Sunday, June 05, 2011

I admit it. I despise having routines that are working for me, productive engagements and activities (volunteering opportunities, job advancement, graduate school, exercise, socializing, opportunities for athletic training and competition, etc, etc) get muffed by time-bound observance - Shabbat, Yom Tov, Pesach - anything that shatters the calendar I make or try to make. It whispers to me that Judaism isn't offering me something strong enough, compelling enough to nurture me despite the investments of time, money, soul, mind and energy I have made in it, that isn't changing me for the better, that it isn't functioning in some Kellner-Maimonidean "instrumental" manner towards "refining" me and formulating me in some "unrivaled" self-help program of Divine life coaching.

In talking about myself being instrumentally-altered for the "better", I can't help but play Devi's Advocate again over something I've noted repeatedly in recent posts; the world has not been transformed by a Divine message expressed exclusively in the [Masoretic] Tanakh and taught by [Rabbinic] Judaism; it has largely been transformed by religions that came out/up/away from Judaism. It can be argued that this only asserts certain universal principles Rambam held; Christianity and Islam did transform the world - in many ways arguably for the better (regarding intellectual principles Rambam held), but they are only preparing for what will come via the Jews.

Looking again, I might add Rambam's heroes of Islamic and Greek philosophy, upon which he bases the view of Judaism with Aristotlian thought - did not survive among Rambam's fellow Jews - it survived in publication, copying and dissemination in the Islamic and Christian worlds (yes, via Jewish copyists in many cases - Jews from communities that didn't share in vast consumption of the material or when they did have passed to history). Science - trumpeted as trumpeted by Rambam - was largely a product of the Christian West, not Yavneh.

Divorced from their Jewish accent, most of the non-ritual "ethical" or society-building mitzvot codified by Rambam are normative ethics shared in the West due to Christian "misreading" of scriptures in 'errant' translation - divorced from the exclusive and proper context of Torah she bal Peh - and the ritual objects, ceremonies and functions function in a patently sociological manner "didactic devices" to remind us of substantially political covenants and obligations and guide us toward 'proper' intellectual models. The benefits of following dictates as being Divine commands likewise understood.

But again, most people are familiar with "Golden Rules", Aristotle and Islamic philosophers and the lauded intellectual ventures as formulated expressed in Christian and Islamic society - not hidden away in a Jewish Oral Law, forbidden upon penalty of death from being viewed by Gentile eyes. What to answer?; "That's because Jews are to teach them to Gentiles, who shouldn't learn them on their own"?...Again, having learned these things on their own divorced from the four Amot of Rabbinic Judaism, Gentiles are precisely who've spread such Golden Rules and moral maxims, expanding the intellectual vistas and propounding notions of Divine Commands to the four corners of the world. Jews have done likewise - largely amongst themselves as Jews, and occasionally as Jews in the general world - in the main, after assimilation. One challenge of among many that could be offered is that Christians and Muslims have largely failed at the task of transforming the world as perfectly as it could be; if only they'd done 'tshuva' and turned to the proper derech, the world would be in accord with one of several competing and contradicting Jewish standards or expectations for the world.

I'm not sure how any such claim could be made in a non-Charedi tone and without Charedi presuppositions that would NOT be shared by Rambam. I'm sure some can be made - I say only I can't imagine how, without considering some form of pluralism which Kellner avows Rambam could not abide nor could any philosophy considered respectable by the aforementioned.

I guarantee that I am in error in certain of the things I've presented above, or in supposing that Rambam is, or is regarded as, that much of a benchmark for modern Jews or Modern Orthodoxy. I spoke as the Devil's Advocate, and thus offer my views precisely for critique. But I digress, as is I am want to do, in talking about me.

So back to myself! Having to do these apparently universally-manifest good things in the specifically or exclusively-"Jewish" manner has simply made me neurotic and impulsive, compulsive and obsessive. It has whittled me down to a nub. Nay - a neb, plain and simple; a Jewish word for a Jewish archetype. I can be uncertain about some of my sweeping statements above, but I can be relatively certain I could be anything, nothing, definitely something outside of these confines - or outside of some of these confines. But not inevitably a neb. Blogging away in obscurity and isolation...

This post should mostly be read with Lewis (yet again, an amazing insight from outside Judaism...), on the affect of shifting, transient moods, from which I suffer with humanity.


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