Sunday, March 29, 2009

Random Powerful Notion
That nothing new need be given (no new or continuous "revelations"), due to both latent "mathematical" potential within what had been Given, as well as what had been Given itself. Israel sins and enters Galut; therein acquiring new concepts, communities being destroyed and others experiencing 'refinements', elevating "sparks" of Holiness in the most unlikely of circumstances (Rav Kook and secularisms, etc) - but nothing could be let in that did not have some coordinating connections in the system. This could apply both positively and negatively - but not exhaustively; totalitarian coercion can be justified, but not militated for - anymore or less than democratic principles could be derived from sources within (under the building up of forces within - internal pressures/productive inclinations as well as 'incentive' from outsides). Bad science, astrology, mysticism, rationalism, materialisms, reductionisms...necessity is the mother of invention, in a sense - Divine absence makes the heart grow fonder as well. If things can be productively gained, what about the loss or lapse of some of what was Given, seemingly for eternity? Was all to be always maintained in ways we'd expect to see from the vantage point of the earth?..

"...Torah's method is to be a catalyst for the evolution of moral values in history, i.e. from polygyny to monogamy, from slavery to freedom, from war to peace, and from coercion to liberty. Some Torah laws are given in accordance with minimal standards,some for study alone, and some for realization of moral and spiritual ideals. Punishments and the system of legal coercion function heuristically to fashion social improvement without having any practical application today". R. Nachum Rabinovitch

I would add that Torah is not all that HKBH has Given; the world in all it's evolved, autopoetic bounty has given rise to the setting of the jewel, the People Israel and the Torah, the "danger room" that tests and refines Israel in ways specifically hinted at by prophecy from within the system. Torah may well have an exclusive, specifically moral purpose - but the universe has all manner of other purposes that HKBH supposes; what Israel "lacks" will be made up for by engagement, by trial, by grappling with the Book of The World. Torah in engagement with other aspects of creation has proved profoundly fruitful - in touching mere technology has produced the sciences, with government produced "rule of law", etc. And yet again, it is not all positive or negative.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Jewish Conspiracy Theory III
Well I was expecting a bit more subtlety around kiruv circles in pushing for an halachic state (Meimad, the only 'religious' party in Israel to openly oppose the idea of an halachic state - is on my roll of links), but...if you think teaching people to pray for theocracy is a simple matter - you might as well just say it. Ohr Somayach has spoken. And so has R. Hirschenson. And R. Avraham Shapiro...There are many, many more resources, here is a nice beginning. Some shiurim from Yeshivat Har Etzion on Torah and government.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Conspiracy Theory II
I think the Charedi/Chardal fusion will take a bit longer than the democratization of Iraq/Palestinian Authority, which ever is given the 'heksher' first. But I think overall my conspiracy theory is not far off. More Chardal American Olim will likely be precipitated by an "Israel-ization" of sorts in the U.S.; a defused Socialism, Rahm Emmanuel's talk of "civilian service", the socially-engineered secularization of much of the population, the alienation of religious populations, etc. A degree of that kind of segmentation is the result of a parliamentary system of government. We are an older "nation of immigrants" but such a nation none the less, and indeed also an "experiment" of sorts - but who knows what OUR future holds.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Conspiracy Theory

1)In under 10 years, Israel will, hopefully, no longer be considered the 'only' democracy in the Middle East by the U.S.

2)Unfortunately, this will likely happen by contriving them - not cultivating them - through a redefinition of the key concepts of democracy, while deemphasising those undemocratic indicators in the entire region (recent Newsweek cover suggests Westerners in America become receptive not simply to conventional Islam or Muslims, but to Islamicists, those who foster "Greater Dar-al Islam" - people whom only last year were spoken of as the 'treif' muslims who harbored terrorists).

3)To give these developing democracies a boost, they will be granted a privileged status above Israel, which will no longer have strategic significance (U.S. and allied forces are already all over the region - why rely on an independent - and independently-minded..nation for oil security?...oops, I mean political stability?).

4)Within 10-12 years, American Jews of the "Chardal" variety - the good number of Olim - will come to the fore in Israeli society and politics (I, II). As already evidenced in their willing community activism in America - fluency with court systems and democratic government to optimize their place - they will be better prepared than indigenous Charedim for a 'bigger picture' political influence in Israel - where the indigenous Charedi political blocs are of influence and control within Israel's borders. These indigenous Charedim - with an under-employed, system-dependent (and system-reviling...) constituency - have still managed to gain hegemony over the Rabbinut. This is already the case - minus the stronger presence of American olim in Israeli government positions. And this is where Israeli internal societal politics do have an influence outside Israel's borders (the recent Conversion court debacles, shmitta, etc.

