Thursday, March 15, 2007

Accommodating to The Times; "Left" and "Right"

I only offer this that it be out there. I don't agree with every aspect of his critiques, but...just so it's out there.

“The Orthodox Right complains that the centrist/modernists have compromised the sacred tradition with secular syncretism, but can point to no explicit violation of halachic statute. And precisely because no explicit statue can be cited, the centrist/modernist deviation is all the more threatening [previously he points out the perceived greater threat Modern Orthodoxy poses to Charedi Judaism than Conservative/Reform, etc].
Since the haredi critique of centrist/modernist Orthodoxy cannot be justified on the basis of explicit Jewish law, appeals to metalegal principles must be mustered to advance the critique [not unlike the Reformers...while not wanting to advance haredi critique - I might muster metalegal principles to prevent the sanctioning of slavery, Toddler brides, etc!! Yuter is an opponent of Natural Law, and most likely an opponent of any sort of “self-evident” truths or natural morality by which halakha is further grasped; see R. Yitzhak Blau’s piece]. While some of its adherents fail to observe Jewish law in its entirety, centrist/modernist Judaism has not advocated a reformulation of the halakhic system. Since classical Jewish law, literally understood, affords greater autonomy than haredi society tolerates [universally-human, societally-evolved norms seemingly holding more authority than God-given Halacha...], haredi Orthodoxy has, with the Da’as Torah doctrine, reconstructed, redefined and reformulated Jewish law’s “rules of recognition” in order to restrict the [G-D Given…] autonomy that the gaps in [G-d-Given…] Jewish law provides, and it imputes this doctrine upon now-deceased scholars who can no longer issue disclaimers.
While the centrist/modernists may not be as observant as they should,
given their core ideology, their failures are expressed in occasional violations of Jewish law’s rules of obligation, or mitzvot. But these delicts are consequences of the human condition. [and such infractions are regarded as such in Torah literature expositions regarding Klal Israel] Consequently, some spokesmen for haredi Judaism, have, in their own ironic way, responded to the contaminating secular modernity by reformulating the halakhic order with a daring, innovative doctrine.
Advocates of Daas Torah suppress those elements of Jewish religious thought and practice which they find troubling [
oft times legitimately - but again, distinguish between what has a legitimate vote, and what a veto; clearly these self same haredi critics are responding to temporary, contemporary conditions - circumstance should only have a vote but not a veto; and many haredi statements and strictures seem to imply that temporal parameters and social concerns external to Divine Halacha have the veto, not merely a vote! Again, not unlike the Reformers] and, in passing judgment on their centrist/modernist opponents, are actually making moral judgments on elements of the very Torah that they hold dear, for it is not the scholarship of the persona, but the persona himself, who wears the mantle of authority that is treated with virtual canonicity. Sources become secondary to demonstration, “accepted” practice displaces the precedents which, with time, have lost their sanctity. The transfer of authority from literary text to living sage, in a secular age of humanism, is not without its irony”.

[R] Alan J. Yuter, “Law, Politics and piety in Contemporary Orthodox Debate” in Freedom and responsibility. P.186; see also his "Positivist Rhetoric and its Functions in Haredi Orthodoxy," Jewish Political Studies Review, 8:1&2 (Spring 1996):127-188, this essay, and his Rabbis Corner.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Whence Modernity?

I've always been annoyed by the concept "Modern Orthodox", where creedal formulations leave much to be desired, in good part because they are Jewish creedal formulations that take themselves seriously (I have no problem with specific dogmas in Judaism as such, but the disposition of dogma-tic doesn't seem Jewish). "Orthodox" is well-known to be a Greek word regarding belief, etc, etc. Modernism herein gets its lambasting [as usual, all emphasis mine];

“The periodization of Jewish history into ancient, medieval, modern, and post-modern deserves some definition. Not all Jewish historians agree upon, for existence [example?] the beginning of modernity. Scholem defined Jewish modernity with the rise of Shabbatai Zevi…Cooperman has located the rise of the
Italian Jewish ghetto as the onset of Jewish modernity. Dinur has defined it as
the revitalization of modern Zionism and resettlement of the land of Israel by various groups …Many Jewish historians define modernity with the expulsion of
the Jews from Spain in 1492, while others locate the rise of the modern Enlightenment and Emancipation after the French Revolution as the onset of modern principles. These definitions will also differ with secular historians. For example, musicologists often define modernity with the music of Beethoven who broke out of the classical mode of Mozart and others, which, in turn, was a break from the baroque. Mathematicians define modernity often with the formulation of Calculus with Leibniz and Newton. Still professors of literature demonstrate how artificial these categories are when they define modernism in literature as later still with writers such as Conrad, Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc., which was a reaction to the Victorian period.

Philosophers often note that Descartes and Spinoza mark the onset of modern philosophy. Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum” was seen as shift to the modern ego and he located the penial gland in the brain rather than the heart as the source of cognition. Modern disciplines in philosophy grew up such as aesthetics with Woolf and Baumgarten, while matters of art in antiquity were categorized as politics. Spinoza’s modern Biblical criticism set the methodology of modern bible studies markedly apart from traditional faith based approaches…The age of faith thus succeeds to the age of total domination and exploitation. It is interesting to note that Hegel defined the onset of modernity with the birth of Christianity and many Ancient Near Eastern Studies scholars locate the conquest of Alexander the Great around 300 B.C.E. as the onset of modernity.

This plurality of opinions with regards to the definition of modernity would seem to suggest that disciplines which define modernity shed more light on their own
assumptions and preexisting conceptualizations than on an absolute definition of modernity itself. It would seem that definitions of antiquity, medieval, and modern depend on the set of assumptions and criteria of the discipline which sets out to define such constructs. The question of the definition of post-modernity is especially interesting to Jewish scholars in that philosophers like Fackenheim have defined the Shoah as the break/rupture/fissure that separates modernity from post-modernity. Thus state sponsored Judeocide would seem to be the tremendum (Arthur Cohen) that launched the world into what Lyotard was later to call the postmodern condition.”

Review by David B. Levy of Time and Process in Ancient Judaism by Sacha Stern, Published by H-Judaic (March, 2005)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Requiem for a Future [Rename; Contra 'Civilization'?...]
[played with; Dec. 2007; sort of dethroned by this slightly more upbeat post]

Our Final Hour-Rees.


The Arrogance of Humanism-Ehrenfeld ; I thought recently that now he's something of an optimist..oh well. The optimist was actually Bill McKibben, who authored a pessimistic End of Nature then wrote in 1995 wrote Hope; Human and Wild (both out in newer editions)

Nature's Revenge-Skinny Puppy

So many of the problems with our answers stem from where they begin; what we think of as problems. Rabindranath Tagore somewhere noted that the origins of western humanism began in the walled cities of greece and the isolation entailed in "reflection" so divorced from nature [an essay touching only lightly on the significance of Avraham Avinu having the very quintessence of 'civilized man', the city-state, facing off with one of the first totalitarian Dictators Nimrod]. I would add that such musings were not divorced from an environment- they were born in a thoroughly human-derived, human contrived environment where reality (in whatever way 'everything' is defined from within human-imposed order, through anthropocentric lenses, etc), is easily viewed as resulting from human or anthropo-morphic ways more like human artifacts than not. The next step is to project that [actual] isolation into the minds of [certain of] the people, 'privileged' to be bound, in mind, to the parameters of the city walls - and 'ground', and sounds, etc..because after all, beyond the city, beyond industry and concrete and lightbulbs there are people 'we' call savages (in part from here);

"Freud went so far as to regard the human mind as freakish, as purely accidental and perhaps not natural in the sense that it would someday give a return to the unconscious state [being an unbeliever, he can't believe that we are in a state distinct from the rest of creation, whether we evolved or not - so he can't but think of it as a 'return'] to the inert state. Now the problem with that is that it has left us with a severely under-dimensioned psychology, a psychology in which the human mind does not connect with the natural environment [something R. Soloveitchik does seem to agree with in "Emergence of Ethical Man"; but perhaps galut circumstances militate for a denial of multi-tiered dimensionality that makes for 'transcendence', depending on where you are among the tiers - establishing strong ontological borders to prevent wondering, digressions, apostasy, etc]. And it is therefore treated wholly within a social context, a family context, perhaps a very personal context but without any outreach to the world beyond -- the non-human world -- that surrounds us out of which we evolved."

