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Judaica / Religion / Ethics


The Making of a Sage
A Study in Rabbinic Ethics
Jonathan Wyn Schofer


"Schofer . . . writes with elegance and verve."
—Martin S. Jaffee, University of Washington

A 2008 Notable Selection for the Jordan Schnitzer Book Award for Jewish Thought and Philosophy, awarded by the Association for Jewish Studies

The Making of a Sage: A Study in Rabbinic Ethics
offers the first theoretically framed examination of rabbinic ethics in several decades. Centering on one large and influential anthology entitled The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan, Jonathan Schofer situates that text within a broader spectrum of rabbinic thought, while at the same time bringing rabbinic thought into dialogue with current scholarship on the self, ethics, theology, and the history of religions.

The Making of a Sage provides a full treatment of Rabbi Nathan highlighting the text's pedagogical features and strong emphasis upon tradition and theology. It emphasizes the centrality of religious authorities for rabbinic character formation: aspiring sages aim to transform their emotions and desires through entering into particular relations of subordination with their teachers, tradition, and deity. The book also analyzes in detail the ways rabbis frame this dynamic of chosen or elected subjection and discusses its significance for contemporary ethical theory.

"Written with clarity and assertiveness, The Making of a Sage opens up a whole new area of study for Judaica, insofar as it adapts and integrates materials from discussions about ancient philosophies of self-transformation, as well as value ethics, and applies them to a major rabbinic source." —Michael Fishbane, Nathan Cummings Professor of Jewish Studies, The University of Chicago

Jonathan Wyn Schofer is associate professor of comparative ethics at Harvard Divinity school. He has written articles on rabbinic literature for the Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy and the Association for Jewish Studies Review, and his long-standing interest in ethics includes a study of early Confucian ethics published in the Journal of Religious Ethics in 1993.

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cover of Schofer has an illustrative treatment of some Hebrew text

January 2005
LC: 2004012862 BM
324 pp.   6 x 9

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"Schofer is thoroughly familiar with conventional textual studies of Rabbi Nathan, brings to his textual readings a superb comparative religions training in the ethical traditions of other scholastic communities, and writes with elegance and verve."
—Martin S. Jaffee, professor of comparative religion and Jewish studies at the University of Washington

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