Monday, July 07, 2008

Challenges to Challenges

I have found, as I'm sure others have, that when seeking advice regarding challenges to torah, you can receive some pretty personalized hints towards resolutions that you may even been counseled not to share with others. But...'others' are what makes Judaism...communal. It's a faith community, a family! And at times, the resolution will be regarding, say, the roots or heartwood of the entire geneaology or 'family saga'...and your told a resolution about 'them' that you aren't to share with them?...but 'them' is us!

B"H, most all such 'challenges' I have had, I've managed to find resolutions, and those offered by others, within the mesorah itself. Ironically, at times this has led to deeper doubts - not about the tradition, but about the substance [not essence] of those 'from whom one seeks counsel' and the exclusivity of the parameters of 'the one true derech'!

1)The 'counselors'; if their knowledge was so vast and deep (which is why I sought them out or was sent their way), how did I find the[ir] resolution explicit in the tradition...where they did not? - and in fact, they wrestle to situate it within what seems to now be "their" dalet amos. Amos is a measure, dalet is a number - all of which, to function as metaphors, have to have some actual, communal meaning; you can't have your own dalet amos.
I think there is danger in encouraging people to be too comfortable with incredibly-"individualized", eccentric, theoretical resolutions towards problems in Torah Judaism - sometimes they are very idiosyncratic and ill-conceived in the 'big picture' - sometimes made is not a communal big picture! I have been told to look at a detail of "the big picture", when the big picture seems to exist only for the person offering it. And no one sees the big picture other than HKBH; so what big picture am I asked to regard? Communal faith issues are bound up with Torah in a faith community! One can resort to Maimonidean "necessary belief" solutions (a utilitarian, necessary exoteric belief for the rabbim, the 'true belief' explicit for the "enlightened"), only so much, and about so much - before there is no common, shared unanimous mesorah to speak of. Resolutions that are communally-regarded would seem to be of more standing - considering Torah Judaism is about KLAL Israel! For example, there are indeed learned people in the Modern camp (I don't know regarding elsewhere), who have resigned themselves to certain positions on critical issues, but do not speak about it in the community. But don't these learned authorities - both "learned" and "authorative" in accord with the standards of their community - share a REALITY with the community, share in the authority of the tradition with their communities?! I have know of people who held positions regarding the tradition (as communally understood), that are fundamentally subversive. They will not speak out publically these positions - based on some view of 'necessary truths' held by certain of those IN THE COMMUNAL TRADITION. If they are confident their position is 'kosher' - why not submit to the Gauntlet of...real communal life?; perhaps they believe they have the 'true belief'. and also likely, it's because they have the view - from a few within the communal tradition - that one who does not SPEAK OUT apikorsut isn't an apikorus. Both positions ('necessary truths' and 'the apikorus who does not speak apikorsut') are claimed from Rambam - who I don't think would have gone to such lengths as he did, BH, if he held these positions in the non-communal, idiosyncratic manner they do. These rabbis and scholars seemingly have self-referential apprehensions about the kashrut of their own views!; they literally rely on the validate having fundamental doubts about the tradition. The very communal authority of 'kashrut' is subverted by the community-threatening nature of their personal position! I wish they would just say they've accepted literary critical theory, documentary hypothesis and postmodernism and orthoprax observance/'belief' "Without Foundations". They would seem to be few - yet they speak of others. And I know that they work with others consider more kosher - are published in the 'establishment' journals, etc.

2) Where am I? As I have said, I have found resolution to many, many issues. I am a stickler for finding some svara, something to 'hang' an idea on from Chazzal for my resolutions within The Tradition. But as I have come to find, the individual solutions that have precedent most often have no currency with any single, current living observant community; Torah is "not in Heaven", and realia of halachic settings evolve. It becomes normative that certain beliefs are within the pale, beyond the pale or normative - depending on the generation you ask; but you hold by the one you are in or something like that...but Moderns can say their views are normative, and whatever a 'normative' scholar has poskened, it holds. Charedim say anything but a modern posek... And none of it makes sense with a big picture; if there is a unified, 'big picture' that results from what I have found livable/reasonable/ethical/defensible - it has potentially wider parameters than current Orthodoxy, even 'open' varieties, can accept; regarding allowable belief (a variety of conceptions of 'revelation' have been 'kosher' over a long time, etc, etc; see shapiro's "maimonidies' thirteen principles"), practice and communal borders; many of the resolutions, particularly philosophical ones (even ones held by other Orthodox), could justify, in a unified fashion, an observant, "classical Conservative", Judaism no less (if not in some senses, more), than Orthodoxy. And in a sense, 'current orthodoxy' is just the rub; Orthodoxy is very current! (sources abound for it's "newness") - not observance, Orthodoxy.

I can't help but maintain that, along with some conception of peoplehood and reception of Revelation, some framework of observance has been maintained since day one; archaeology, history, everything evidences something of a core of communal belief & practice -but it must be rephrased; selectively-maintained belief and practice since day one - Open Tanach! I also must also maintain that this selectivity has been fluid - sometimes/places more observance, sometimes less. The parameters of community - historically bound to observance - have also likewise been very fluid. The parameters of the communal, the parameters of collective observance (private vs. public transgression), parameters of belief...If something is within the Tradition (over time/place, not just now), it's - in the Tradition. Isn't it? Or is the Tradition only what is sanctioned now? Or now and here? do beliefs/practices, etc, only exist by the decision of the current rabbim, the current rabbonim, ones own mara d'atra? But what's "in" has therefore been "contingent"...But there has always been The Tradition...right? Traditional, b'Ivrit - Masorti; not an ideology behind a name, based on definition up-and-against another group (Orthodox, Reform, Conservative all carry this seemingly-inocuous name baggage), etc...just..Masorti. Of course, public use of the term is taken. Am I, then, 'masorti'? I stop now.


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