More than forty years have passed since Louis Jacobs first put forward the argument that traditionally observant Jews have no reason to take issue with the results obtained by the historical critics in their investigation into the Bible and the other classical sources of Judaism. In his numerous works on Jewish theology and in lectures worldwide, Jacobs has argued that the traditional doctrine which claims that ‘the Torah is from Heaven’ can and should be maintained — provided that the word ‘from’ is understood in a non-fundamentalist way to denote that there is a human as well as a divine element in the Torah: God revealing His will not only to but through the Jewish people in their historical experiences as they reached out to Him.
As a result of these views, which were first published in the still-controversial text We Have Reason to Believe, the Anglo-Jewish Orthodox hierarchy banned Jacobs from serving as an Orthodox rabbi. This was the cause of the notorious ‘Jacobs affair’, which culminated in the creation of the New London Synagogue and, eventually, in the establishment of the Masorti movement in the UK with strong affinities with Conservative Judaism in the United States.
In this book, Louis Jacobs examines afresh all the issues involved. He does so objectively but with passion, meeting the objections put forward by critics from the various trends within the Jewish world, both Orthodox and Reform, and inviting readers to follow the argument and make up their own minds.
cogently and clearly presents his views on diverse topics.’
Roger S. Kohn, Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
with scholarship and is powerfully argued. Jacobs's mastery of the full range
of Jewish religious sources—legal, philosophical, and mystical—is apparent on
every page, and is well deployed in making his case for liberal supernaturalism
as a breakthrough religious synthesis. And that case is hardly a timely one,
for Jacobs is hardly alone in hungering for a form of traditionalism that can
combine halakhic observance with an
open intellectual outlook. Indeed, this is today the shared meeting ground of
the right wing of Conservative Judaism and the left wing of the Orthodox
David Singer, Commentary
learned and compelling argument for an enlightened form of traditional Judaism
. . . written in a lucid, accessible style for lay readers, who will benefit
enormously from Rabbi Jacobs's honest and critical assessment of the major
tendencies in contemporary Judaism . . . a major critique of Jewish
fundamentalism and a compelling alternative to it.'
Allan Nadler, Forward
is a scholar who . . . has much to offer British Jewry.’
Cecil Bloom, Jerusalem Post
book will enlighten because Jacobs is a reliable and lucid authority on the
Robert Weissman, Jewish Quarterly
very personal, and very mature and honest, statement of “where I stand”.’
Norman Solomon, Journal of Jewish Studies
most engaging aspect of the book is the personal style in which it is written.
The book is positively brought alive by a wealth of personal anecdotes and
Emma Conway, Le'ela