Skip to main content

Fragile Finitude

A Jewish Hermeneutical Theology

The world we engage with is a vibrant collage brought to consciousness by language and our creative imagination. It is through the symbolic forms of language that the human world of value is revealed—this is where religious scholar Michael Fishbane dwells in his latest contribution to Jewish thought.

In Fragile Finitude, Fishbane clears new ground for a theological life through a novel reinterpretation of the Book of Job. On this basis, he offers a contemporary engagement with the four classical types of Jewish Scriptural exegesis. The first focuses on worldly experience, the second on communal forms of practice and thought in the rabbinical tradition, the third on personal development, and the fourth on transcendent, cosmic orientations. Through these four modes, Fishbane manages to transform Jewish theology from within, at once reinvigorating a long tradition and moving beyond it. What he offers is nothing short of a way to reorient our lives in relation to the divine and our fellow humans. Written from within the Jewish tradition, Fragile Finitude is intended for readers across the religious spectrum.


Fragile Finitude is replete with strong readings of scripture . . . [which] stand out as a tour de force that rewards rereading . . . in this learned and often beautiful book.”

Theological Studies

"Perhaps no scholar has exerted a more decisive influence on the study of Jewish thought and theology over the past half century than Michael Fishbane. Continuing his recent engagement with Jewish theology, in Fragile Finitude: A Jewish Hermeneutical Theology, Professor Fishbane articulates a four-fold matrix of theological thought and inquiry that addresses the modern person in all her complexity and perplexity, charting a path toward deep encounter, and deep meaning, to be found through engagement with life, text, and life as text."

New Books Network

"Fragile Finitude extends the fourfold model of interpretation, offering it as a method for hearing the divine voice and for making sense not only of canonical texts but of personal experience. . . Fragile Finitude is a demanding work that asks a great deal from the reader, but it is also me’irat eynayim — illuminating and eye opening — awakening its readers to the Jewish — and human — task of living in the presence of the sacred."

Jewish Review of Books

Fragile Finitude is a groundbreaking work of post-critical Jewish theology—a tour de force of rigorous thinking, commanding erudition, and genuine wisdom. With the book’s musicality of style, reading it becomes an inspiring spiritual practice that sweeps the reader into various modes of consciousness. It is a vital gift to a world in need of spiritual replenishment.”

Elie Holzer, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

 “Fishbane’s profound meditations on life, language, and the connection between them constitute a vital text for today’s religious seeker. The deep piety and unflagging humanity of his words constantly reinforce one another, giving birth to a remarkable wholeness of vision.”

Art Green, author of Radical Judaism: Rethinking God and Tradition

“In this eloquent book, Fishbane re-interprets traditional Jewish theological thinking, providing us with a guide to a complex and humane hermeneutical process for our time. Closely reading biblical and rabbinic texts, he evokes deepening intensities of meaning-making and limns forth a path of spiritual growth. It is a profound reading experience.”

Avivah Zornberg, author of Moses: A Human Life

“In explicating with poetic grace the spiritual wisdom of Judaism’s ever-evolving hermeneutic theology, Fishbane provides a veritable ‘Guide of the Perplexed’ for contemporary Jewry befuddled by the cognitive and existential challenges of modernity. This masterful meditation on the fragile finitude of humanity addresses all faith communities.”

Paul Mendes-Flohr, University of Chicago and Hebrew University of Jerusalem

"Fishbane’s work is to recover and exhibit the wondrous daring of rabbinic interpretation and to show how such engagement can yield fresh faith amid our contemporary life... While Fishbane’s work is wholly Jewish, non-Jewish readers can be instructed by the awareness that our best certitudes are provisional, and that good work in interpretation of the sacred text may yield access to the holy mystery that is beyond us. Fishbane’s idiom of expression is poetic and finally prayerful."

Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology

Table of Contents


Part One: Introduction

Interlude One

Part Two: Peshat

Interlude Two

Part Three: Derash

Interlude Three

Part Four: Remez

Interlude Four

Part Five: Sod




Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press