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Believing and Its Tensions

A Personal Conversation about God, Torah, Suffering and Death in Jewish Thought

By Rabbi Neil Gillman, PhD

5.5 x 8.5, 144 pp, Hardcover, 978-1-58023-669-0

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An intimate and candid examination of the changing nature of belief and where it can lead us—from the life experience of one of Judaism’s leading thinkers.

For over five decades, Rabbi Neil Gillman has helped people think through the most challenging questions at the heart of being a believing religious person. In this intimate rethinking of his own theological journey he explores the changing nature of belief and the complexities of reconciling the intellectual, emotional and moral questions of his own searching mind and soul.

  • If what we have in recognizing, speaking of and experiencing God is a wide-ranging treasury of humanly crafted metaphors, what, then, is the ultimate reality, the ultimate nature of God? What lies beyond the metaphors?
  • If humanity was an active partner in revelation—if the human community participated in what was revealed and gave it meaning—what then should be the authority of Jewish law?
  • How do we cope—intellectually, emotionally and morally—with suffering, the greatest challenge to our faith commitment, relationship with God and sense of a fundamentally ordered world?
  • Death is inevitable but why is it built in as part of the total life experience?

“A model of honesty and courage in theological quest. Gillman reminds us that living with tensions makes us grow and stretch. May the God he questions give him strength to go forward with his challenge!”

Arthur Green, rector, Rabbinical School, Hebrew College; author, Seek My Face: A Jewish Mystical Theology

“This book presents the thought of Neil Gillman at its most compelling. Believing and Its Tensions is a mature, sensitive, deeply human, instructive and highly personal account of faith and its trials by one of the master Jewish teachers and theologians of our time. I found it challenging, moving, comforting and hopeful—a religious treasure!”

Rabbi David Ellenson, president, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

“[A] rich distillation of decades of teaching, scholarly research and personal exploration.... Engages readers with a highly sophisticated, lucid, accessible and concise articulation of Gillman’s personal theology and its development, while challenging them to think and rethink their own. A must read!”

Dr. Anne Lapidus Lerner, former vice chancellor, The Jewish Theological Seminary; author, Eternally Eve: Images of Eve in the Hebrew Bible, Midrash and Modern Jewish Poetry

“A theological confession of the author’s struggle with serious religious conflicts and his innovative resolutions. Neil Gillman spreads a wide pluralistic net that captures the polarities of Jewish temperament and proposes paths to their reconciliation.”

Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, Valley Beth Shalom, Encino, California; author, Conscience: The Duty to Obey and the Duty to Disobey

“A work of profound clarity and courage. Very rarely does a theologian of such stature have the capacity to teach the methodology of intellectual creativity and reflection. If the present generation is wise and brave, it will study Gillman as a model and as a path.”

Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, PhD, Shalom Hartman Institute

“With his mind focused unerringly on the great theological questions, the latest work by Neil Gillman is concise, incisive, bold and delightful. He tells his readers where he now stands and challenges us to stretch our imaginations to span Heschel and the Higgs boson, John Donne and Elie Wiesel. Many thinkers take five times longer to say half as much. We are lucky to have Neil Gillman!”

Rabbi Michael Marmur, PhD, assistant professor of Jewish theology and vice president for academic affairs, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

“Ever a scholar, searcher and shepherd, Rabbi Neil Gillman is the foremost theological educator of our age. Believing and Its Tensions is a beautifully crafted love letter to generations of students past, present and future that will inspire a robust conversation on what it means to be a believing Jew.”

Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove, PhD, Park Avenue Synagogue, New York City; editor, Jewish Theology in Our Time: A New Generation Explores the Foundations and Future of Jewish Belief

“Students of Rabbi Neil Gillman fondly recall his humor, wisdom and uncanny skill in presenting complex ideas in clear, compelling ways. In this jewel of a book, a broader audience is blessed to have the opportunity to learn with this master teacher, who has distilled a lifetime of deep thought, careful listening and passionate engagement to bless us all. ”

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, DHL, vice president, American Jewish University; author, Passing Life’s Tests: Spiritual Reflections on the Trial of Abraham, the Binding of Isaac

“Gut-check time for the religiously serious reader! With faith and courageous honesty, Gillman examines the limits of theological certainty. God, of course, and also suffering and death must ever remain beyond our ability to understand fully.”

Rabbi Ralph D. Mecklenburger, Beth-El Congregation, Fort Worth, Texas; author, Our Religious Brains: What Cognitive Science Reveals about Belief, Morality, Community and Our Relationship with God

“If his best-known works are theological treatises, this book is a public offering of Neil Gillman’s unfolding conversation with himself and his students. It reflects his uncanny and disarming ability to ‘translate’ big ideas into story, anecdote and personal reflection.”

Rabbi Leon Morris, rabbi, Temple Adas Israel, Sag Harbor, New York; former director, Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning at Temple Emanu-El

“In this rich distillation of decades of teaching, scholarly research and personal exploration, Neil Gillman addresses issues of ultimate meaning. He engages readers with a highly sophisticated, lucid, accessible and concise articulation of his personal theology and its development, while challenging them to think and rethink their own. A must read!”

Dr. Anne Lapidus Lerner, former vice chancellor, The Jewish Theological Seminary; author, Eternally Eve: Images of Eve in the Hebrew Bible, Midrash and Modern Jewish Poetry

“A reaffirming and confirming statement of being a Jew and a human being. Everyone who wants to understand the Bible, Judaism and their place in one’s life should read this book.”

Jewish Media Review

 

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