Making God's Word Work: A Guide to the Mishnah
"The Mishnah is the crown jewel of Rabbinic Judaism in its formative age," so says the distinguished author of this book. Initiated in the aftermath of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, and developed and amplified over the next five centuries, the Mishnah is the product of an age of calamity giving birth to a renewed search for recovery. As such, it speaks to every age, but to none more particularly and clearly than to our own which has witnessed the destruction wrought by the Shoah and the return to the land of Israel.
Nevertheless, the Mishnah does not explicitly address the agenda of the contemporary world. To reduce the social theology and legal system of the Mishnah to a specific historical setting would be to distort its religious mission which, as Jacob Neusner affirms, is to influence while transcending the world of time and circumstance.
The Mishnah is not a series of niggling precepts, as its misinterpreters contend, but neither is it simply a source of interesting information or of legal directives for shaping everyday life. Rather, the central theme of Making God's Word Work is that throughout the rules and norms of the Mishnah, and beneath their surface, is a governing theological pattern which both defines the detail relating to social conduct as well as brings to the fore a coherent system of analysis, thought, and argumen. "The Mishnah is a law code in form, a work of philosophy and theology in substance, and a work of natural history in execution. Its medium of expression and mode of thinking mark it as close to unique among philosophical and theological writings."
Making God's Word Work will be of interest not only to students of Judaica or those who practice Judaism, but also to students of the history of religions and of comparative religion. Additionally, the book will fascinate philosophers, theologians, literary critics, and humanists in general for its remarkable insights into a way of discursive analysis and rigorous argumentation that is without parallel among the foundational documents of the great world religions.
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