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Publisher's Summary

Over the last four centuries, a small group of thinkers attempted to answer a series of remarkably challenging questions: In a world having a history of untold suffering - especially, it seemed, for Jews - was the existence of an all-powerful and comforting God still tenable? What were the purpose and meaning of Jewish practices and customs? Could Jews still justify the notion of a chosen people in a social climate in which Jewish integration and full participation with the rest of humanity had become the norm?

Although their approaches and solutions differed, most thinkers shared a common goal: to provide a continuing sense of faith, meaning, and identity for their fellow Jews. Through these 24 necessary lectures, you observe the time-honored intellectual tradition through which Judaism analyzes, rethinks, and reformulates itself. This process of preserving its essential character while still trying to accommodate itself to the modern world has kept Judaism a vital and vibrant, rather than static, religion.

Professor Ruderman introduces you to a new and rich body of thinkers and thinking - particularly the prominent philosopher Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza. This course considers modern Jewish thought largely in terms of two issues: the response to Spinoza and his attack on the very viability of Judaism, and the shift in the standard by which Jews defined themselves and their faith. In the modern age, it became the non-Jewish world.

With these two issues in mind, you'll consider the various thinkers according to three approaches: insiders, outsiders, and rejectionists. In Professor Ruderman's estimation, Jewish thinking is a widespread and necessary part of Jewish life, an effort to find meaning and hope in an uncertain world.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2002 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2002 The Great Courses

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  • Yury
  • Brooklyn, NY, United States
  • 12-29-13

A Gem! Best treatment of material I've ever read.

If you could sum up Jewish Intellectual History: 16th to 20th Century in three words, what would they be?

Insightful, deep, engagingly delivered.

Any additional comments?

I'm passing this book on to everyone I know who would be interested. They keep thanking me for turning them in to it. Its eye opening. Much praise to the author and lecturer.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Lee
  • Albany, NY, United States
  • 07-26-15

thought provoking and informative

Rabbi David Ruderman discusses Jewish thought, the context and how it influenced the philosophers, and the impact of their philosophy. He brings the people and their struggles to life,, and interpreting their meaning in their time and ours. worth a second and third listen. recommend his other course on earlier Jewish thinking as well.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Stan
  • 07-21-16

Incomplete picture?

I start by saying that I am an atheist secular Jew with little depth of knowledge of things Jewish. I was lost at times but that reflects my small base of knowledge

I expected some acknowledgement and discussion of the Chassidic movement and what was its contribution to Jewish intellectual history. As far as I could tell, that is ignored even to the extent of saying they would not be considered. That seems a huge gap to me as, even today, it fuels a vibrant stream of Jewish activity albeit a narrow stream.

Every lecturer in a series such as this must make choices of inclusion and exclusion - I understand that.