Talmud, Totality, and Jewish Pluralism

Philosophy in the Contemporary World 7 (1):47-51 (2000)
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Abstract

Levinas’s conception of listening for the “trace” of the infinite implies that the human spirit grows when it comes into contact with something greater than it had previously known. When Levinas reads the Talmud, sourcebook of Jewish Law, he tries to enter into conversation with it, allowing the meaning of the text to expand to touch his own contemporary concerns. At the flip side of this expansion, however, lies my worry that the text junctions as a “totality,” assimilating all contemporary concerns to its discussions. At this time of rebuilding in Jewish history, Jews cannot afford narrow conceptions of Jewish practice. This essay does not attempt to elucidateLevinas’s thought, but to use some insights gained from reading his work to think about contemporary Judaism.

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