Sunday, August 28, 2005

Messianism and Its Discontents II

During today's reading of Parshat Eqev, I realized something that perhaps had gotten lost in my previous posting and in some of the responses it attracted (and perhaps was also too obvious). The capacity to eagerly anticipate the arrival of the messiah is a blessing. The longing for redemption on the part of the Jew is a source of incredible strength and endurance. The ability to discern the first rays of the dawn of that redemption is a tribute to the capacity of the Jew to transcend appearances and to perceive a deeper, more sublime reality. With out all of these, we would long ago have ceased to be. Certainly, the State of Israel would never have arisen.

The danger, however, is arrogance. The sin that messianic anticipation can engender is the arrogant belief in its irreversibility. The destruction, the easy destruction, of Gush qatif should teach us alot about reversibility. Our enemies got the message. We should too.

There are conditions to our being here. There are conditions to our staying here. There are conditions to the way we treat each other. There are conditions relating to the worship of God. If we want to know those conditions, all we need to do is to read Sefer Devarim, in general, and Parshat Eqev, in particular.


Anonymous said...

"The ability to discern the first rays of the dawn of that redemption is a tribute to the capacity of the Jew to transcend appearances and to perceive a deeper, more sublime reality."

i do not understand why this is not another way of saying we are fooling ourselves.
where is the sublime reality that we have recognized is the beginning of the messianic process? said...

" Actually, pray is the operative word because 'messianic' has simply become a synonym for belief in God, commitment to the Torah, to the Jewish People and an unshakeable belief that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish People in perpetuity (with caveats). In the face of the power of faith, those who are made uncomfortable thereby must demonize it. It must be a pathology. It must be an expression of the 'dark side.' Otherwise, one would need to take it seriously. Ironically, such an attitude is profoundly Manichean, or typical of medieval Christian thought. "

So what do we make of the religious people, especially the students of the zionistic Rav YB Soloveitchik Z"L - such as Rabbi Yosef Blau (see and - who "bandy" about this term as a "pejorative" in reference to the settlers/right-wing/religious zionists? Are they in reality christian? Do they think that I am pathological b/c I live in a settlement and go to shul on shabbat? Or are they just trying to put a nice face on Orthodox Judaism, by pointing out how rational they are in contradistinction to the forces of darkness?

We have a lot of work to do in our camp. There are too many religious Jews who have too much faith in the state/government and cannot see the evil for what it is. It is easier for them to attack their own kind.

Jeffrey said...

To Anonymous:
The Rav (like Ramban) taught that we must not be deceived by appearances. In an age of Hester Panim, we rely on our faith to see deeper levels of meaning to our reality. That, however, does not mean that every Providential act is messianic, or that even if Israel is a start of redemption, that that redemption is irreversible. I was objecting to the arrogance of the latter approach.

2) To settler: I haven't a clue what you're talking about. Read Rav Reines and get back to me. said...

You're claiming that the use of "messianism" as a pejorative is an attack on people who have faith, believe in God, practice religions etc. That's what you wrote.

What I'm asking is - how do we relate to religious people, people who also believe in God and practice the religion the same way we might, AND who also bandy about the term "messianist" or "irrational" to describe (certain groups of) religious people (most of whom - as you pointed out correctly are niether messianic nor irrational)? What is their motivation? The phenomenon exists (and I can find more examples than what I showed) and I just don't understand it. Your explanation seemed good enough to explain the overall kulturekampf and the use of messianic as pejorative by the secular elemnents in this kulturkampf. However, the phenomenon of its use pejoratively by people who you would naturally place on the "religious" or "faithful" side of the divide, against people presumably on the same side of the divide, calls the model into question somewhat, no?

I still find it difficult to understand how religious people (who presumably believe in some concept of the messiah as well) can use this term pejoratively to describe other religious people - possibly even knowing full well and better than the average secular writer in Haaretz that most of these people are not messianic - that's all.