AboutThe Basic Beliefs of Judaism provides an organized, accessible, and systematic explanation and analysis of the central Jewish articles of faith. Subjects covered include the nature of God, the natural world, the Jewish people, why good people suffer, the Jewish ethical foundations of living, love and marriage in the Jewish community, and death and the afterlife, among others.
Taking current scientific knowledge into account, the author considers whether honest spiritual seekers, animated by ethical sensitivity and well-informed about contemporary life, can honorably believe in the Jewish faith today.
The book is aimed at readers without specialized knowledge of Judaism and includes many anecdotes, quotations, jokes, and other material.
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“This masterful work by Lawrence Epstein artfully combines traditional concepts with contemporary knowledge in a way that will help every reader gain a greater understanding of God, Jewish faith, and the Jewish people.”Rabbi Benjamin Blech
“Epstein, the author of several publications on Jewish life, culls from nearly 3,000 years of Jewish moral, ethical, and philosophical thought to present an overview of fundamentals for an educated, 21st-century audience. In ten chapters, he discusses themes such as the mystery of God, the suffering of the innocent, and ethical foundations for a good life, from a broad array of Jewish perspectives. He states ‘there is not one single Jewish belief system to explain. Rather there is a range of such beliefs. Still, there are borderlines that define what makes a belief fall outside Judaism.’ This is not a reference book; the author recommends reading the chapters in order ‘because the material … is presented in an intellectually hierarchical fashion, with one section leading to the next.’ Because of the vastness of the sources from which he draws, only a select essence can be conveyed. Biblical, Talmudic, and medieval sources are cited, as are Enlightenment, Reform, Conservative, and contemporary Jewish thinkers. The discussions are thoughtful and balanced. Readers from all backgrounds are challenged to engage with the issues further by using chapter exercises and the extensive bibliography. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers.” – CHOICE
“There are numerous introductions to Judaism directed toward Jews, and other books that attempt to describe Judaism to non-Jews. Lawrence Epstein, a retired professor of English, has added his efforts to that last shelf. The book is divided into ten chapters, combining summaries of belief, Torah and Talmudic stories, life-cycle events, science and history. Prof. Epstein’s earnestness is clear. This is a labor of love for Judaism and Jewish values.” – Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews
“I would recommend Dr. Epstein’s book to all. An amazing work and a must-read for anyone who wants to understand Judaism.” – Rabbi Celso Cukierkorn, Adat Achim Synagogue
“All too often we speak of Judaism with pride without bothering to delve into its treasures or to understand how its beliefs, values and principles can enhance and enrich our daily lives. This masterful work by Lawrence Epstein artfully combines traditional concepts with contemporary knowledge in a way that will help every reader gain a greater understanding of God, Jewish faith, and the Jewish people. It challenges every one of us to review our life’s journey in light of its spiritual meaning and purpose. With his stylistic eloquence, insightful observations and obvious scholarship, Epstein graces us with the wonderful opportunity to have a constructive dialogue with our inner selves.” –Rabbi Benjamin Blech, Yeshiva University, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Judaism
“Lawrence Epstein’s The Basic Beliefs of Judaism offers a fine survey of Jewish theology for the reader interested in better understanding Judaism. It explores a wide range of topics from the core beliefs of Judaism to its conception of God, the struggle to understand the meaning of suffering, the basis of ethics and morals, the meaning of love and marriage, doctrines of death and the afterlife, and everything in between. The book includes exercises at the end of each chapter to help readers clarify their own views, and to place them in a contemporary context, making it useful to people practicing Judaism as well as those just beginning to explore it. And in the true spirit of Judaism, Basic Beliefs uses traditional texts and stories to pose the most important questions and offers a variety of contradictory answers, without choosing a single one.” –Marla Segol, The Institute of Jewish Thought & Culture, University at Buffalo