From world-renowned public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy comes an incisive and provocative look at the heart of Judaism.
“A smart, revealing, and essential book for our times.”—The Washington Post
For more than four decades, Bernard-Henri Lévy has been a singular figure on the world stage—one of the great moral voices of our time. Now Europe's foremost philosopher and activist confronts his spiritual roots and the religion that has always inspired and shaped him—but that he has never fully reckoned with.
The Genius of Judaism is a breathtaking new vision and understanding of what it means to be a Jew, a vision quite different from the one we’re used to. It is rooted in the Talmudic traditions of argument and conflict, rather than biblical commandments, borne out in struggle and study, not in blind observance. At the very heart of the matter is an obligation to the other, to the dispossessed, and to the forgotten, an obligation that, as Lévy vividly recounts, he has sought to embody over decades of championing “lost causes,” from Bosnia to Africa’s forgotten wars, from Libya to the Kurdish Peshmerga’s desperate fight against the Islamic State, a battle raging as we speak. Lévy offers a fresh, surprising critique of a new and stealthy form of anti-Semitism on the rise as well as a provocative defense of Israel from the left. He reveals the overlooked Jewish roots of Western democratic ideals and confronts the current Islamist threat while intellectually dismantling it. Jews are not a “chosen people,” Lévy explains, but a “treasure” whose spirit must continue to inform moral thinking and courage today.
Lévy’s most passionate book, and in many ways his most personal, The Genius of Judaism is a great, profound, and hypnotic intellectual reckoning—indeed a call to arms—by one of the keenest and most insightful writers in the world.
Praise for The Genius of Judaism
“In The Genius of Judaism, Lévy elaborates on his credo by rebutting the pernicious and false logic behind current anti-Semitism and defends Israel as the world’s most successful multi-ethnic democracy created from scratch. Lévy also makes the case for France’s Jews being integral to the establishment of the French nation, the French language, and French literature. And last, but certainly not least, he presents a striking interpretation of the Book of Jonah. . . . A tour de force.”—Forbes
“Ardent . . . Lévy’s message is essentially uplifting: that the brilliant scholars of Judaism, the authors of the Talmud, provide elucidation into ‘the great questions that have stirred humanity since the dawn of time.’ . . . A philosophical celebration of Judaism.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Lévy (Left in Dark Times), a prominent French journalist and politically engaged philosopher, turns his observations inward here, pondering the teachings of Judaism and the role they have played in contemporary European history as well as in his own life and intellectual inquiry. . . . [Lévy’s] musings on the meaning of the story of Jonah and the relevance of symbolic Ninevahs in our time are both original and poetic. . . . A welcome addition to his oeuvre.”—Publishers Weekly