Gordis's message is simple: Judaism merits the attention of modern Jews by virtue of its potential role as a compelling and enriching enterprise that helps define who and what Jews are. But to reach American Jews who have dismissed Judaism as a path to spirituality is a more complex undertaking. Gordis, who teaches at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, explores belief in God, sacred texts, ritual, mitzvoth, prayer and ethics. The entry point of his argument is that Judaism doesn't demand blind faith. ``Doubt is what fuels the journey,'' he writes. ``Jewish tradition validates the part of humanity that is always wondering.'' Sacred texts, he contends, act as teachers that allow us to join a profound and timeless conversation. The experimental nature of Judaism, coupled with its built-in discipline, is key to achieving a sense of connection, continuity and transcendence. The title, taken from the passage in Kings that describes the prophet Elijah's encounter with God, reflects Gordis's philosophy that Judaism's distinctive way of life is geared toward creating relationships with God and with human beings. A why-do instead of a how-to. (Sept.)
Alarmed by the fact that American Jews are abandoning Judaism at an unprecedented rate, Rabbi Gordis examines the reasons for the apathy this development seems to indicate. He finds that American Jews' defection is not merely because of society's openness, but rather because for many the old ties to Jewish life have eroded and most Jews see no plausible justification for preserving them. Modern Jewish communities have failed to tailor a message about Judaism's meaning for bright, educated, and sophisticated Jews. To those Jews, therefore, Judaism seems outmoded, confining, and often utterly incomprehensible. Gordis' ultimate aim is to portray Jewish life as far more meaningful and spiritually enriching than it has seemed in the recent past.