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Leibowitz, Yeshayahu (1903–94)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-J061-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Unlike the major intellectual currents that shaped religious thought in the modern world, Leibowitz’s thought is deeply anchored in the Israeli context. Both as philosopher and activist, Leibowitz lived and articulated the paradoxes of modern Israel where he lived and was best known. His reputation as a Socratic gadfly to the establishment reflected his ongoing critique of both Israeli society in the light of Judaism, and Judaism in the light of the revolutionary implications of the creation of the State of Israel.

On the one hand, he was a Jewish patriot, a fighter for Jewish independence from all forms of foreign rule; on the other hand, he was a harsh, relentless critic of national and political expressions of chauvinism in the Israeli establishment. A strictly observant Jew, Leibowitz had less impact on traditional religious Jews than on secular Israelis. His central message is that what makes Jews distinctive as a group is neither their theology nor their Bible, but the system of law with which they regulate their lives. Judaism is a communal concept, and there is no point in religious Jews ignoring the State of Israel, or expecting others to bear their civil burdens for them. Religious law has to be reconciled with life in the political reality of the state, and this necessitates changing those attitudes to the law which reflect the historical conditions of life in exile.

Citing this article:
Hartman, D.. Leibowitz, Yeshayahu (1903–94), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-J061-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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