Radical Judaism Book Review
I’d like to dedicate my first Jewcology blog to Rabbi Arthur Green and his latest book, Radical Judaism. I believe this an extremely valuable and important book as we head into the next centuries of Jewish life. What do you think? What books would you recommend? I look forward to the conversation.
David Arfa, Maggid (Mah-geed; Storyteller)/ Environmental Educator
Radical Judaism is written for all of us who are exploring fresh relationships between mind, forest, earth, cosmos and religious life. It is not a how-to primer for greener holiday celebrations or eco-prayers. It is not written for those who read scripture literally. Most importantly, Radical Judaism is not only for Jews.
Arthur Green has written a deep meditation; a freshly imagined portrait of the force that some call “God”. He opens with a bold declaration, “As a religious person I believe that the evolution of species is the greatest sacred drama of all time.” The rest of the book is dedicated to unpacking this declaration. Readers may note the echo of Thomas Berry, Mathew Fox, or Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in this project. Rest assured, Green develops his contemporary theology in a way that is uniquely his own.
Green has spent his professional life mapping the wild landscapes of Jewish mysticism (known as Kabbalah). Not unlike Indiana Jones, he has tracked Judaism’s mythic imagery through the centuries. For almost five decades, his mission as a theologian has been to revitalize religious life in general and Jewish life in particular. Green is dedicated to rescuing forgotten wisdom that may help guide us through our challenging, materialistic and short-sighted era. Radical Judaism contains the ripened fruit of this journey.
Radical Judaism is attracting special attention because Green is not only a leading world scholar of Jewish mysticism and a prominent inter-faith partner, but also the past and present leader of two Rabbinical schools. This is why a small, provocative book that transcends conventional boundaries, is being heard, felt and debated literally around the world.
Green, with characteristic theological audacity, distills the essence of western religious life into a never-ending process that includes silence, listening, discernment, and action. Listen to this expansive sentence: “The deep inner oneness of all being, manifest in silence, but flowing into sacred speech, is accessible to the seeking human heart, leading us to transformative action.”
Green translates for us: he shifts the old metaphors of God on mountain tops and in the sky, to metaphors of God within and around; he re-imagines the creation story so that all life is sanctified; he revives the mythic power of Moses on Sinai and other biblical tales; and he places a strong emphasis on pursuing justice. Green uses “all the power that tradition can muster” to articulate a renewed religious path for the 21st century; a path that includes both contemplation and action.
This exciting and challenging book, illuminated by the mythic grandeur of Kabbalah, rooted in Judaism’s religious heritage, teaches us that the history of religion has always been a diverse, paradigm-shifting affair. It is alright if we do not fully agree with Rabbi Green’s honest testimony. Radical Judaism affirms that we are all free to learn, imagine, and add our voices to this ancient and contemporary conversation. As Green powerfully demonstrates, this is how it has always been done.