Monday, March 15, 2010

Chazzal and Social Sciences, cont.

If I am I
because you are you
and you are you because I am I,

then I am not I and you are not you.
However, if I am I because I am I,
and you are you because you are you,
then I am indeed I and you are indeed you

-Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk.

I had seen the above adage, with which I was familiar, hanging in a basement shul where I live. I'd seen it after a week of perusing a fascinating previously-posted book, "Jewish Identity in Early Rabbinic Writings" by R. Dr. Sacha Stern. A central theme of the book is that Jewish identity is profoundly and deeply wed to Jewish identification of non-Jewish identity - occasionally frightening in it's detailed, xenophobia and incongruity with empirical realia.

But considering the sanctity of the sources presenting this self-identification by whom one is not (Mishna, Gemara, Codes...Rabbinic Judaism), and the standing of The Kotzker, who must reconcile with the concepts behind the source material to not only be 'frum', but to claim any authoritative continuity with Judaism - it can't but mean precisely what it means; I and You in his formulation can only make sense as a Jew-to-Jew encounter. But what does it mean for descendants of Rabbinic Judaism, who in some ways have seemingly not been who they 'are' since at least Chorban Beit haMikdash, when non-Jews have not been "Rome", when Israel have been in a world of people who identify in as numerous ways as they number, not as "Edom" or (later), "Ishmael"?..

As I have finally had to come to terms with the aftermath of multiple earthquakes in the Jewish world, living with observant Jews of different philosophies - seeing this quote from the Kotzker on a wall was a un-welcomed reassertion of the cognitive dissonance between who may be a 'you' and who an 'I' in the modern exchange of an ancient faith fighting its own Divinely-Guided evolution in HKBH's world; this quote can only seem to presume a Jew/Jew exchange as You/I exchange - because if it accommodates a Jew/Non-Jew exchange as You/I exchange, it risks a universalism that does not sound faithful to Chazzal as we have them, as we interpret them.
I hope to do some future post that offers some reconciliation - based largely on Heschel and other non-'Orthodox' sources, as I'm not familiar with too many Orthodox authors who integrate their knowledge and acceptance of historical scholarship with their fealty to Judaism as a unified system of thought, belief and deed.


Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>