Monday, January 03, 2011

Academic Scholarship, Theodicy, Authorship & Revelation -Deliverances to the Heart
We challenge the sincerity of mortals who are empowered to alleviate the suffering of others, but only offer solace such as "my thoughts and prayers will be with you" - and yet we have such in the Psalms, other founding revelations from God Himself, the very font of Jewish theodicies - telling us that the righteous suffer, the wicked prosper - but "Oh, The Lord is with thee"... ("a later 'mono-theized Lord of one kind, nature or another, from one period or another" chime the academics...), and that's that - and another Psalm/pasuk of solace from Tanakh comes to declare unequivocally that there is clear comeuppance and consequence to wickedness, in this world and the next - and then from Rambam that there is neither substantive punishment or reward - even in death.

How do we not H"V consider either that there is some pluralism, some "democracy of the Divine", Divine change of Administration On High to explain the incommensurate revelations over the Biblical period (not varying interpretations after 'publication' - variations in the original submissions), within one book (and of course by extrapolation, with The Five Books)....or simply concede multiple human authorship of all of them, with an offhand hat tip to the idea of Divine authorship of some of them (Kugel)?

At the very least, inclusion of scholarship entails the "isolation" of the Torah, to some degree or another, from scholarship (by declaring it Prophetically authored and Prophetically closed and halachically authoritative - either by Moses entire, by consensus, etc) - as well as the acceptance of unambiguous human interpolation to some degree - "mi pi atzmo", not mere "creativity" - in the accompanying (or ensuing), Oral interpretive tradition. Many of these concessions at least can be justified by Halachic and Aggadic statements from Chazzal (that which is authoritative - where historical claims are not; which would put many of the BibCrit-accepting Orthodox scholars out until they integrate Heschel's "Torah Min haShomayim" or something), and within the Tradition - but to be honest are still troubling, depending where it's suggested and to what degree.

These questions have been asked academically by the mind for centuries now, I ask it of the heart, from the heart. What do to the accounts of scholarship do to the content of the revelations themselves, as counsel, as solace and salve (Kugel et al prattle about the 'meanings' each generation, within each group, apart from intent of authors as they suppose no significant authors or initial meanings), which though accounted (here, here and here), as revelations expressed through the content of prophets minds and worldviews themselves, measured out by HKBH - are yet for their generations and all eternity?

Wait - if Nakh is indeed prophecy selected and canonized by the Anshe Knesset haGedolah, preserved for posterity in the language of their specific time and place, what is to be made of the interpretive frameworks we impose on them (midrashic, Kabbalistic, Chassidic, Mussar), where they deviate from the pashut peshat of "their day"? This is a part of Kugel's challenge for traditional notions of revelation and the role of interpretation as well as the above suggestions about certain historical contingencies of prophetic messages. May we, or do we unconsciously, presume the interpretive framework is in some sense a "filtering" prophet of interpretative modes - a time-bound and yet time-unbound means of checking proper analysis that itself changes over time, in lieu of actual delivering prophets who likewise expressed differently? We countenance reason over revelation in The Aftermath - but as is well established, what constitute reasonings, logics and rationalities have differed for everyone over time and place. Anyways...

I think the 'further' along in the Biblical period there is multivocality, change over time - noted as God's increasing "absence" in certain works of the past decade - but also a 'change' in Whom it seems the Jews were in relationship with (nature of God, etc, expressed differently in the measured-out words of the prophets, the chroniclers of the Ketuviim, etc, appropriate to the Israel and the Judaisms, of their days, etc) - as well as change in whom "the Jews" were. The further along in Jewish history that we stand in proximity to God (as long as we do so), the more we relate Jewishly personally (duh..but still listen), through our experiences as individuals, and specifically not communally (for millenia, the only 'kosher' mode of being "Jewish"), the wider our picture (as ourselves), we have of the scope of His reign.
Perhaps communities imposed certain limits on vision (as is obvious to us as individuals). So the plenitude of colors and other distinctions must be allowed for, the more means of His action - and inaction - we can see, ontologically - and share with others in new communities ('rank and file' oranizing, not "from the top down", in lieu of revelation and Temple), we share how He has acted, been present - and not been present - in our individual lives ("revelatory" triangulation of His transmissions in our lives?)- and not just accept where and how we'd seen it in agreed-upon codified texts, as codified texts depicted 'differing' realities, granted with common themes, etc (because we hadn't seen it until now, could not in a manner). But if were to dispense with the authority of the text, authority of communal revelations as revelations (or at the very least as agreed upon as "such"), we are more than lost - as we lose anything communal, and common language, mamash - given the degree of assimiliations and polar isolations occurring within the deepest of Jewish Judaisms - we can become very lost even within the tightest, thickest community.

