Judaism: The Basics

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The oldest of the world’s major faiths, Judaism as practiced today represents a tradition that goes back nearly 6,000 years. Accessible and wide-ranging, Judaism: The Basics is a must-have resource covering the stories, beliefs and expressions of that tradition.

Key topics covered include:

  • the Torah
  • Israel – the state and its people
  • Passover
  • Reform Judaism, Orthodox Judaism and Zionism
  • the impact of the Holocaust.

With a glossary of terms and extensive suggestions for further reading, Judaism: The Basics is an essential guide through the rich intricacies of the Jewish faith and people.

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About the author

Jacob Neusner was the Research Professor of Theology at Bard College and Senior Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Theology at Bard. He was also a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton NJ, and a Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University, in England. He published more than 900 books and unnumbered articles and was the most published humanities scholar in the world.

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Additional Information

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Published on
Nov 22, 2006
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Religion / General
Religion / Judaism / General
Social Science / Jewish Studies
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Jacob Neusner
The Midrash: An Introduction sets forth the way in which Judaism reads the Hebrew Bible. In this masterful presentation, the reader is introduced to the classics of Jewish Bible interpretation, with special attention to the way in which the ribbis of Talmudic times read the Pentateuch, the Book of Ruth, and Song of Songs. The seven Midrash compilations are introduced with a lucid account of their main points, accompanied by selections that give the reader a direct encounter, in English, with the Bible as Judaism understands it.
The word midrash, based on the Hebrew root DaRaSH (“search”), means “interpretation” or “exegesis.” Midrash also more formally refers to the compilations of such interpretations of Scripture. As Dr. Jacob Neusner explains, these compilations “reached closure and conclusion in the formative stage of Judaism, that is, the first seven centuries of the Common Era, the time in which the Mishnah (ca. 200), Talmud of the Land of Israel (ca. 400), and Talmud of Babylonia (ca. 600) were written.”
Midrash is not so much about Scripture as it is a subordinate part of Scripture: “They did not write about Scripture,” Dr. Neusner says. “They wrote with Scripture … much as painters paint with a palette of colors.”
The Midrash: An Introduction is the second volume in Dr. Jacob Neusner’s series of introductory volumes on classical rabbinic literature. As with the first volume – The Mishnah: An Introduction – this book offers the layperson a concise description of the religious literature and, drawing on Dr. Neusner’s own translations of the texts, walks readers through the selections, providing them with firsthand experience with the document itself.
As Dr. Neusner says in his preface to The Midrash: An Introduction, “In these pages I mean to make it possible for readers to know one such compilation from the other and so to begin studying their own.”
Jacob Neusner
How should universities balance the requirements of teaching with those of scholarship? The consensus that scholarship counts first and teaching comes second has lost its hold, for in an academic world in which few publish (95 percent of publications come from 5 percent of the professors), insisting on the priority of scholarship rings hollow. The American college and university today must assess what difference scholarship makes to teaching and what teaching means to scholarship. Reaffirming Higher Education asks who teaches, what, to whom, and why.

The authors maintain that what matters in higher learning is learning, while denying that scholarship detracts from teaching. Chapter 1 discusses who should teach in a university and touches upon such topics as tenure and teaching. Chapter 2 defines what universities should teach, and the mutuality of scholarship, research, and teaching. Chapter 3 answers who should go to college and why. Chapter 4 assesses the future of higher education in the American university and what is at stake on campus. William Scott Green places into perspective the authors' observations and ideals about higher education and what it means to make one's major field of study, the "major," into a primary path to a liberal education.

In this intelligent and insightful volume, the authors outline reform and renewal for both' the institutional and personal dimensions of higher learning that would encompass the ideal of the academic ethic. This book should be read by all those who strive to make universities more humane, educators, parents, and students alike.

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