On Sac­ri­fice

Moshe Hal­ber­tal
  • Review
By – June 12, 2012

If one of the lessons of the Bib­li­cal and Midrashic accounts of the giv­ing of the Torah at Sinai is that rev­e­la­tions abound in small venues, then this is an apt metaphor for this small, fas­ci­nat­ing, and bril­liant work by not­ed schol­ar and philoso­pher Moshe Hal­ber­tal. Cov­er­ing issues of sac­ri­fice to and sac­ri­fice for, Hal­ber­tal takes the read­er on a thought-pro­vok­ing jour­ney from the bib­li­cal sto­ry of Cain and Abel through the bind­ing of Isaac and into mod­ern times, with reflec­tions on the mean­ing of indi­vid­ual and nation­al sac­ri­fice as it man­i­fests itself in mil­i­tary actions and wars con­duct­ed by both Israel and the Unit­ed States. Issues of sac­ri­fice” as it relates to con­cepts of gifts, exchange, love, afflic­tion and suf­fer­ing, implic­it pos­si­bil­i­ties for rejec­tion, sub­sti­tu­tion and atone­ment, prayer and mar­tyr­dom are all deft­ly pre­sent­ed along with issues of the indi­vid­ual ver­sus self-tran­scen­dence. The ways in which we as peo­ple, reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties, and nations can fall prey to ratio­nal­iza­tions in which the high­est notions of sac­ri­fice are blend­ed in with the basest lev­els of vio­lence, to ret­ro­spec­tive­ly jus­ti­fy the sac­ri­fices that have been made in the name of a good, bad and/​or ambigu­ous cause, leaves us with much to pon­der about our­selves and the worlds in which we live. Index, notes 

William Liss-Levin­son is vice pres­i­dent, chief strat­e­gy & oper­a­tions offi­cer of Cas­tle Con­nol­ly Med­ical Ltd., a con­sumer health research, infor­ma­tion, and pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny. He holds a Ph.D. in edu­ca­tion and is a mem­ber of the board of direc­tors of the Jew­ish Book Council.

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