"Social", "family" and even "personal" are sort of left undefined by Roczak here - which could mean he unconsciously accepts definitions that having meaning from within the setting he criticizes ...relationships within Creation are above in the Freudian sense (and seemingly those who unconsciously accept them), limited to the anthropocentric modalities. but the notion of a world 'beyond' is a very point R. Soloveitchik seems to critique as well. I suggest it's all 'Here' being Creation, which includes for most of historical Judaism - physical and immaterial Briot (modernist self-proclaimed Talimidei Rambam aside). To a real degree I think Judaism has thoroughly assimilated (or 'merely' shared), such Freudian and related notions, not unlike R. Soloveitchik here, and cannot imagine human society or place in nature to be anything other than the experience of the modern West (intellectually as well as society, technology, politics, etc) - which [a truly mangled metaphor] dangles in two dimensions within a web it spends much of it's time trying to cut down, feeding off of the North, South and East. Becoming Hellenized, and the "humanizing" of our environments was obviously not experienced only by Jews (many non-Jews joined Bar Kosba...something Jews forget from an episode they strive to remember...). And it didn't just result in "modernism", communism, socialism, etc. Even the most Charedi Torah Judaism has so much of it's identity invested in being in reactionary engagement with Greece - as if there were only Jerusalem and Rome and the 'tightrope' land between, though now we know there are/were many lands and peoples - and we are on a globe (where there are no straight lines between points on its surface). One result of our thoroughly human environments (internally and externally), is that we can't help but think that if HKBH "created" the universe/Gave The Torah, etc, He simply must have done so in a very humanly-recognizable fashion, that it must be exhaustively discernible in accord with rules that bind human potential to even grasp such a thing, etc. Perhaps comes an ontological "crash" when we come to find out that...God is God!...not a human being. For modernists, the Throne of That-which-is-Noncontingent is thought to be vacant - so we relapse to the Void, to onological nihilism and "__ Without Foundations" and such (which I think has occurred in the Torah world with Tamar Ross, et al, whom it seems adopts an addiction to Cartesian standards for certainty and adopts also the lamentations associated with their ill-fit with reality). And we think our problems are merely Greek, or can be addressed within antiquated modalities in accord with an outmoded dichotomy...

We say, like so much lip service, that Moshiach could have come in every generation, etc...but do we really believe it? "At the end of the day...what self-respecting Moshiach would have come about in any space-time point or world-line other than the Modern West?", which happens to be - 'Now'?..." Perhaps Messianic excesses are excuses for always-latent drives to exercise Emergency Powers that define and expand 'executive' powers beyond The Founder's['] stipulations - perhaps this is what I see in the tendency of Chardal to dowse 'counterproductive' self-criticism of Israel's policies, rabbinic enactments, rash actions, and kiruv leaps of 'faith'?...when did it become un-Jewish to do chesbon? And speaking of crashes, could Orthodoxy, like any other of the movements, actually survive the collapse of all this Modern infrastructure - not just the intellectual underpinings of Modernism - while being thoroughly modernist as reactionaries, plenty of charedim claim to do without 'modernisms' - I mean societal, economic, environmental, political infrastructure. These things are wed together! I think there is a profound and unconscious sense of reliability, certainty and ubiquity (all of which, cumulatively, is how distinguishable from arrogance?...), that comes with the all-permeating presence of human-crafted world, artifact, of Big Government, of Nanny State (now police state), and manufactured goods and Kashrut Agri-business. Without these, how many people would be able to be, let alone willing to be, religious? What makes it so pitiful is that there exist Torah communities today without any of these unspoken relationships and dependencies and relied-upon foundations for our sense of security. And less than 100 years ago, the majority of communities lived without many of these. This is scary. And when cracks really start to form, we will know where our trust and fear really lay.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Consolidate Mabul Ramble, 2007
[I need a ghostwriter]

-List of good questions R. Dovid Gottlieb raised regarding historical evidence from antiquity.

-Something of a solution I offer from lack of certain geological evidence for a regional Mabul.

-Rav Kook and "privileged information" ; suggesting that Mabul narrative offers only a selection of information about the Mabul and its effects because much of what we would demand as empirical proof of an occurence is not relevant for what Torah intends to teach us through the occurence (I wonder if this is relevant to how Maamar Sinai is discussed in the text; how the experience is called therein the source of assurance for future generations, etc?). I offer that even "inaccurate" by 21-cent. narrow, empirical demands, overstated or exaggerated perspectives can have value.

-Rav Kook and Rav Hirsch on the "Privileged Perspective" of Noach and the narrative; suggest a regional reading deriving from the hints about "Sifre Avot", etc, and connect them with limiting of human perspective (even Nevuah), and its value and relevance for Noach and his perception as a possible source for the Mabul narrative.

-The first consolidation of Mabul related posts as of October 2006, along with a clarification that I don't jibe with R. Shubert Spiro.

-Rabbinic sources for a regional mabul.

-Related post on the 'famous' essay from Ten Daat by R. joel Wolowelsky.

In the future, I"H I hope to do a numerical study of Parashat Noach according to a path most recently explored by R. Solomon David Sassoon.

"When the Torah Doesn't Mean What it Says"

First off, I only offer this transcript portion that you might be moved to then listen yourself to get an idea of where my Mabul offerings might fall. He doesn't mention Spero's piece, but I'm sure other bloggers have connected them. R. Weider is far more cautious about where he would fall, and repeatedly clarifies his own position about the Avot, Yetziat Mitzraim, Maamar Sinai, that he accepts them as historical, etc.

R. Jeremy Weider (R. Yeshivah, MYP) 11/20/2005;

(at 51:30-51:57)“…and whatever you do with the next seven chapters until the beginning of Lech Lecha …you can discuss…whether you think the Mabul, whether there’s really geological evidence against it or not, whether the issue of linguistic evidence in the story of the Dor ha Palaga…it’s a question of what the scientific evidence is, how solid it is, and if it’s solid, so then one can reinterpret”.

The “sense of text” in the section regarding the Mabul, at least according to some sources that suggest “confined” application of the narrative to the earth (not all mankind, not all the earth, etc), may make better sense of “what the text says” the literal readings (some of them standing alone from scientific kashias).

(55:38-59:00)“Assuming that these passages in Scripture are not to be taken literally…’Why are they there, or what do they mean?’...and I believe that the answer lies, and…I’ll say this carefully, what the way I might term the story of Bereshis is a Divinely-dictated creation moshol [clarifies use of “myth” and “moshol”, etc, over the course of the last half, esp. 45:00 to 46:10; I think he could have done a better job]…HKBH told us metaphysical truths, in whichever of these stories…whether it’s Bereshis…parts of Bereshis, Parashas Noach, that were meant to teach us fundamental truths…[gives Moshe Greenberg {Israeli Orthoprax scholar?}, source, examples idiomatic and oriented according to historical context of delivery, then comments;]…Chazzal clearly understood that…certainly Maasei Bereshis was esoteric not exoteric…they should be read as a response to the times and as a polemic, and…containing within them eternal metaphysical truths”.

[the following edited I"H by end of the week]
In hinting that “Esoteric” may include dimensions (shared more by other cultures) more discernable to us than to Chazzal might make way for selective application of ‘mythic’ readings/comparisons of Tanach with concepts from the Perennialist School; Ananda Coomaraswamy, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, etc (recent defense against a recent "attack").

Cognizance of man as not like animals; Zohar, etc, and indication of animal consumption as differentiating man in a new manner from animals after the Mabul; if people acted as people in a manner generally familiar to us, but do not - ultimately - differentiate, are they acting as fully-qualifying people, for the purposes of the Mabul narrative?

Also a Yeshivish rabbi of mine from Ohr Somayach Monsey made a link proffering my “Consolidated Mabul" post!!! It’s not a haskamah, but I haven’t really been asking for one.

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