Friday, April 09, 2010

Chazzal and Social Sciences III
From a previous post on this theme;
The closest we have to a description of humanity after Tanach is nowhere near a thorough, empirical science; there is Jew and non-Jew.

R. Alan Brill has written on Jewish Orthodox perception of culture through the lenses of most all of contemporary Orthodoxy - which is to say, for the most part, 19th Century Protestant frameworks - regardless of the nature, degree or depth of secular education;

Despite widespread acceptance in college-educated [Gentile] circles
of Peter Berger's functional (and Clifford Geertz's interpretive) cultural framework, theories of Torah u-Madda continue to use nineteenth century understandings.

Even where, and as, Orthodox Jews immerse themselves in these and other frameworks. For example, Charedim who experience college or send their kids through such systems are quite proud of how stringently Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design are adhered to - regardless of the high grades such kids frequently make in their non-Jewish studies! Grades are frequently taken as an assent and understanding of the ideas being taught and graded. There is a conscious bifurcation where Jews are patterned as, in the Charedi case, creating nothing, consuming, perpetuating and manifesting only Torah and Torah values - and in the "modern" case only adopting "the best of what [gentile] culture has to offer". but clearly, by all modern concepts of 'culture' - there is Jewish culture! But unto themselves, it seems there are Jews and Gentiles - and Gentile "culture"...

For example, a recent work of Modern Orthodox historical theology is entitled Judaism's Encounter with Other Cultures: Rejection or Integration. The book assumes that culture is produced by the surrounding non-Jewish society: non-Jews produce culture whether philosophy, medicine, literature, or entertainment, and Jews can decide to accept or reject it. The book does not assume that Judaism itself exists within, arises from, and can produce culture. Goyim have the cultural problems that need to be solved, and therefore they create philosophy, social structure, healing techniques, professional achievements, or poetics. Jews on the other hand, are acceptors or rejecters of this culture: Jews can only choose whether or not to internalize this external knowledge; they are not among the producers...

While denying the intensity and significance of influences on Orthodoxy, the breadth of Orthodoxies that engage modernity have utilized a model that is thoroughly non-Jewish and significantly out of date;

Culture is not outside of Judaism but is the very plane into which Judaism is manifest. There is no pristine autonomous essence of Judaism outside of culture. If we consider Hirsch's model of Torah and general culture, in which culture is outside Judaism, we find that his theory was only reflective of a specific moment in history, during which Jews submitted to Western culture and formulated a nineteenth-century form of Judaism, in which the Torah is considered outside culture (unlike the integrated forms of medieval Jewish culture). However, rejecting philosophy and culture is itself a cultural decision, not an outside-culture decision. A religion of faith without culture is a nineteenth-century Protestant vision of religion, in which the secular reason of modern culture is opposed to a salvation through a faith that rejects culture. The nineteenth century theological vision rejecting culture was not historically accurate concerning sixteenth century Protestants and certainly it was not true for Jewish cultures before the nineteenth century. They projected this dichotomy onto the birth of sixteenth century Protestantism and claimed that Protestant faith was always against culture. Modern Orthodoxy has adopted a Protestant division between faith and culture. This modern dualism is projected by nineteenth-century Jewish ideology onto the past of Jewish history, postulating that obedience to Judaism stemmed from uncultured simple Jews following a mimetic tradition, while philosophic understandings of Judaism, including those of Maimonides, grew out of alien influence of a foreign culture. However, Aristotelian philosophy is not outside Judaism; in fact, according to Maimonides' own self-understanding, specified sections of [Greek] metaphysics are the essence of Judaism.

On the part of Modern Orthodoxy, the perception, again, is that Jews don't do their own culture - they've had only what is portable, what is transmittable - and ultimately, if all else fails us, we have only Torah. Thus we can always "count" on Torah-only approaches, even if we don't abide them. We need not fear the hegemony of Charedi hashgafot and ways of life, since we can always agree on their kashrut. All who call themselves orthodox would seem to by default agree that Torah is the only thing "Jewish" - is anything else really ephemeral and irrelevant unless it can be determined to lead to a mitzvah or an averah?...Still writing this.


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