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Judaism's Theological Voice: The Melody of the Talmud
by Jacob Neusner
University of Chicago Press, 1995
Paper: 978-0-226-57649-7 | Cloth: 978-0-226-57648-0
Library of Congress Classification BM663.N48 1995
Dewey Decimal Classification 296.3

Distinguished historian of Judaism Jacob Neusner here ventures for the first time into constructive theology. Taking the everyday life of contemporary Judaism as his beginning, Neusner asks when in the life of the living faith of the Torah does Israel, the holy community, meet God? Where does the meeting take place? What is the medium of the encounter?

In his attempt to answer these questions, Neusner sets forth the character and the form of the Torah as sung theology. Israel, the holy community, meets God in the synagogue, while at prayer, and in the yeshiva, when studying the Torah—at the moment in each setting when the Torah is received. In both circumstances people do not read but sing out its words. With the written part of the Torah sung in the synagogue, and the oral part declaimed in centers of sacred learning, music provides the medium for Judaism's theological voice.

Neusner identifies a reciprocal exchange between the holy community Israel and God: Israel sings to God when the Torah is studied, and God sings to Israel when the Torah is declaimed. Through the metaphor of music, Neusner offers an account of how he believes those faithful to the Torah meet God in the Torah, and how they should listen to the melody of God's self-revelation. The result is an original theological reflection that will interest all students of Judaism.

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