7 Elements of Jewish Thinking
Whether it's disguised as faith or as values or as decision-making or problem-solving or creativity, it's all Jewish thinking.
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The root of Judaism, from the Bible to the Talmud to the State of Israel and everything else, is thinking.
Theological ideas can be deduced from the Bible, although they are rarely stated explicitly and unambiguously. Even monotheism, perhaps the most significant of all Jewish theological claims, is not clear-cut in the Bible. Many scholars believe that the biblical worldview reflects, in many places, a perspective that is fundamentally monolatrous (that is, it endorses allegiance to one specific God among many) rather than monotheistic.1
Some later biblical books — such as Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs — which are categorized as Wisdom Literature, because of the advice and insight they give about daily living, deal more explicitly with intellectual and conceptual themes. But even in these books, the ideas are (more often than not) imparted in an anecdotal or aphoristic way, not through reason and argumentation.
The Middle Ages was the golden era of Jewish philosophy. In Spain, Jewish thinkers embraced the rational thought of the classical Greek philosophers and began to systematically analyze the Jewish religion. Thinkers such as Saadiah Gaon and Maimonides tried to reconcile the claims of reason and revelation.2
The Enlightenment ushered in an increasingly secular age, and Western philosophy drifted away from traditional religious ideas. In response, modern Jewish thinkers articulated world views which integrated Judaism with this new secular reality.
Trends in non-Jewish thinking have always influenced Jewish thought. Medieval philosophers plundered classical Greek sources and studied their Muslim contemporaries. In the modern era, this interaction between Jewish and non-Jewish thought continued, as many general philosophical trends spawned Jewish counterparts. Moses Mendelssohn interpreted Judaism in terms of rational Enlightenment ideas; Hermann Cohen conceived of Judaism in neo-Kantian terms; Martin Buber developed a Jewish existentialism.
Whether it’s disguised as faith or as values or as decision-making or problem-solving or creativity, it’s all Jewish thinking, which can be broken down into seven timeless elements. They are: