Elijah Benamozegh: Israel and Humanity (Classics of Western Spirituality)

Elijah Benamozegh: Israel and Humanity (Classics of Western Spirituality)

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“The publication of the Classics of Western Spirituality™ represents a cultural event of the greatest importance. It transcends all sectarian boundaries and brings to the spiritually sensitive reader the choicest creations of the human spirit when it is touched by the encounter with God.” Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser Elijah Benamozegh: Israel and Humanity translated, edited and with an introduction by Maxwell Luria preface and appendix on “Kabbalah in Elijah Benamozegh’s Thought” by Moshe Idel “For the Jews (apart from the Kabbalah) the single, indivisible divine personality is always infinitely above the material creation. The Gentiles, however, feel the need to humanize the gods, to see an embodiment of the Divine even on the lower stages of the scale of being. The Kabbalah allows us to see how these two impulses―the latter embodied in the plural name of Divinity (Elohim), the first in the incommunicable name of the one God―are joined in the religious synthesis of Hebraism…Authentic Judaism…is connected to a certain extent with the pagan mysteries. The authentic Jewish tradition acknowledges both the immanence and the transcendence of God, and thus links monotheism with the reasonable element in pantheism. Belief in the unity of God, as Israel preserves it, therefore harmonizes the demands of science and the needs of religious faith. One day it will be able also to reconcile the divided churches.” From Israel and Humanity, Part One, chapter 1, “The Unity of God” Elijah ben Abraham Benamozegh (1823-1900), whose family had come to Italy from Morocco, was rabbi of the important Jewish community of Livorno (Leghorn), an intellectual leader of 19th-century Italian Jewry, and its most articulate advocate of Kabbalah. Among his distinguished volumes, Israel and Humanity is perhaps his masterpiece. It has been translated from the original French into Hebrew and Italian, and now, for the first time, into English. Israel and Humanity forms a grand synthesis of Benamozegh’s religious thought. It is at once a wide-ranging summa of scriptural, Talmudic, Midrashic, and kabbalistic ideas, and an intensely personal account of Jewish identity. It is also a systematic, meticulously reasoned philosophy of Judaism in its relation to the other religions of mankind, especially its daughter religions, Christianity and Islam. Scrupulously orthodox in his Jewish perspective, Benamozegh was a highly original thinker and wholly at ease in European secular and religious culture. His book breathes the exceptionally tolerant religious atmosphere of 19th-century Italy.

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