The Triumph of Life A Narrative Theology of Judaism

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  • Rabbi Irving Greenberg (author)
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August 2024

The Triumph of Life is Rabbi Irving Greenberg’s magnum opus—a narrative of the relationship between God and humanity as expressed in the Jewish journey through modernity, the Holocaust, the creation of Israel, and the birth of Judaism’s next era.

Greenberg describes Judaism’s utopian vision of a world, created by a God who loves life, who invites humans to live on the side of life and enables the forces of life to triumph over death. The Bible proclaims our mission of tikkun olam, repairing the world, such that every human image of God is sustained in the fullness of our dignity. To achieve this ideal, Judaism offers the method of covenant—realistic, personal, incremental—a partnership between God and humanity across generations in which human beings grow ever more responsible for world repair.

Greenberg calls on us to redirect humanity’s unprecedented power in modernity to overcome poverty, oppression, inequality, sickness, and war. The work of covenant requires an ethic of power—one that advances life collaboratively and at a human pace—so that the Jewish people and all humanity can bring the world toward the triumph of life.

The Triumph of Life is a theological masterpiece: a deeply inspiring religious treatise and a revolutionary work of religious and ethical thought that will undoubtedly be studied in seminaries of all faiths, universities, and adult study groups for generations to come.”—Rabbi Avi Weiss, founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat
“With its combination of maturity and freshness, The Triumph of Life reminds one of such late-in-life masterpieces as Verdi’s Falstaff or Monet’s Water Lilies murals. Dazzling in its breadth and sweep, it skillfully integrates macroscopic views of Judaism and Jewish history with precise, often microscopic, details of that religion and history—thereby not only concretizing Rabbi Greenberg’s innovative vision but endowing those details with new meaning and significance.”—Lawrence Kaplan, translator of Halakhic Man and associate professor of Jewish studies at McGill University
“The culminating expression of Rabbi Irving Greenberg’s profound erudition and critical thinking is invaluable.”—Rabbi David Ellenson, chancellor emeritus, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion
The Triumph of Life is exhilarating. A culmination of a lifetime of theological reflection from the visionary thinker Rabbi Irving Greenberg, it offers us a stunning portrait of the Jewish tradition as a grand drama in which God and the Jewish people dream together of a perfect world and work painstakingly to bring it about. Read this book and you will never see the Jewish tradition the same way again.”—Rabbi Shai Held, president and dean at Hadar and author of The Heart of Torah
The Triumph of Life urges voluntary continuation of the original Jewish commitment to covenantal obligation, based on the understanding that what appears to be God’s gradual withdrawal from intervention in human affairs actually represents a hidden but deeper, more intimate, and mature level of connection with the Divine, grounded on recognition of the importance of human agency in realizing life on all levels as the supreme value. Such enhancement of human responsibility demands development of an equitable ethic of power that allows for pluralism and corrects radicalized interpretations of tradition in light of the evolution of human understanding. Greenberg’s culmination of nearly a lifetime of effort is a must-read for all those who grapple with the ability of traditional views of religion to survive today’s open society and the challenges of relativism raised by life in a postmodern age.”—Tamar Ross, professor emerita, Department of Jewish Philosophy, Bar-Ilan University
The Triumph of Life is a brilliant, complex, sophisticated, and accessible guide to becoming a better person and a more effective force in bringing society to a brighter future.”—Rabbi Asher Lopatin, former president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah
The Triumph of Life is a visionary, profound, and highly original study of major significance.”—Steven T. Katz, Alvin J. and Shirley Slater Chair in Jewish Holocaust Studies, Boston University
“Rabbi Irving Greenberg is a sage for our time. I highly recommend his inspiring book, The Triumph of Life. His perceptive elucidation of the ways the Divine-human partnership unfolds in Jewish covenantal life offers a capacious vision of Judaism that also transcends the particularities of Jewish life, speaking profoundly to all those seeking wisdom for the healing of our broken world. We Christians have much to learn from him, both to deepen our understanding of Jewish traditions and to reanimate our commitment to participate in the common call to engage in world repair.”—Mary C. Boys, Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology, Union Theological Seminary, New York City
“Rabbi Greenberg’s hopeful vision of the meaning of Judaism is an inspiring, uplifting, energizing manifesto that also impels me to be a more faithful Christian. The Triumph of Life affirms our calling to actively partner with God in covenant for the healing of the world as we anticipate that day when all people will be treated with the dignity implied by our creation as the image of God.”—J. Richard Middleton, professor of biblical worldview and exegesis, Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan University
“Judaism may be based in the notion of a divine-human partnership, but people must now take the lead in forging a more perfect world, according to this ambitious treatise from Rabbi [Yitz] Greenberg… Greenberg’s reminder to ‘start where you are’ in creating a freer, more just society is wise, even if his vision for an ideal world sometimes seems out of reach. Readers will be inspired.”Publishers Weekly

Rabbi Irving Greenberg

Rabbi Irving Greenberg is a preeminent Jewish thinker, theologian, activist, president of the J.J. Greenberg Institute for the Advancement of Jewish Life, and senior scholar in residence at Hadar. He is the author of five books, including For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter between Judaism and Christianity (JPS, 2004).

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