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The Judaism that is defined by its canonical writings (the Hebrew Bible, Mishnah, Talmuds, and Midrash) tells the story of how hope overcomes despair. Neusner explores the way rabbinic Judaism has responded to social, cultural, and political crises by rethinking historical, received paradigms of piety and practice---and finding in them relevant, useful truth for the current situation.
When faced with acute and catastrophic events, the Rabbinic sages explored anew the received paradigms and truth of their faith and discovered in them truth that is both continuous with the past and responsive to the contemporary unanticipated crisis. Neusner offers a broad thesis, theological at its core: when defeat turns to despair, Judaism comes to a turning point. And with the response to despair, in an act of stubborn affirmation, Judaism is transformed.
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