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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