Thinking about Good and Evil Jewish Views from Antiquity to Modernity

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  • Rabbi Wayne Allen (author)
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About the Book

2021 Winner, The Academy of Parish Clergy’s Top 5 List of Reference Books for Clergy

The most comprehensive book on the topic, Thinking about Good and Evil traces the most salient Jewish ideas about why innocent people seem to suffer, why evil individuals seem to prosper, and God’s role in such matters of (in)justice, from antiquity to the present.

Starting with the Bible and Apocrypha, Rabbi Wayne Allen takes us through the Talmud; medieval Jewish philosophers and Jewish mystical sources; the Ba’al Shem Tov and his disciples; early modern thinkers such as Spinoza, Mendelssohn, and Luzzatto; and, finally, modern thinkers such as Cohen, Buber, Kaplan, and Plaskow. Each chapter analyzes individual thinkers’ arguments and synthesizes their collective ideas on the nature of good and evil and questions of justice. Allen also exposes vastly divergent Jewish thinking about the Holocaust: traditionalist (e.g., Ehrenreich), revisionist (e.g., Rubinstein, Jonas), and deflective (e.g., Soloveitchik, Wiesel).

The conclusion includes Jewish answers as to why there is evil in the world and why human beings suffer, summarizing this engaging, accessible volume, which illuminates well-known, obscure, and novel Jewish solutions to the problem of good and evil.

“Illuminating analysis. . . . Allen produces a nuanced, vital exploration. . . . Allen’s work as a congregational rabbi enables him to imbue this sophisticated yet accessible guide with heartfelt emotion. This remarkable guide will be of interest to any Jewish reader contemplating God’s role in suffering.”Publishers Weekly

“Rabbi Wayne Allen translates a lifetime of deep reflection about the most vexing question posed for Jewish faith, and indeed all religious faith, into an exceptional encounter with the myriad thinkers who have struggled with it.”—James A. Diamond, author of Jewish Theology Unbound
Thinking about Good and Evil is impressive for its comprehensiveness, scholarship, accessibility, and originality—dealing with sources largely if not completely ignored, usually because they have never before been translated into English.”—Rabbi David Novak, author of Jewish Justice
“A comprehensive, learned, and clear exploration of Judaism’s many answers to the most difficult question: why does God permit evil? Both novices and scholars will find much here to stimulate their thoughts and stir their souls.”—Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple

Rabbi Wayne Allen

Rabbi Wayne Allen serves as the co-chair of the Rabbinics Department of the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto. He is the author of Prescription for an Ailing World and Perspectives on Jewish Law and Contemporary Issues, among other books.

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