5)Here's where it gets really speculative. American Chardalim, more savvy with secular government, will facilitate stronger Charedi preeminence outside the Rabbinut as well. Where many currently speculate that these Chardal Olim will bring "positive", Western expectations (such as the value of gainful employment, financial independence - the "American Dream"...), to their Israel brethren - the influence might go both ways. Formerly-American Chardalim, tasting the convenience of Welfare State sustainance (and hearing the footsteps of Moshiach resounding through their own footsteps, as they walk through the halls of government), may seek to cast off the 'necessary evil' of fluency in secular life and education. Formerly necessary to afford religious life and education in Chutz l'Aretz - they nay find the 'value' in controlling and exploiting Israeli state-sponsored religious school systems, welfare structures, etc. Israel could become a haven for western and non-muslim out-sourced labor, who will be doing more and more of even the white-collar daily business of life (a la Saudi Arabi), as another 'necessary evil' - tolerance of Arab populations - will be no longer 'necessary'.

6)This shift to the "Right" (now both religiously, socially, demographically, and hense politically), will alienate others - "Dati Leumi/Masorati" and secular - will largely accomodate in the former case, or leave in the latter, reassimilating to Chutz l'Aretz. This will exacerbate anti-Semitism the world over, as places 'Judenrein' will suddenly have dissaffected Israeli Jewish populations of various religious hews seeking a 'better life'...oddly familiar to other recent immigrant populations from the region.

7)These newly-Israeli Chardalim will, in messianic fervor, possibly engineer military exemption for a large portion of the Charedi population - the only Jewish segment of the population that is growing...which will almost invariably militate for a professional, standing military. This is in contrast to both the views of Torah and lhvd'l, many of America's Founding Fathers - who mandated in the former case and preferred in the latter - an armed, trained and generally obligated militia comprised of the general population; with Torah, this obligation was on Klal Israel - women as well.

8)The remaining Israel will appear to much of the world as not unlike an Iran/Saudi-style clerical regime (a world which often believes it to be a theocracy), albeit by ballot not bullets. As the orbit of Middle Eastern policy on the part of the U.S. shifts, this Israel will be even more an 'outsider', open to criticism, antipathy and sanctions. Other models of 'moderate' Torah Judaism - not unlike has occurred with moderate manifestations of Islam - would be stiffled in Israel and elsewhere, where tolerance of "anti-Zionism" will have long ago (meaning now with the engineered success of "Pop-Secularism" and anti-religion), made space for tolerance of "anti-Judaism". non-Jews would likewise suspect even religious moderates and fervently-secular Israeli Jews of harboring support for this Israel... Enter an earlier conspiracy theory of mine.

In just about all it's principles, Chardal Judaism could be read as a quintessential post-modern movement;

-The would be resoundingly politically fluent, in contradiction to their Charedi Gedolim (who historically condemn zealous involvement with the secular government - Israeli or otherwise -oppose Zionism, oppose secular education in most situations, etc).

-In their Chardisimo, they would be in opposition to the moderation of Mizrachi founders of "Dati Leumi" Religious Zionism (who early held positions of Arab/Jewish statehood, advocacy of Democratic principles, separation of Synagogue/State; Zionism as historically significant but not Messianic as such).

-In importing goyishe 'democracy' to Israel, they would be in contradiction to the frequent counsel of one of their primary figures - Meir Kahane.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yitro (belated)

[my emphasis]
[Zvi Zohar] The Torah portion of Yitro is read on Shabbat...SOME BELIEVE THIS IS THE VERY ESSENCE OF revelation: To give people clear, authoritative instructions about what constitutes the good and how they should behave. By this approach, until Torah was given at Sinai, human beings had only their flawed, subjective perception of the good; the limits of the human conscience were revealed generation after generation, from the failure of Adam and Eve through the evil of the Egyptians who threw Israelite newborns into the Nile. And then the event at Sinai provided certainty: revelation in place of conscience, Torah instead of human morality. Since then, a Jew knows what to do, not because his understanding led him, but because "so decreed His wisdom, may He be exalted," to paraphrase medieval Jewish philosophers.

