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A Plea for Religious Authenticity and Halachic Courage

In this remarkable, and what promises to be a highly controversial, work, Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo suggests that Jewish Law must be seen as a discipline of resistance and courage. He pleads for the urgent return to authentic religiosity, which by now has been compromised by nearly all who claim to be religious. Rebelling against the rabbinical establishment, Rabbi Cardozo takes it to task for failing to liberate Halacha from its stagnancy and confinement. With ground-breaking suggestions, he shows how to make Jewish Law once again relevant to our modern society and to the State of Israel.

Out of love for Judaism and all human beings Rabbi Cardozo provokes, challenges, annoys and disturbs his readers, asking them to resist the corrupting effect of the ordinary and often hollow motions of today’s religious life. While focusing on Judaism and Jewish Law, much of what Rabbi Cardozo argues applies equally to other religions as well as to secularism.

A book that may trigger a new era of genuine introspection, laying the foundations for a better world in which the Divine will stand at the center of humanity. 

About the Author:
Nathan Lopes Cardozo (b. 1946), hailing from the Portuguese-Spanish Jewish community in Amsterdam, is a philosopher, New Age halachist, author of 13 books, and lecturer in Jewish communities, yeshivot and universities in Israel and abroad. He studied for 12 years in Ultra Orthodox yeshivot but, after intensive studies in Jewish and general philosophy, carved out his own unprecedented approach to understanding Judaism. He is the founder and dean of the David Cardozo Academy in Jerusalem and its think tank, which focus on finding new halachic and philosophical approaches to dealing with the crisis of religion and identity among Jews and non-Jews, including in the State of Israel. Rabbi Cardozo is known for his originality and fearlessness when presenting his controversial insights into Judaism. His ideas are widely debated internationally via books and social media.

Praise for Jewish Law As Rebellion:
“Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo is a unique intellectual presence in the rabbinical world today. His new book raises profound questions that disturb our complacency and demand the attention of our hearts and minds. To think with him and the challenges he raises is one of the great experiences of modern Jewish thought.”
– Professor Susannah Heschel

“Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo is that rare entity, a seeker who is unafraid to challenge accepted ideas and norms. His Jewish Law as Rebellion perfectly embodies his own engagement with tradition. It will inspire any who struggle with Judaism’s most basic principles.”
Professor James Kugel

“Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo has written a challenging, even provocative book, inviting us to restore the iconoclasm with which Judaism was born as a religion of protest against the status quo. Agree or disagree, you will find yourself thinking hard and deep about the current state of Jewish law and life, and that makes it a work well worth reading – a new chapter in one of the great Jewish traditions: the dignity of dissent.”
– Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

“Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo is a rebel fighting for a most worthy cause – to reinvigorate Judaism and infuse it with real spiritual context. He inveighs against the over-codification of Halachah, a sort of pietistic OCD syndrome, which stifles the true spirit of Judaism. He calls for a return to the Talmud and its sources, with its openness, its bewildering variety of opinions, its multifaceted character, its liberality, and its halachic flexibility. This book is the powerful plea of a genuinely pious Jew deeply concerned for our Jewish future. The problems and challenges he presents are real and urgent, requiring creative rethinking on the part of our religious authorities. He is to be admired and congratulated for his courage and the clarity of his vision.”
– Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber

“What this exceptional book offers is a rationale for halakhic practice as a discipline of resistance – resistance to the corrupting effect of the ordinary, to the hollowing-out of human behaviour and human awareness that a fast-paced and feverish culture produces. It is full of insights that will challenge and inspire Jews and non-Jews alike: a reminder that Orthodoxy of whatever kind is empty if it does not arise from the deep, radical awareness of the divine imperative to be amazed and thankful in the face of every thing and every experience. Immensely enriching.”
– Dr. Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, former Archbishop of Canterbury

Table of Contents:
Preface 21
Acknowledgments 25
Biographical Notes 28

Jewish Law (Halacha) as Rebellion 35

One The Nature of Halacha
1. Halacha as Deliberate Chaos 51

Two The Contemporary Crisis of Halacha
2. The Future, Image, and Spirit of Halacha: Unconventional Thoughts in Relation to Autonomous Religiosity 63
3. Needed: Redemptive Halacha. How Halacha Must Transcend Itself 81
4. The Dangling Bridges of Halacha: Making Rules Where Rules Should Not Exist 99
5. Halacha and the Inadequacy of Jewish Dogma 103
6. The Expulsion of God in Halacha 107

