Green asks: What Does God want you to do? or as Green puts it Who are you? What does it mean to be human?
For Green, the answer must come from our sense of Creation that includes all of humanity, we need to internalize a universalist concept that man is the image of God. (We don’t get an ethicist’s or jurist’s list of ethical principles.) There is an evolutionary human development toward greater universalism. So rather than giving us a theory of justice, we get a discussion of how can we still use the kabbalistic language of soul as a basis for universalism. Green strength is his personal honesty to state that he is hesitant to use the word metaphysical word soul but then turns it around to preserve the holy language of the soul by stating that the soul is the recognition that we are a holy being enjoined to remember to respect and rejoin the pantheistic source of all being. Immortality is the acknowledgment of the circle of life. There are new babies and new flowers and eternal renewal. (What I get is a sensibility more than universal values.)
Green places the current debate among Israeli Religious Zionists about universalism in a footnote but does not enter the fray. What did Hazal do with the universal principles of image of God and Love thy neighbor? Alon Goshen-Gottstein sees these ideas as too universal for Hazal while Yair Lorberbaum shows how Maimonides and Nahmanides retained aspects of these ideas to create metaphysics. [As a contrast to Green, when Rav Cherlow asks this question of what God wants from you– he responds with a compassionate Jewish law of values.]
Green states that he is not worried over who is a Jew, and other discredited nineteenth century ideas like race and peoplehood. He feels that there is too much emphasis in Jewish life on the insecurity of our existence and not enough on our status as seekers. Choosing of Israel does not mean rejection of other people. The Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War created a lasting impression on Jews. But Israel and the law of return is still bound to the Nuremburg laws. Jews are seekers, not a race. (echoes of Avraham Burg, but the later advocates ethics.) For Green, between the universal seeker and tribal Jew is the Jewish seeker.
Green does not consider the way the Jewish seeker plays itself out in real life. Two common forms of the Jewish seeker are (1) the tribal seeker, who has a universal Judaism and hates other faiths or commitments. he Bu-Jew with a hatred of Christianity and Islam. (2)Or those so tribal that they say anything she touches is Jewish. This second Jewish seeker is adamant that any fragment of Buddhism or Yoga that they like is a fulfillment of Judaism
Green describes himself as a religious Jew and secular Zionist. There is no religious or messianic status to the land of Israel. But essentially he remains a diasporist.
Green has a nice section on his differences from Heschel. For Heschel, one actually gives to God when performing a mizvah- there is real theurgy. Heschel had a Biblical personalist image of with mystical overtones, and Green admits that he is a pantheist with personalist overtones A pantheistic God as energy that offers blessing – meaning an energy that adds value and meaning to the world. Heschel was God’s partner- he translated prophetic and kabbalistic language into personalist language.Heschel has traditional views of God, Torah, Israel. Heschel approach to the law was apologetic combined with a plea for more compassion and decency. Green approach is heterodoxy. Green acknowledges that Heschel has both a progressive approach, which Green likes, but also a strong conservative trend.
Well was this book a vision for the 21st century future of Judaism or was it just the spiritual autobiography of a baby-boomer?