The Heart of the Matter


The Heart of the Matter

Studies in Jewish Mysticism and Theology

Arthur Green

A JPS Scholar of Distinction Book Series

392 pages


April 2015


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April 2015


$55.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Judaism, like all the great religions, has a strand within it that sees inward devotion, the opening of the human heart to God’s presence, to be the purpose of its entire edifice of praxis, liturgy, and way of life. This voice is not always easy to hear in a tradition where so much attention is devoted to the how rather than the why of religious living. The devotional claim, certainly a key part of Judaism’s biblical heritage, has reasserted itself in the teachings of individual mystics and in the emergence of religious movements over the long course of Jewish history. This volume represents Arthur Green’s own quest for such a Judaism—as a rabbi, as a scholar, and as a contemporary seeker. 

This collection of essays brings together Green’s scholarly writings, centered on the history of early Hasidism, and his highly personal approach to a rebirth of Jewish spirituality in our own day. In choosing to present them in this way he asserts a claim that they are all of a piece. They represent one man’s attempt to wade through history and text, language and symbol, and an array of voices both past and present while always focusing on the essential questions: “What does it mean to be a religious human being, and what does Judaism teach us about how to be one?” This, the author considers to be the heart of the matter.

Author Bio

Arthur Green is Irving Brudnick Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Religion and rector of the Rabbinical School at Hebrew College. Recognized as one of the world’s preeminent authorities on Jewish thought and spirituality, he is also a prolific author. His most recent books are Radical Judaism; Speaking Torah: Spiritual Teachings from around the Maggid’s Table; and Judaism’s Ten Best Ideas: A Brief Guide for Seekers.


"This is a welcome addition to the scholarly literature on a subject that is finally getting the attention it deserves."—Marion M. Stein, Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter

“Rabbi Green has been the foremost scholar of Hasidism in the world and one of the great leaders of spiritual renewal in Jewish life for more than four decades. In The Heart of the Matter he displays the brilliance and dazzling breadth of his scholarship and lays bare the depths of his heart and soul as they have animated him throughout his lifetime. Both his exceptional knowledge and his fiery passions as revealed in these essays provide great scholarly and personal insights for the reader. This is a book to savor!”—Rabbi David Ellenson, chancellor of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

“Arthur Green combines a passion for deep and rigorous scholarship with an unflagging commitment to serving the Jewish people. This volume is a fitting tribute to a remarkable man and an extraordinary career.”—Rabbi Shai Held, president, dean, and chair in Jewish Thought at Mechon Hadar


“Arthur Green never loses sight of the essence, the heart that beats within. . . . This work is a river of living waters connecting heart, mind, and spirit, flowing through past, present, and future.”—Melila Hellner-Eshed, professor of Jewish mysticism at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute

Table of Contents

Preface: Looking Back

Part 1. Judaism: The Religious Life
1. Introduction to Jewish Spirituality
2. Sabbath as Temple: Some Thoughts on Space and Time in Judaism
3. Some Aspects of Qabbalat Shabbat
4. Judaism and “The Good”

Part 2. Theology and Mysticism in Classical Sources
5. Bride, Spouse, Daughter: Images of the Feminine in Classical Jewish Sources
6. The Children in Egypt and the Theophany at the Sea
7. The Song of Songs in Early Jewish Mysticism

Part 3. Hasidism: Mysticism for the Masses
8. Around the Maggid’s Table: Tsaddik, Leadership, and Popularization in the Circle of Dov Baer of Miedzyrzec
9. Typologies of Leadership and the Hasidic Zaddiq
10. The Zaddiq as Axis Mundi in Later Judaism
11. Hasidism: Discovery and Retreat
12. Levi Yizhak of Berdichev on Miracles

Part 4. Contemporary Jewish Theology
13. A Neo-Hasidic Credo
14. Restoring the Aleph: Judaism for the Contemporary Seeker
15. A Kabbalah for the Environmental Age
16. Abraham Joshua Heschel: Recasting Hasidism for Moderns
17. Personal Theology: An Address to Rabbis

Source Acknowledgments
Bibliography of the Published Writings of Arthur Green

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