Three The Meaning and Mystery of Halacha
7. The Ideal and Idyllic: A View of Halacha as Musical Notes 115
8. Halacha as the Art of Amazement 134
9. Religious Authenticity and Wonder in and Beyond Halacha 143
10. The Protest of a Beracha 161
11. To Be a Posek Is to Be a Halachic Poet 163
12. The Divine Word is Deadly: Only a Melody Can Rescue It 166

Four Halacha as Protest
13. The Death and Birth of the Halachic Expert: One Should Listen to Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven Before Ruling on a Halachic Problem 171
14. Oh, That I Could Take Off My Kippa! 180

Five Between Frumkeit and Religiosity
15. Spinoza’s Blunder and Noach’s Misguided Religiosity 187
16. Mitzvot, Minhagim, and Their Dangers 193
17. Chumrot, Religious Frumkeit, and Religiosity 195

Six Halacha: Between Utopian Vision and Realistic Possibilities
18. Why the Kashrut Laws Were Given So Late 201
19. Sacrifices: Progressive or Regressive Judaism? Why Spinoza’s Ethics Were Not Given at Sinai 219
20. The Danger of Religion: Plato, Halacha, and Dreams 224
21. Chanuka and Halacha: Hypocrisy or Authenticity? 229

Seven Halacha, Moral Issues, and Ethical Dilemmas
22. The Abuse of Halacha: Keeping Halacha Under Control. The Purpose of Sefer Bereshit 237
23. There Is No Ideal Halacha: Halacha and Prisoner Exchange 1 246
24. There Is No Ideal Halacha: Halacha and Prisoner Exchange 2 250
25. Halacha Means Full Liberty. To Be Secular Would Be Hell: Everything Would Be Forbidden 254
26. The Supreme Court of the United States, Same Sex Marriages, and Other Prohibitions 258
27. On the Law of the Mamzer. Between Fairness and Holiness in Halacha: Possible Solutions and Rabbinical Courage (The Theology of the Halachic Loophole and the Meaning of Torah From Heaven) 263

Eight Halacha and the Meaning of Life
28. Halacha and Absurdity 1 303
29. Halacha and Absurdity 2 307
30. Halacha and Absurdity 3 312

Nine Halacha: Between the Rigid Letter and Creative Spirit
31. Halacha: The Art to Complicate Life. The Microscopic Search for God 317
32. Halacha: The Greatest Chess Game on Earth 322
33. Halacha, Legal Hairsplitting, and the Great Compliment 326
34. Pesach, the Paradox of Freedom, and Hefty Halachic Restrictions 331

Ten Halacha, Secular Society, and the State of Israel
35. The Menora, Left- and Right-Wingers: Theocracy, Democracy, and Halacha 335
36. Halacha and Secular Law: Duties or Rights? 339
37. The Halachic Toleration of Heresy: A Command to Cancel the Commandments 342 

Eleven Practical Issues in Halacha
38. Take the Bike or Tram, Get a Free Coffee, and Observe Shabbat 347
39. Let Us Violate Shabbat so as to Sanctify It: The Holy Day and the Tel Aviv Railway 351

Twelve Conversion and Who is a Jew?
40. Soul Jews and Halachic Jews: Ideal and Reality 357
41. Conversion Is Not About Halacha 361
42. Conversion and Annie Fischer’s Interpretation of Schumann’s Klavierkonzert in A Minor 366
43. Courage, Rabbis, Courage! The Need for Mass Conversion 369
44. Why Did Ruth Convert Against All Odds? 373
45. Solving the Conversion Crisis. The Birth of Non-Jewish Jewish Communities: Another Approach 377
46. Solving the Conversion Crisis and Global Judaism 380
47. Solving the Conversion Crisis: New Halachic and Spiritual Criteria for Conversion 388

Thirteen Additional Thoughts
48. Rabbinical Courage and the Frozen Text 399
49. Are You Really Eating Kosher? On Camouflage, Hypocrisy, and Hiding Behind the Kashrut Laws 402
50. The Prohibition to Carry on Shabbat: Walking Mountains and the Buddha 406

Fourteen Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik – a Correspondence
51. The Genius and Limitations of Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik 413
52. Response by Tanya White 425
53. Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik and his Paradoxical Influence: An Answer to Tanya White 430
54. Second Response by Tanya White 439

Author : Nathan Lopes Cardozo I ISBN: 978-965-524-276-8 I Hardcover, 480 pages including index I Urim Publications, 2018

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