On Tuesday night, November 23, 2010, the Hartman Institute Beit Midrash was packed from wall to wall with an eager audience of listeners tuned in to a topic no less vital than that of Creation itself. The speaker was Professor Arthur Green, Rector of the Hebrew College Rabbinical School in Newton, Massachusetts, on the theme of his new book, “Radical Judaism: Re-Thinking Basics for the 21st Century.”
By “basics” Professor Green means the foundations of religion and all existence—Creation, evolution and their ultimate purpose in the world. His talk touched upon matters as diverse as Hasidism, environmentalism, science and philosophy.
As he wrote in Tikkun earlier this year:
“As a religious person I believe that the evolution of species is the greatest sacred drama of all time. It dwarfs all the other narratives, memories, and images that so preoccupy the mind of religious traditions, including our own. We Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all over-involved with proclaiming — or questioning — the truth of our own particular stories. Did Moses really receive the Torah from God at Mount Sinai? Did Jesus truly rise from the tomb? Was Muhammad indeed God’s chosen messenger? We refine our debates about these forever, each group certain as to its own narrative’s place as the center of universal history. In the modern world, where all these tales are challenged, we work out sophisticated and non-literalist ways of proclaiming our faith in them. But there is a bigger story, infinitely bigger, and one that we all share. How did we get here, we humans, and where are we going? For more than a century and a half, educated Westerners have understood that this is the tale of evolution. But we religious folk, the great tale-tellers of our respective traditions, have been guarded and cool toward this story and have hesitated to make it our own. The time has come to embrace it and to uncover its sacred dimensions.”
In the course of his lecture, Professor Green would occasionally recognize Hartman scholars in the audience and call out a greeting. The stately Beit Midrash became an intimate setting wherein Professor Green recounted his own spiritual transformation through the years—experiences which helped form the basis for the ideas which are put forth in “Radical Judaism.”
Among his many previous writings, Professor Green is author of the definitive biography of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav.