What is living and what is dead in the Jewish thought of Leo Strauss? This question requires considering two of Strauss’s earlier books, published in Germany in the 1930s and made available in English translations decades later: Spinoza’s Critique of Religion (1930) and Philosophy and Law: Essays Toward the Understanding of Maimonides and His Predecessors (1935). Also, the past 25 years have seen the publication of two collections of Strauss’s articles in this area: Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity (1997), and Leo Strauss on Maimonides: The Complete Writings (2012).

In Strauss, Spinoza & Sinai, 18 scholars respond to the arguments in these works by asking what “serious contemporary thinkers within Orthodox Judaism” say regarding Strauss’s defense of it. Traditional Jews live according to the Torah, the law of Moses, and its traditional Rabbinic interpretation. As one essay in this volume explains, Strauss positioned himself largely as an outsider to these Rabbinic traditions: he did not in his personal life hold himself out as observant of Jewish law, and his scholarship betrays little familiarity with Rabbinic Judaism apart from a limited corpus of Jewish philosophical texts. Strauss presents himself as a Zionist and an anti-assimilationist: a loyal Jew in the political sense, but hardly a devout

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