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August 07, 1964 - Image 12

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1964-08-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

13lait's 'Story of Jewish Philosophy,' Dimont's 4,000-Year
Interpretation of Jewish History, Sponsored by JHF

Dr. Joseph Gaer, as director
of the Jewish Heritage Founda-
tion, which has its headquarters
in Los Angeles, has inspired
and supervised the writing of
many special articles on Jewish
history and literature and en-
courages the publishing of note-
worthy books.
Chief among those that have
just been published under the
Jewish Heritage Foundation's
and Dr. Gaer's tutelage are:
"Jews, God and History — A
Modern Interpretation of a
Four-Thousand Year History,"
by Max I. Dimont, published by
Simon and Schuster (630 5th,
NY 20), and "The Story of Jew-
ish Philosophy" by Joseph L.
Blau, published by Random
House (457 Madison, NY 22).
Both books were written in
popular style, making it pos-
sible for the lay readers to
benefit from noted classicists
and to become intimately ac-
quainted with Jewish philo-
sophic and historic works. At
the same time, the two vol-
umes are sufficiently scholar-
ly to provide an immense
amount of background mate-
rial and interesting view-
points for the scholars, for
the professional teachers and
men of research.
Marked by brevity—his en-
tire book is 320 pages in length
—and by great simplicity, in-
tended "for the non-specialist,"
Prof. Blau's philosophic study is
all-inclusive. Every era in Jew-
ish history, starting with the
philosophy of the Bible and
continuing through the modern
period and the teachings of
Prof. Mordecai Kaplan, are in-
corporated here.
Dr. Blau makes the point that
his volume would be vastly ex-
tended if he were to include in
his study names of philosophers
who happen by birth or affilia-
tion to be Jews. But an "eman-
cipated" group devoted itself to
the common life of mankind
"rather than to the specific
problems of Jewish life and
Jewish religion." Therefore, he
states, "the gain to the world
must be weighed against the
loss to the life of the Jewish
people of a vast reservoir of
talent and ability."
His own study, he adds,
"has been intended to open
out to the modern reader an
aspect of the Jewish heritage
that is not as well known as
many others . . . Enough has
been said to make it clear
that Judaism has been not
only a religion of practice
and of faith, but also a stimu-
lant to intellectual reflection.
In those periods of history
when the Jews lived a life
that was largely enclosed,
shut away from the currents
of thought in the surrounding
world, the philosophic reflec-
tion of the Jews was carried
on as a kind of interior mono-
logue. In those periods when
the Jews lived in close con-
tact with their neighbors in
the world, and were subject
to the influences of their in-
tellectual environment, Jew-
ish philosophy became more
of a dialogue, an exchange of
thought that enriched all the
participants. The level of
technical philosophic skill
and awareness has varied, too,
from age to age. We have
moved back and forth, in our
story, between naive and un-
sophisticated questioning and
highly sophisticated probing.
There is room, at any time
and any place, for both types
of quest and query. There is
room, too, for simple and un-
questioning faith."
It has become apparent that
Dr. Blau's is a Jewish book,
that it is a thorough Jewish
study, and that its emphasis on
faith and on Jewish creativity
makes a valuable contribution
to Jewish literature.

Analyzing the Prophetic
teachings, reviewing Biblical
ethics, Prof. Blau proceeded to
study "the Judeo-Greek tem-
per." This is where the reader
is introduced to the teachings
and ethical ideas of Philo.
Rabbinic teachings, the period
of the Kabbala, the era of
Judeo-Arabic teachers are given
interesting reviews.
In the above periods, Dr.
Blau evaluates the teachings
of Samuel Abulafia, Saadia
Gaon, Daniel al-Kumisi and
many others.
The Spanish-Jewish philoso-
phers — Solomon ibn Gabirol,
Abraham ibn Daud, Abraham
bar Hiyya, Joseph ibn Zaddik,
Jehudah Halevi, Maimonides-
and many others are the sub-
jects of discussion in the studies
of their era.
Then there are the five cen-
turies of criticism and defense
—the era of Benedict Spinoza,
Leon de Modena, Hasdai Cres-
cas, Joseph Albo. From there
Prof. Blau goes to the period of
enlightenment and emancipa-
tion — to Mendelssohn, Geiger
and the promulgators of the
Reform Jewish philosophy. He
concludes with the philosophies
of Judaism in the secular age,
and it is here that he points to
the negative aspects of emanci-
pation. Here, too, he points to
the philosophy of Franz Rosen-
zweig who was on the verge of
conversion and whose about-
face called for Jews to be
"wholly Jewish." This is where
Martin Buber's and Mordecai
Kaplan's philosophies are ana-
lyzed, completing this philo-
sophic work into a wholesome
totality that serves to enlighten
the reader about Jewish philo-
sophic concepts.
* *

