 9103
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Rabbi Dr. Leo Adler, Daniel R. Schwartz (translator)

Publisher: Urim Publications


Translated from the German by Daniel R. Schwartz
Foreword by Shimon Gesundheit

The Biblical View of Man argues cogently that the Bible is more about human beings than about God, and insists that in the biblical view, what human beings need is not so much wisdom or grace but rather their own free will to fulfill the obligations that a loving God has bestowed upon them in order to allow them to prove and improve themselves.

While Plato thought no man who knew what was right could do wrong, and Paul thought that no man, even if he knew what was right, could do it without the help of divine grace, the Bible – so argues Leo Adler – is realistic enough to know that people can sin knowingly, but also optimistic enough to teach that God has given them both the choice and the ability to do right. According to Adler, the exercise of such free will requires a firm commitment to God: “The Bible’s recognition of the inner uncertainty of man’s being makes the divine a necessity, pure belief in God something taken for granted, and faithfulness to God the highest human virtue.”

The Biblical View of Man was originally published in German by Ernst Reinhardt Verlag in 1965, and appears now in English for the first time.

About the Author:

Rabbi Dr. Leo Adler (1915–1978), whom the upheavals of the twentieth century took from seminary studies in Germany to study in the Mir Yeshiva in Lithuania and then in Shanghai, spent the last quarter-century of his life as rabbi of the Jewish community of Basel, Switzerland. During that period he also earned a doctoral degree in modern philosophy and wrote several books in German on Jewish tradition and religious thought. The Biblical View of Man brings together perspectives that were nurtured by Jewish culture, by philosophical inquiry, by his own study of the Bible, and by his manifold experiences in a troubled world.

Daniel R. Schwartz is a professor in the Department of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Shimon Gesundheit is a lecturer in the Department of Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Praise for The Biblical View of Man:

"In The Biblical View of Man, the late Rabbi Dr. Leo Adler produced a rare and moving account of how the Hebrew Bible views the human condition under the sovereignty of God. Erudite, profound and inspiring, it is marvelous that this work is now available to an English readership through the superb translation of Professor Daniel Schwartz. Adler reminds us compellingly that the Bible is not man’s book of God but God’s book of mankind. This is a work that deserves to be widely read by Jew and non-Jew alike."
–Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth

Writing this is different for me than writing the typical book review; the author is my grandfather. His biography, and the central message that emerges from his writings, therefore, resonate for me in a uniquely personal way. However, I believe that many readers will appreciate the central values inherent in this work.

Rabbi Dr. Leo Adler's life and thought was shaped by the chaotic historical events that marked his time period. He was raised and educated in Germany, moving from Rabbinical seminary studies there to the Mir Yeshiva in Lithuania, and from there with the yeshiva to Shanghai, during which time he was separated from his wife and infant son for over six years. He was later reunited with them, built a family as a refugee on the shores of America, and ultimately moved to Basel, Switzerland, where he served as community rabbi until his death in 1978. In this capacity, he served not only his observant constituents, but interacted with the larger, non-observant community, as well as non-Jewish personalities of the area. His ability to successfully relate to all, without compromising his ideology, was a hallmark of his character. He is therefore a paradigm of that rare figure of which we have few examples: a religious personality steeped in secular culture and knowledge, yet profoundly and emotionally committed to halachic Jewish experience and observance.

Heavily based in modern existentialist philosophy, the central premise of this book is that the Bible is a work of anthropology, and not of philosophy. This means that the Bible's essential purpose is not to convey abstract philosophical principles about God (Who is ultimately beyond comprehension) but is a work intended for man - to direct him as to how to live his life. Man is not a neutral creature. Left unattended, he will fall into the abyss of moral depravity and bestial behavior. The Torah and its laws, therefore, transform and save man, giving him not mere principles and ideals in which to believe, but behaviors and actions in which to engage. The heart of Judaism, therefore, is the ethical-moral action as commanded by the Torah in the service of God. This is man's mission, and the path to his redemption.

The main premise is laid out in the opening chapters. Further chapters go on to analyze Biblical concepts in light of this principle. Concepts such as tzedek, mishpat, tzdaka, anava, yirat Hashem, and the nature of kedusha are all interpreted in this framework. The next section deals with later time periods in Jewish history, understanding apocryphal literature and the debate regarding Greek wisdom in the context of this theory as well. For example, the reason chazal excluded certain works from the canon, and were wary of chochma yevanit, (Greek wisdom), the author argues, is because these works opposed chazal's view of man's relation to God, valuing the rational over the behavioral, and understanding God in terms of metaphysics and ideas, instead of commanded behavior and experience.

What can this work, written in German in 1965, offer today's reader, or today's educator? As previously stated, the author possesses the ability to craft a philosophy of Judaism, which is at once thoughtful and intellectually stimulating, while at the same time religiously sincere and spiritually uplifting. In addition, its message is one whose articulation, sadly, often gets lost in the current dialogue about what it means to be a truly religious Jew - that the major objective is personal character and behavior, and the rest is commentary.
-Mali Brofsky
Lookstein Digest

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