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Sacred Attunement

A Jewish Theology

Contemporary theology, and Jewish theology in particular, Michael Fishbane asserts, now lies fallow, beset by strong critiques from within and without. For Jewish reality, a coherent and wide-ranging response in thoroughly modern terms is needed. Sacred Attunement is Fishbane’s attempt to renew Jewish theology for our time, in the larger context of modern and postmodern challenges to theology and theological thought in the broadest sense.
The first part of the book regrounds theology in this setting and opens up new pathways through nature, art, and the theological dimension as a whole. In the second section, Fishbane introduces his hermeneutical theology—one grounded in the interpretation of scripture as a distinctly Jewish practice. The third section focuses on modes of self-cultivation for awakening and sustaining a covenant theology. The final section takes up questions of scripture, authority, belief, despair, and obligation as theological topics in their own right.
The first full-scale Jewish theology in America since Abraham J. Heschel’s God in Search of Man and the first comprehensive Jewish philosophical theology since Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption, Sacred Attunement is a work of uncommon personal integrity and originality from one of the most distinguished scholars of Judaica in our time.

256 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2008

Jewish Studies

Religion: Judaism


Sacred Attunement is a profound meditation on the nature and substance of Jewish theological thinking and will immediately be, for general readers and scholars of religion alike, a major work of American Jewish theology. Fishbane’s writing elegantly and lightly bears the depth of his thought and learning while sensitively enacting the very kind of attention and attunement his theology brings to the table.”

Leora F. Batnitzky, Princeton University

“This is theology at its liveliest and deepest. Michael Fishbane is already known as a superb scholar and here he reveals a whole new dimension. From years of immersion in Jewish scriptures, worship, and practice, he has distilled his wisdom into a short, powerful book. It is a landmark in religious thought, utterly Jewish yet with a great deal to teach anyone who wants to understand how it is possible to interpret scriptures with integrity while being fully alert both to God and to contemporary life and knowledge. He offers spirituality and ethics as well as theology, using four classic Jewish modes of interpretation to show how scriptures can shape an intelligent faith for today.”

David Ford, University of Cambridge

“This is a book for which I have long been waiting: a spiritual theology, in which the Bible and its Jewish commentators teach not only Israel but all religious people how to be mindful of God. The author has retrieved the core revelation of Israel from the burden of esoteric erudition, showing how it responds to reason’s quest of Being, to the imagination’s desire to reshape the world in sight and sound, and to the mind’s natural aspiration to become attuned to its divine source.”

Louis Dupré, Yale University

“This book is both an academic and a spiritual event, promising to become a time-spanning theological classic. In an unparalleled way in contemporary thought Michael Fishbane engages the depth and richness of the human mind and heart and the reality of God’s splendor. The book started out as a testament for family and friends. Then it was opened to a wider community of the truth- and justice-seeking in the academy, in religious communities and beyond. Now, Fishbane blesses us all with an immensely rich Jewish theology with a global, indeed universal message. He teaches us how to explore and shape the individually closest and deepest experiences of human life—in the light of the sanctification of the Divine. Drawing from rabbinic sources but engaging many philosophical and aesthetic traditions, this book discloses new definitions, meanings and practices for an intellectually and morally responsible and ennobling spiritual life.”

Michael Welker, Heidelberg University

"A profoundly honest quest for authentic theological expression. . . . I was deeply engaged in what is a nuanced, personal, and very adult guide to the experience of faith."

Gordon Tucker | The Jewish Forward

"A passionately poetic devotion to the ideal of religious living, one that is serious without being preachy. When Fishbane tells us that the reality of God erupted into Jewish consciousness at Sinai, and that we have been trying to make sense of and respond to that event ever since, it is clear that he has been doing this in his own life for a very long time. And his concentrated prose and often poetic and illuminating eloquence help the reader come to grips with this task in a fresh and powerful way."

Roger S. Gottlieb | Tikkun

"Fishbane’s book is a successful attempt to discern God and humanity in the ongoing flux of historical culture. This work of originality could become a primary text for doing Jewish theology in our academic milieu. Fishbane offers a human way to be mindful of God and attuned to divine life in this lucid work that illuminates the nexus of human activity and revelation in all its praiseworthy diversity. It should become a perennial resource in any study of comparative theology."

Donald J. Dietrich | Shofar

“In this magisterial volume…Fishbane deftly examines some of the more salient reasons for this ever-increasing reluctance [by the Jews] to engage in theology….From the perspective of the trajectory of modern Jewish thought, Sacred Attunement marks a welcome shift to a postapologetic theological discourse. Fishbane does not seek to explain and justify his fidelity to his ancestral faith before a forum of philosophers or other self-appointed custodians of wisdom and reason. He suffices with a witness to ‘a journey of spiritual quest’ as embodied in the life of a pious Jew. Reading this testimony is in itself to be attuned to the sacred.”

Paul Mendes-Flohr | Journal of Religion

Table of Contents


1   Toward Theology  
Rethinking Theology: Some Preliminary Considerations  
Three Domains of Human Being  
From General to Jewish Theology  
2   A Jewish Hermeneutical Theology  
Sinai and Torah  
Torah and Hermeneutical Theology  
3   Religious Practice and Forms of Attention  
Preliminary Thoughts about Living Theologically  
The Practice of Halakha  
The Life of Prayer  
The Process of Study  
Radical Kindness  
4   Forms of Thought and Living Theology  
Scripture as the Ground of Life and Thought  
Emunah and Theological Integrity  
Futility and the Sense of Hevel  
Be-khol Atar ve-Atar: Central Places  
Toward a Theology of Hiyyuv  
“In the cranny of the rock, in the hiddenness”  
Sof ve-Ein Sof: Finitude and Infinity  

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