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Not in the Heavens


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Not in the Heavens offers a lucid and superbly informed overview of the major currents of secularization in modern Jewish thought. Its particular originality is in its persuasive demonstration of the roots of these trends in aspects of Jewish religious philosophy that go back to the medieval period and the Enlightenment. -- Robert Alter, University of California, Berkeley Although religious Jews have always anticipated spending 'next year in Jerusalem,' others have preferred to tarry, as it were, 'this year in Tel Aviv,' the symbolic capital of secular Jewry. This is their story, told by a master Jewish historian with erudition, sympathy, and full awareness of the ironies that tie both destinations--and the destinies of religious and secular Jews--inextricably together. -- Martin Jay, University of California, Berkeley A rich and engaging work on the tradition of secular Jewish thought. Weaving together historical narrative and textual analysis, theology and philosophy, scripture and interpretation, and political theory and cultural criticism, Biale offers a provocative rethinking of Judaism's relation to the secular. Not in the Heavens is the most exhaustive and sustained discussion of Jewish secularism that I have read. -- Jerome E. Copulsky, Goucher College This is an excellent book. Biale provides an entirely new synthesis of a largely untouched subject. No one has previously attempted to discuss secular thinking as a separate phenomenon in modern Jewish life. This book, while accessible and aimed at a general audience, is also a major contribution to Jewish studies. -- David Sorkin, author of "The Religious Enlightenment: Protestants, Jews, and Catholics from London to Vienna"

Table of Contents

Preface ix Introduction: Origins 1 Chapter 1: God: Pantheists, Kabbalists, and Pagans 15 Chapter 2: Torah: The Secular Jewish Bible 59 Chapter 3: Israel: Race, Nation, or State 92 Chapter 4: Israel: History, Language, and Culture 135 Conclusion: God, Torah, and Israel 176 Epilogue: Legacy 181 Notes 195 Index 221

About the Author

David Biale is the Emanuel Ringelblum Professor of Jewish History at the University of California, Davis. His books include "Blood and Belief: The Circulation of a Symbol between Jews and Christians" and "Eros and the Jews: From Biblical Israel to Contemporary America".


"Lucid and winsome."--John Wilson, Books & Culture "There are not many contemporary Jewish scholars who could offer such succinct and at the same time penetrating analysis of such a variety of secular Jewish thinkers, writers, and artists... David Biale's Not in the Heavens is a useful and fascinating account of the development of modern, secular alternatives. In demonstrating the variety and depth of modern secular thought, Biale has no doubt advanced our appreciation of this formidable tradition. As an introduction to modern Jewish thought in general, and Jewish secularism in particular, his book is likely to be required reading for the foreseeable future."--Steven Frankel, H-Net Reviews "While readers may have been exposed to many of the ideas presented here, they may not be aware of their origins. For that reason, the book is a significant contribution to Jewish scholarship in many disciplines, most notably history and philosophy. While the text is serious, it is not ponderous, and the author takes time to explain the concepts. It should be purchased by academic libraries. The book should also be of interest to serious lay readers, and is recommended for larger synagogue libraries. Includes notes and index."--Fred Isaac, AJL Newsletter "Biale covers a wide range of figures and the diverse approaches to secularism that stand behind modern modes of Jewish identification. This is a well-researched, cogently argued, and clearly presented volume."--Choice

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