“The Jew­ish Intel­lec­tu­al Tra­di­tion: A His­to­ry of Learn­ing and Achievement” by Alan Kadish, Michael A. Shmidman and Simcha Fishbane— A Survey of the Jewish Intellectual Mind

Kadish, Alan, Michael A. Shmidman and Simcha Fishbane. “The Jew­ish Intel­lec­tu­al Tra­di­tion: A His­to­ry of Learn­ing and Achievement”, Academic Studies Press, 2020.

A Survey of the Jewish Intellectual Mind

Amos Lassen

The history of the Jews is also the history of the Jewish intellectual tradition with its long and complex history that has brought significant and influential works of scholarship to the world. Alan Kadish, Michael A. Shmidman and Simcha Fishbane, our authors here suggest that there is a series of common principles that can be extracted from the Jewish intellectual tradition and these principles have life-changing, implications for individual and societal achievement. “Respect for tradition while encouraging independent, often disruptive thinking; a precise system of logical reasoning in pursuit of the truth; universal education continuing through adulthood; and living a purposeful life” and discussed her and seen as these principles. We understand the historical development of them and to are shown that applying them judiciously can lead to greater intellectual productivity, an existence that is more fulfilling and a society that is more advanced. 

Jews have excelled in all kinds of schol­ar­ship and we are reminded of that here. Kadish, Shmid­man, and Fish­bane claim that the Jew­ish com­mit­ment to intel­lec­tu­al­ism is part of our his­to­ry and crit­i­cal to Jew­ish iden­ti­ty. The book is divided into two dis­tinct sec­tions; chart the his­to­ry of Jew­ish thought from its ear­li­er iter­a­tions until mod­ern day and an analysis of the com­mon themes found in Jew­ish intel­lec­tu­al history.

Focus is six key time peri­ods , from medieval Spain to the con­tem­po­rary peri­od, and we  explore the sig­nif­i­cance and impact that the par­tic­u­lar books might have had on read­ers. The authors con­dens­e many top­icsincludingthe impact of Mai­monides and the birth of mod­ern Ortho­doxy into just a few pages. Infor­ma­tion is thought­ful­ly presented and it allows us to fill our personal libraries with important works. build­ing a robust book­shelf before their read­ers’ eyes. Through short­ened expla­na­tions of mys­ti­cal texts, and ear­ly mod­ern trends, there is a lot here. This is a help­ful intro­duc­tion to Jew­ish thought, Jew­ish his­to­ry and literature. We cover the world and time to see why Jews have been so suc­cess­ful in intellectual life through balancing “prece­dence and inde­pen­dent think­ing, the use of log­ic to get to a greater truth, the impor­tance of edu­ca­tion, and the use of knowl­edge and learn­ing for a high­er purpose.”

Throughout history,  secular and religious Jews have ben­e­fit­ed from the cul­ture that holds esteem for these val­ues. The two sections of the book depend upon each other and while they can be read separately, they really go together. The first por­tion is a wonderful resource and pro­vides the nec­es­sary back­ground to under­stand the authors’ lat­er analysis. This is an “impor­tant new way to look at Jew­ish his­to­ry and help us under­stand exact­ly what comes out of being the ​“peo­ple of the book.”




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