Analyzes the structure and logic of aggadic discourse in the Talmud.
In this pioneering effort, noted Jewish philosopher Eugene B. Borowitz opens up the rules by which the language-game of aggadic discourse is carried on in the Talmud, the foundational document of rabbinic and all later Judaism. These findings are compared with the aggadah (the realm in which almost all explicit statements about classic Jewish religious belief occur) of some other early rabbinic writings. Two issues drive Borowitz’s inquiry: What, if anything, constrains the unprecedented freedom of this realm? and How might one positively characterize the aggadah? Borowitz introduces us to the rabbis not only in their amazing profundity, but also in their unguarded humanity. He concludes with a reflection on how this old Jewish language-game should influence contemporary Jewish thought, and, perhaps, other religious thought as well.
“Borowitz provides minute (yet always clear) analyses of how aggadah operates logically. He also gives the reader very good and concise discussions of some of the newer, more ‘literary’ … treatments of aggadah by younger scholars.” — The Journal of Religion
“As a scholar, philosopher, and rabbinic role-model, Eugene Borowitz made contributions to Jewish thought that spanned six decades. His influence will continue to be felt for generations to come, by rabbis, scholars and laypersons, regardless of denominational affiliation.” — Jewish Book World
“This is an important study of rabbinic methodology applying contemporary philosophical hermeneutics to help sort out the unique attributes and content of aggadah. Borowitz provides an excellent review of secondary scholarship in the modern and contemporary period on the nature of rabbinic thought, logic, and discourse.” — Yudit Kornberg Greenberg, author of Better than Wine: Love, Poetry, and Prayer in the Thought of Franz Rosenzweig
“Borowitz’s book offers much-needed insight and is simply an invaluable contribution to Jewish philosophy.” — Robert Gibbs, coauthor of Reasoning After Revelation: Dialogues in Postmodern Jewish Philosophy
Eugene B. Borowitz is Distinguished University Professor and the Sigmund L. Falk Distinguished Professor of Education and Jewish Religious Thought at the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. He is the author of many books, including Studies in the Meaning of Judaism and The Mask Jews Wear: The Self-Deceptions of American Jewry, winner of the National Jewish Book Award in the realm of Jewish thought.