A Hindu-Jewish Conversation: Root Traditions in Dialogue is a historical, theological, and phenomenological engagement of the Hindu and Jewish traditions, two “root” traditions that give rise to other—in some ways very different—types of religious traditions. Rachel Fell McDermott and Daniel F. Polish explore conceptions of the divine, which are frequently cited as the most serious obstacle to a serious theological engagement between the two traditions; differences in attitude towards heroes, saints, and holy people; the religious resources and challenges experienced by Hindu and Jewish women; what can be learned about Hindu and Jewish spiritual outpouring by comparing Hindu devotional poetry and the Book of Psalms; the ways in which the two traditions address the fraught question of theodicy, or why bad things happen to good people; the status of “the land” and nationalist claims on it; and the uncomfortable question of caste and its possible social parallels in the Jewish tradition. The authors weave considerations of these topics into an ongoing conversation that offers students of both traditions new ways of thinking both about their intersections and about the history of religion in general. A coda explores these same issues by recounting an actual series of discussions convened between Hindu and Jewish practitioners.
Rachel Fell McDermott is professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Barnard College, Columbia University.
Daniel F. Polish teaches in the philosophy and religion department at Marist College.
Introduction: Why Compare Jewish and Hindu Traditions?
Chapter 1: Image Worship: Legitimacy, Illegitimacy, and Theological Debate
Chapter 2: Patterns of Perfection? Heroes and Holy People
Chapter 3: Jewish Woman, Hindu Woman
Chapter 4: Intimate Relations: Psalms and Bhakti Poetry
Chapter 5: Why Do Bad Things Happen to Us? Comparative Reflections on Theodicy
Chapter 6: The Land in Jewish and Hindu Traditions
Chapter 7: The Uncomfortable Question of Caste (and Possible Jewish Analogues)
Conclusion: Testing Theory in Lived Encounter
A Hindu-Jewish Conversation: Root Traditions in Dialogue is one of the most significant books to emerge in recent times in the rising discipline of Hindu-Jewish Studies. It represents a significant contribution to this emerging field, offering an examination of a wide range of topics and a rich diversity of perspectives within both traditions. This volume underscores significant affinities in a wide variety of topics such as image worship, heroes and holy people, women, devotion, theodicy, sacred geography and the land, caste and untouchability and lived encounter between the two religions. As such, this study aspires to encompass a wider range of issues within the Hindu-Jewish encounter; it is grounded in extensive bibliography which makes it much more authoritative, is an excellent resource for classrooms but also speaks in accessible language for the non-specialist. Rachel McDermott and Daniel Polish are to be congratulated for this achievement, highly recommended.