Putting God First: Jewish Humanism after Heidegger by Alick Isaacs

Putting God First: Jewish Humanism after Heidegger by Alick Isaacs

Putting God First: Jewish Humanism after Heidegger tackles the challenge of maintaining Jewish identity in a world dominated by Western humanism.

It argues that the Holocaust reflects more broadly on contemporary humanism than the Jewish world has ever dared to acknowledge. It advances the view that the establishment of the State of Israel presents a profound historical opportunity to disentangle Jewish thought from elements of the Western humanist tradition that threaten Jewish survival and conceal from view the plausibility of core Jewish ideas and values. The work proposes that a healthy and peaceful relationship between Westernism and a robust Jewish identity can be achieved only by unraveling the two, and it presents a philosophical path for achieving this.

Following a precise analysis of modern and postmodern thought that includes discussions of Immanuel Kant, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Ludwig Wittgenstein, George Steiner, Bruno Latour, Hannah Arendt, Jonathan Haidt, Daniel Kahneman, and others, the centerpiece of the book offers a close reading of the masterwork Being and Time, which Martin Heidegger composed in the period when his thought was gravitating toward his endorsement of Hitler and Nazism. This deep dive into Heidegger’s ontological understanding of how the individual (Dasein) interacts with others in space and time yields a method for articulating the onto-theological meanings of key Jewish concepts such as the Nefesh (psyche), the Neshamah (soul), Tzelem Elohim (human being in God’s image), Am Segulah, (Jewish chosenness), Shabbat, the Land of Israel, and more in texts such as the Tanya, the Sefat Emet, the Nefesh HaChayim, the Kedushat Levi, and in the writings of Rav Kook and the Maharal of Prague. Ultimately the book proposes a disentangled spiritual/political vision for a Jewish state that is characterized by the politics of Tikun Olam.

Year first published: 2023

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