But a careful reading of the Torah itself, particularly the portions of Yitro and Mishpatim, points to a very different, much more complex relationship between reason and revelation.

The voice from within the burning bush promises Moses this confirmation of the truth of his mission: "This shall be your sign that it was I who sent you: When you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain." The detailed negotiations between Moses and Pharaoh focus on the specific conditions under which that divine worship in the desert would take place. At most, the march into the desert might be expected to lead to a theophany, a meeting with the Divine. There's no suggestion that at Sinai, God will reveal a grand system of commandments and laws.

Neither does Moses seem to expect any such revelation. His actions in Exodus 18 show that he believes that the fulfillment of God's will requires an ongoing connection with Him: "the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes before me, and I decide between one person and another, and I make known the laws and teachings of God." In other words, only a prophet can act as judge. God's will is revealed to the judge-prophet bit by bit, ad hoc, in relation to the specific cases that arise. A retrospective reading of earlier chapters shows just that to have been the case. Thus, the idea of the Sabbath was revealed to the Israelites only when questions arose concerning the supply of manna (16:22-30).

Jethro teaches Moses that it's possible to separate the creation of a norm and its implementation [Jethro, who speaks as priest of Midian - as a historical propounder of subjective, 'merely human' ethics and norms - offers the very counsel that leads to Torah entering history at all]. Moses can stand "before God" and bring the laws and instruction in advance; applying the law will be the job not of prophets but of scholars and sages. But such a revolution required the agreement of another side: God. So Jethro sums up, noting this condition: if appropriate judges are appointed, "and God commands you, you will be able to bear up, and all these people will go home in peace" (18:23). Moses agrees and what of God? He, too, accepts Jethro's advice! Immediately after the theophany at Sinai, He transmits to Moses a large code of law, saying, "These are the rules you shall set before them" (21:1) that is, before the judges you have appointed, and before the people.

A God who gives instruction in the form of Torah is a God who sees human beings as capable of applying His laws and judgments not by communicating constantly with Him, but by using the wisdom, reason and integrity present in human beings who were created in His image.

But there are always Jews who have a hard time living with that reality; they long to run their lives according to the "direct" will of God, not according to human reasoning about His will. Today, at the end of the 20th century, supposed options for direct access to "divine intent" proliferate from kabbalistic seers, from rabbis claiming infallible knowledge of the Torah (da'as Torah), and from other "authorities" who claim heavenly certainty, beyond reason. It simply galls them that the Holy One, blessed be He, accepted [gentile...] Jethro's advice.

Excerpted from The Jerusalem Report. Jerusalem: Feb 15, 1999. pg. 28

I think this scenario goes splendidly with the supposition that the Avot authored works that were established in the Torah under the "general editorship" of HKBH - Moshe Rabbenu was seized under nevuah and engaged in "automatic writing", which accumulated until the end of the desert period; previous legislation was done directly by Moshe prophetically determining between Israelite tribal legal precidents became, under Yitro's counsel and HKBH's Command, the establishment of these laws as the new normative structure of Israelites. Diverse Prophetic narratives and oral 'codifications', etc, became unified, intertextually, as one document. An oral 'counter' to the stalwart fixity of Textual Torah was had in the Oral Law. Determination under the appointed decisors (who were many, and diverse in degree of knowledge) and Oral Torah both mediated between Written Torah materials that indeed were previously disparate, and formerly did have multiple temporal 'sources' [The Avot, writing from their settings] - but are now, since Sinai - in the fullness of text, oral and lived tradition - one derech.

Monday, March 09, 2009


And these bits are for all you DatLash/haters out there;

The Historicity of Megillat Esther - R. Gil Student. I would read this also with this essay by Charles Isbell ("'History' and 'Writing'"), and his pieces from the Jewish Bible Quarterly.

Who Wrote Megillas Esther? -Jewish Worker

The Upside Down Megilla - R. Yoel Bin Nun

Why is Megillat Ester Written in Such a Secular Style? -R. Chaim Jachter
Why Did Esther Hide Her Jewish Identity? (R. Jachter)

R. Hayyim Angel speaking at TABC on Megillat Esther.

R. Yoel Bin Nun at TABC (Megillat Esther)

Yeshivat Har Etzion's Virtual Beit Midrash Purim Journal

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