“Judaism Examined: Essays in Jewish Philosophy and Ethics” Published by Touro College Press

Date: January 23, 2014
Dr. Moshe Sokol, dean of the Lander College for Men
Dr. Moshe Sokol, dean of the Lander College for Men
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New York, N.Y. – Touro College Press today announced the publication of a new 518 page volume on Jewish philosophy and ethics by Dr. Moshe Sokol, dean of the Lander College for Men, professor of philosophy and a faculty member of the Graduate School of Jewish Studies.

“Judaism Examined: Essays in Jewish Philosophy and Ethics,” explores key themes in Jewish philosophy and ethics from the rigorous perspective of philosophical analysis. The first set of essays takes up the challenge of living a Jewish life, and includes essays on pleasure, joy, human suffering, Jewish ritual practice and the philosophical life. The second set of essays analyzes the value and meaning of autonomy, human freedom and tolerance in Jewish thought, crucial themes in western political thought and life.

Other essays in the volume examine the many meanings of Jewish texts, and such crucial issues in applied Jewish ethics as ecology, medical ethics, and justified homicide. Finally, a number of essays plumb the depths of the thought of one of the most influential and creative Jewish thinkers of the twentieth century, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

“This impressive volume of essays from the pen of a master scholar and brilliant thinker is a vital contribution to the growing library of scholarship produced by Touro College Press,” said Touro College President and CEO Dr. Alan Kadish.

Taking the approach of analytic philosophy, Dr. Sokol said in writing the essays he endeavored to bring together the work of great Jewish thinkers in a way that approaches questions anew.

“Even when great Jewish thinkers are studied, they can and should be considered not only as historical artifacts embedded in the past, but in active dialogue with the present. They believed in the eternal truth of what they wrote,” Dr. Sokol said. “But this requires them to be open to active and critical conversation with contemporaries and successors, and to application of conceptual frameworks and ideas of recent and contemporary philosophers on those great efforts of the past.”

Dr. Michael Shmidman, dean of Touro’s Graduate School of Jewish Studies and editor of Touro College Press, said Dr. Sokol’s volume “advances the engagement of classical Jewish themes with Anglo-American philosophy, shedding new light both on the Jewish tradition, and on the western philosophical enterprise.”

Advance praise for “Judaism Examined” –

“In one of the many felicitous expressions in this wide-ranging book, Moshe Sokol says that Rabbi Soloveitchik, the subject of several penetrating essays… made Brisk (the town of his Talmudic origin and tradition) speak in the language of Berlin (where Rabbi Soloveitchik studied philosophy). Similarly, through the subtle application of the tools of analytic philosophy, Moshe Sokol makes both Maimonides and Soloveitchik speak in the accents of Oxford. Analytic philosophy often runs the risk of triviality; in the hands of a masterful practitioner such as Moshe Sokol, it becomes a supple tool for clarifying the obscure.”  – Menachem Kellner, University of Haifa.

“The appearance of Moshe Sokol’s essays in a single volume is a boon for Jewish philosophers. Combining a firm command of Jewish sources with the tools of analytic philosophy, these articles are consistently illuminating and strikingly lucid. The range of topics is impressive. Whether interpreting particular texts or thinkers, categorizing views, assessing philosophical theses, or formulating his own responses to philosophical problems, Sokol is always interesting, penetrating and creative.” – David Shatz, Yeshiva University

Dr. Sokol holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, and studied at Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, Yeshiva Torah Voda’as and at the Israel Torah Research Institute (ITRI) in Jerusalem, where he was ordained. In addition to his academic appointments at Touro, Dr. Sokol also serves as rabbi of the Yavneh Minyan of Flatbush, a position he has held since 1980.

A prolific writer and widely respected academician, Dr. Sokol has published over two dozen essays in Israeli, British and American journals and books in the fields of medieval and modern Jewish philosophy and ethics, published by the university presses of Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Cambridge, among others. In addition to “Judaism Examined: Essays in Jewish Philosophy and Ethics,” he has written or edited three other books, including “Rabbinic Authority and Personal Autonomy” (1993), “Engaging Modernity” (1997), and “Tolerance, Dissent and Democracy: Philosophical, Historical and Halakhic Perspectives” (2002).

The book is distributed by Academic Studies Press, and may be ordered at: www.academicstudiespress.com