Judaism

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Judaism

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Chief Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Jakobovits - читать все обзоры этого автора

ƒата добавлени€: Sunday 30 May, 2010

5 of 5 Stars!

By a happy combination of circumstances I am privileged to be among the very few who can serve a living link between the author and the reader for whom this translation of his work is intended.

From the time I enrolled as a student of Jews' College in 1937 until the untimely passing of Rabbi Dr. Isidore Epstein in 1962, he was my distinguished teacher and mentor, a relationship which soon flowered into a fond friendship and which survives to mis day by my reverence for his memory and his teachings. Again, Soviet Jews have been particularly close to my heart ever since I pledged at my installation into my present office in 1967 that my top priorities would include "alleviating the religious attrition and communal isolation of our Russian brethren - the most painful Jewish problem of our day". In pursuit of this pledge, I set up a Department for Soviet Jewry within my office to help in shaping policies and generating communal support for their cause; I greeted them in Austria on their way to Israel when the Jewish exodus from Russia was at its height; I paid the first official visit of any Western Chief Rabbi to the Soviet Union in December 1975, meeting with groups and individuals of all sections identifying as Jews, including many leading activists, some of whom have happily meanwhile reached Israel; and I continue to assist a variety of projects in Israel for the spiritual regeneration of Jews from and in the Soviet Union, including the sponsorship of this translation. Yet, however qualified I may be to introduce the author to the Russian readers, he is himself supremely qualified to introduce Soviet Jews to the treasures of their faith and traditions. Bom in Kovno and retaining throughout his life the unique hallmark of unexcelled Jewish learning which once flourished in the lands now under Soviet domination, he gradually established himself as a leading transmitter and interpreter of Jewish thought and scholarship of the English-speaking world, both as Principal of London's Jews' College - now the world's oldest institution of Jewish learning - and through his prolific writings. Under his editorship, the Soncino translation of the entire Talmud into English made this vast storehouse of Jewish knowledge accessible to the majority of the world's Jews whose vernacular had changed from Yiddish to English during thr first half of the present century. Many of his other works, too, have outlived him as immortal classics, notably the present book which has been published in many editions and in many languages.

True to his East European heritage, he combined a phenomenal masteiy of Jewish sources with an incisive analytical brain. To these assets were added a wide-ranging familiarity with modern Western literature as well as the gift of a masterly pen.

This extraordinary combination of rare talents was further fertilised by an ever-enquiring, sometimes critical mind always alert to the challenges, tensions and occasional contradictions between East and West, between sacred and secular scholarship, and between faith and reason. All his major writings, sparkling with originality and profound insights, are esentially an attempt to reconcile these contrasts within the limits of his own deeply religious commitment. He thus joined the select ranks of leading Anglo-Jewish exponents of Judaism who succeeded in harnessing modern scholarship and consummate literary skills for the presentation of Jewish teaching and values in terms at once authentic and appealing. To this day, there are few books in the English tongue which can rival his as reliable and convincing responses to the growing quest for Jewish guidance to the perplexed of our times.

The tragic estrangement of most Jews today from Judaism is, alas, only a matter of degree. Quantitatively, there may indeed be more Jewish illiterates, entirely alienated from Jewish knowledge and commitments, in the Free World than among those spiritually blighted under Communism. But the religious and cultural starvation of the latter is obviously rendered more acute by the enforced denial to them, over a period of seventy years, of any institutional or literary facilities to sustain their Jewish life.

In the case of Russian Jews, more than those from anywhere else, the restoration of their spirit has a great deal to do with their yearning for, and stability in Zion. Many studies and surveys have shown conclusively that Olim who were or became religious are less likely to drop out or to leave Israel. If the rate of Neshira and Yerida has reached such disturbing proportions it is primarily because spiritual realities so often fell short of expectations. As the Jews alighting in Vienna from the first leg of their long journey emphatically told me, they had left the Soviet Union not as refugees; they had uprooted themselves, often at great risk and sacrifice, because they simply "could not breathe as Jews" and they looked forward to life in Israel purely for the fulfilment of their Jewish yearnings. The gap between them and Judaism often spans three generations, and unless it is bridged, hope may easily turn into disillusionment and defection.

No-one would have been happier than Dr. Epstein to know that his work will now help to rehabilitate as Jews some descendants of the very community to which he owed so much of his own inspiration and genius. May this, too, be his abiding reward for his immense contribution to the appreciation of Judaism, to defending it against its detractors, and to raising a new generation of enlightened Jews faithful to its teachings.

Chief Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Jakobovits
London, England
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