Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Torah Im Derech Eretz

though not so much about TIDE as such, a recent post more on "yeshivish modern" criticism of Torah u'Maddah - they may be claimants to TIDE - without bothering to even reading Hirsch, et al...;

R. Jacobovits I noted earlier had commented on the 'inexplicable' failure of TIDE at just the point it would seemingly succeed. R. Becchofer has written a lot on the issues back and forth, and noted the recent declaration of the 'passing' of TIDE as proclaimed from the pulpit of Kahal Adat Jeshurun (here's an additional round-up post), I'd sent him some of my thoughts on TIDE as it 'exists' today;

It took several years for me to figure out what my main issues with TIDE were, but here are several points.

There is the obvious historical-German setting of it and it's adherents, and their ensuing 'privileging' of *certain* of "the best" of [western] civilisation - as defined in that long ago day - this DESPITE R. Hirsch's claim for it's ubiquity in WORLD Yahadut!

I think this is away from R. hirsch's intent. A proud and stalwart eurocentric triumphalism - defended especially since the era of WWII - from German no less!...is a bit bitter to me, and I don't think I'm alone. I think one indicator of R. Hirsch over his disciples is evidenced by the fact that many of the icons presented - weren't German nationals; Sredei Aish, RDZ Hoffmann, and I'm sure there were others.

also at some point (to a degree I admit, under the influence of R. Yuter), I noted the ubiquity of non-jewish influences at foundational points in contemporary Jewry. For example orthodox is a greek phrase regarding belief; "shomer mitzvos", a Hebrew phrase indicating actions - is used most often pajoratively to say someone is not observant, for example. With R. Hirsch, the constant reiteration of "AND Derech Eretz", a cleaving of two aspects of creation from each other (torah created by HKBH and the world as creation by HKBH, etc), and the willingness to even raise the idea of 'EITHER/OR'; that everything would be sacrificed or given up for the sake of Torah - as if HKBH didn't give us BOTH to use together - strikes me as very Greek, very hellenistic.

The world that TIDE offers us, as it has come to be held (not necessarily as R. Hirsch, I believe, reiterated it, seems pretty small. How much writing exalting the human *creative* endeavors have you seen from the TIDE camp? I actually read Leo Levi, writing very casual over how the liberal arts seemed to have no place in it! We live in a world now were the liberal arts are *already* vastly undervalued in universities! Places of higher education, of "the best of western civ" - are whittling down to glorified trade schools - exactly how charedim view ANY value to education.

I believe we are obligated in defining and the engaging the world; but to do so is to admit we define it for ourselves - anew every epoch. I believe Torah indeed DOES limit our vision and crafts us a certain way, ontologically speaking, to a certain end epistemologically speaking. Other ways, of whatever truth value and significance - are for Others. We agreed at Sinai to a certain vision of the world - and certain lifeways result by this "certain-ty".

But to wed ourselves to now-quaint modalities and conceptions of the world, would make us no different than many charedim and chassidim. And I'm sure there are "Yekishe Charedim" who would prefer that TIDE claimants wear Hambergs and Goatees with the same socio-religious intent as charedim wear their spodeks, shtreimels, beards and bekishes. It sounds patently Greek, patently European, modernist (remembering we are in the post-postmodern era...), and domesticated and "genetic engineered" away from nature to speak of "and/or" in such a way - a way shared by many european intellectuals and which we suffer under today (again from my blog);

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 [something I DONT find so present in Tanach, Kain as founder of cities, the dispersion from migdal Bavel, the shepherd lives of the Avot, etc] 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.

None of this is to say I'm on the side of "traditionalists" as such - who are generally people undermined by the very traditions [they strive to] 'defend'. Though criticising engagement with secular knowledge in general, I think Kolbrener's critique of R. Lichtenstein (in Jewish Action, 2004), was true in many ways. He discussed what "happened" to universities over time, etc., and now they are pretty treif - even the 'Torah' settings. I can hem and haw on that - but he leaves utterly unaddressed what happened to TORAH over time; daas torah, the yeshivah world, charedim, revisionism, etc. the TORAH world can be argued on.

Undefined - or perpetually and variously defined - are Torah and Derech Eretz.


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