My 'personal' heart wants to say that the smarmy, non-committal "My thoughts and prayers - but not money, assistance, relief or intervention - will be with you" is a way of saying our mortal thoughts and prayers can be supremely efficacious - in lieu of sacrifices, our historical and Biblical mode, which communal prayer is to replace. It does seem to also be conceivably ONE Divine mode within the tradition - B'KLAL ('ontologically' above; the revelations aren't revelations of everything as they are/were/will be - they're Measured out by God, and with the prophets capacity to express, and as certain of the Jews of the time could grasp) - regarding the Master of all Mastery, the one and only who can sway one and every event any way He so Chooses...

But my heart hardens, my worldview and vision narrow against "can", and sobs only that a circular reasoning has closed "as it always does", noting how so many mortal prayers for healing of the mortally wounded, terminally ill, tortured, despondent, etc, etc, etc, etc over the millenia have gone unanswered - but "I'll be there", just....WATCHING ON....watching the suffering, the resignation to despondence and despair, the submission to exploitation as it unfolds, life after life, eon after eon...chirps up my neshamah - wrestling free of my dilettante, but every-bullying mind - turns to mind and says, "But did you not say 'possibly a Divine mode within the tradition' - one administered at Divine discretion? HA, Mind! How can you prove or disprove it, even in history?!?! Miracles, as Lewis notes, have no history, only present and past...Tikva l'vad, I say; in your face, Mind! A hope that is at least informed by communal communal textual experience (or if further quarter must be given to academia, reconcilable experiences from several communities in Tanakh), as emunah is trust informed in communion, and a person personally transformed in prayer.

We have prospered as Jews, and suffered assimilation as Jews. We've prospered as religious Jews fallen as the same, away from being religious and prosperous. Prayers, than, have been answered, some yes, some no - (as if it were so simple as yes/no!), some 'no' to benefit, some 'yes' to sorrow - this I "know", God thank You for not bringing proximity to such sorrow - as I've seen in the life of one of your children - any closer than You already have.

And Orthopraxy?...many people believe as a forming community within the kahal, that communally their personal acts, convictions, etc, have no consequence - which reminds me of efficacy of prayer. That may be a perspective on "how things work" within the tradition, or may be a modern thing justifiable by certain historical and textual [prophetic] precedent, may be historically accounted - same with so many other views - but that's just the rub; other views evidence other consequences coming from such attitudes; and in fact, very often personal Orthopraxy has affected communal Orthodoxy - open Tanakh! see how many Prophetic voices have made a symphony (symphony - not cacophony - is the very language even of a prominent scholar of Biblical Criticism!), of counsel from different, divergent prophets, their [from mortal vantage point, temporally, i.e., academically, empirically incommensurate?] worldviews, perspectives and conditions (launched like so many arrows from so many positions in the divinely-informed direction of an invisible target, glancing off the truth but evidencing by their glancing some common form, common basis of critique) against such attitude! so many orthoprax, do I similarly doubt the temporal effects and efficacy of my personal prayer communally? In the personal lives of others?

God; prove me and humanity we are wrong in this intuition - because I know you've done just that in so many lives before, though what you gave were answers - not a proof for sharing.


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