I Am Jewish

An Excerpt From David Hartman's Book

By David Hartman

Published February 12, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

God has burdened human beings with the task of being the carriers of God’s vision for human history. The law and the commandments express not only God’s legislative authority but also, and above all, God’s need for human beings.”

shalom hartman institute

Despite the varieties of lifestyles and outlooks among Jews today, there are certain organizing principles that cut across many of these differences and underlie the sense of common destiny and interdependence that so many Jews feel. From my own experience, the concepts of relationship and memory are two such fundamental categories.

The Jewish concepts of God and of mitzvah (commandment) and the biblical narratives of creation and of history are interwoven into Jewish practice, producing a distinctive outlook that shapes Jewish identity.

RELATIONAL THEOLOGY AND COVENANTAL CONSCIOUSNESS

In contrast to the self-sufficient God of Aristotle, the biblical God was considered philosophically “scandalous” because of the notion of a God who was vulnerable and affected by human history. Aristotle’s God was totally unmoved and oblivious to human beings, whereas the biblical God was, as A. J. Heschel wrote, “in search of man” or, as Professor Lieberman remarked, “the most tragic figure in the Bible.”

The idea that divine perfection is a relational category involving interdependence begins in the biblical story of creation. The idyllic description of an omnipotent God, whose unbounded will is automatically realized in the material world (“Let there be … and there was …”), abruptly changes with the creation of human beings, who challenge and oppose the divine will. In the Bible, the development of the notion of covenantal history is related to the transition in the character of God from an independent, unilateral actor to a God who recognizes that only through human cooperation can the divine plan for history be realized.

Abraham is the first covenantal figure because of the presence of mutuality in his relationship with God. Abraham’s appeal to principles of morality—“Far be it from You … to bring death upon the innocent as well as the guilty.… Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Gen. 18:23–25)—reflects his unqualified belief in his intuitive sense of justice and love. His ability to judge God’s intended actions without having to “quote Scripture” reflects the dignity and dself-assurance of being in a covenantal relationship with God.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.