From Defender to Critic

The Search for a New Jewish Self


Dr. David Hartman, the world’s leading modern Orthodox theologian, presents his own painful spiritual evolution from defender of the rule-based system of Jewish law to revolutionary proponent of a theology of empowerment, one that encourages individuals and communities to take greater levels of responsibility for their religious lives. In this daring self-examination, he explained how his goals were not to strip halakha—or the past—of its authority but to create a space for questioning and critique that allows for the traditionally religious Jew to act out a moral life in tune with modern experience.

In achieving this synthesis of tradition with the sensibilities of contemporary Judaism, Hartman captures precisely what creates vitality in living Judaism and charts the path to nurture its vitality forever.


“What matters to Hartman is the truth, not the source―even if it’s the Torah. Courageous…. Every serious Jew should read this inspiring and enlightening book.”
Jewish Media Review

“Another essential and prophetic work from one of the great religious thinkers of the age. This deeply felt book is intensely personal yet intellectually rigorous – a challenge and a consolation for everyone who looks for God.” James Carroll, author, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World