of Moses, Jesus, Paul, Spinoza,
Marx, Freud, Einstein. Will the
world in the next 2,000 years
embrace the morality of the
Torah, the social justice of the
Prophets, the ethics of the Jew-
ish patriarchs? If so, then in
the words of Isaiah, there will
be 'Peace, peace, to him that is
far off and to him that is near'."
The entire volume is a review,
written for popular reading, of
the historic events that elabor-
ate upon these "ideas" promul-
gated by the author as the sub-
stance for Jewish survival. He
places emphasis on the view
that "the trinity of Jehovah,
Torah, and Prophets, by acci-
dent or design evolved two sets
of laws, one to preserve the
Jews as Jews, the other to pre-
serve mankind.
Dimont's approach is vastly
different from the usual his-
torical analyses. He is unortho-
dox in his approach, as, for
example, in devoting a chapter
to "The Age of the `Apikor-
sim'," in which he deals with
the Hellenistic period; in a
chapter entitled "The 'Ivy
League' Yeshivas," when he
discusses the Mishnaic times;
in discussing the Islamic Age
under the title "The Jewish
Renaissance in Mufti"; in deal-
ing with "The Ghetto Capital-
ist" when analyzing the capi-
talist era.
Whether or not this type of
approach to Jewish history will
be accepted, the views of Di-
mont are worthy of serious con-
sideration in studying Jewish
history.
His book gains in merit from
the numerous chronological
tables which precede each
period under discussion.

Why is it that Tefillin are not
worn on Sabbaths and major
Jewish holidays?
By RABBI SAMUEL J. FOX
(Copyright, 1964, JTA, Inc.)
Tefillin are regarded as a "sign"
Why do some women consider of distinction for the people of
it a special tradition to rise
Israel. Such a symbol is needed
earlier on Friday in order to
when the day is an ordinary week
bake the Hallahs (Sabbath
bread) for the Sabbath?
day. However, when the day is the
Generally speaking, the prepara- Sabbath or a major Jewish festi-
tion for the Sabbath was consid- val, the day itself, its holiness and
ered to be a matter of religious its observance, are considered the
significance. This is what the Bible distinguishing sign of the Jew and
meant, according to some, by thus the Tefillin are not worn on
such commands. as "Remember the that day.
Sabbath day." When one has to
perform a religious obligation the
Four flags have flown over
virtuous manner is to "rise early
and hurry to keep the command- Michigan — French. English, Spa-
ments." In the case of the Hallahs nish and American.
for the Sabbath the Talmud re-
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
lates that Ezra, the scribe, had
Friday, August 7, 1964
made a special decree for women 12
to bake their bread early in the
morning on Friday because of the
fact that the poor, who have to
rely upon the generosity of other
Jews for their Sabbath needs go
Country Club & Marina
collecting their alms early on the
Located on Grosse Ile
eve of the Sabbath so as not to
• 1800 Foot Frontage on
have to viola`e the Sabbath. (Tal-
Detroit River
mud Bavli, Baba Kamma Ka.)
• Golf Course
Thus the housewife bakes her
• Large Ceramic Tile Pool
bread early, so that if the poor
• New Club House Under
come to call for a loaf early it
Construction
would be ready for them; also that
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they would have sufficient time to
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prepare extra loaves for the sake
of the poor.

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'Jews, God, History

Max 1. Dimont's "Jews, God
and History," published by
Simon and Schuster, maintains,
as the author admonishes his
readers in advance, that "ideas
motivate man and that it is
these ideas which create his-
tory." He adds that "a society
without ideas has no history. It
merely exists." He pursues his
task of viewing "Jewish history
from all vantage points, without
stopping to debate the merits or
demerits of theological dis-
putes."
To prove his point, Dimont
shows that Jews developed a
ritual distinct from that of the
surrounding pagans; that they
curbed licentious impulses
through an inner discipline;
that "the Mosaic Code laid down
the first principles for a separa-
tion of church and state"; and
so on down the line.
Posing the question whether
Jews have been chosen di-
vinely to fulfill a mission,
Dimont states that "we can
only speculate" in providing
an answer. He views Jewish
history as a developing drama,
with Christians believing that
"the role of the Jews as
God's Chosen People is over,"
but he maintains that "the
humanism of the Hakala, the
nationalism of Zionism . . .
reunites a segment of the
Diaspora Jews in Israel"; that
"the 'vessel', broken for 2,000
years, has been mended."
He continues, commenting on
the impending destiny of the
Jews: "If man views the Jewish
achievement through material-
istic eyes, seeing only an in-
significant minority in posses-
sion of a little land and a few
battalions, this will seem im-
probable. It will not seem im-
probable if man discards the
blinkers of prejudice and views
the world not as a 'thing' but
as an 'idea.' Then he may see
that two thirds of the civilized
world is already governed by
the ideas of Jews—the ideas

The Beall family of Detroit like their vacations to be as worry-
free as possible. Before leaving for the World's Fair, they stopped
at our downtown office. They turned their cash into Travelers
Cheques (the safe way to carry money when you're traveling),
picked up an extra book of regular checks (just in case), and
rented a safe deposit box for the valuables they left behind. As
part of our Summer Services, we'd have made them a vacation loan,
too, but they didn't need it. If you do ... the money's still here.

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