Wednesday, August 17, 2005

To Live With One's Suffering

In his essay, Qol Dodi Dofeq, Rav Soloveitchik זצ"ל laid out his vision of Religious Zionism. As a prelude, he discussed the question of suffering and how to confront it (a topic which is elaborated on in his posthumously published essays, Out of the Whirlwind). The bottom line of his discussion in QDD is that the search for an answer to the ultimate, metaphysical 'why' questions leads man nowhere. Halakhah, the Rov declared, requires the sufferer to take stock of his changed life and ask himself: 'What shall I do in order to live with my suffering?' (The emphasis is on do and live).

In our present situation, I think that the answer (or part thereof) is very clear. We need to undertake nothing less than the re-judaization of this country. Without that, there will be no basis for our continued existence (from both a practical and a fortiori a theological point of view). This is, albeit, a very daunting task. The academic/judicial/political/media./intellectual powers that be have effectively rejected Judaism and Jewish Civilization, followed by the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own. This has been a principled decision on their part, which I both respect and reject. The decision has effectively been a conversion to Western-Liberal dogma, which has many traits of fundamentalist religion (as the noted sociologist, Peter Berger has demonstrated in A Rumor of Angels and the Heretical Imperative). In any event, as with most inter-faith dialogues, there is little to be gained by debating principles of faith here either.

The people, however, are another story. Pace R. Ya'akov Medan, the events that we witnessed during the Oslo War (Stage One), proved to me beyond the shadow of a doubt that the overwhelming majority of Jewish Israelis want to be Jews, respect Judaism and will fight for both. We need to listen to them to get our own house in order and to learn Torah (in the widest sense of the word) with them.

Here, though, is the rub. 'The bearers of the Torah do not know Me' (Jer. 2, 8). There is no one home (or precious few) to do this act of collective literal Piqquah Nefesh. Where are rabbis who can do more than quote? Where are the Rashe Yeshiva who can do more than yell 'azay shteht'? How come there is noone to stand up and respectfully engage the shibboleths of society in its own terms? Yes, there are religious academics who have those tools. All too often, however, they are not Talmide Hakhamim and carry no valence as representatives of Torah, either with religous or non-religious Jews. (Never mind that all too often they 'go native,' as Shifra Ehrlich pointed out so effectively today.)

This has got to change, and right now. It means changing priorities. It means taking heat from both sides. It means that what open Orthodoxy there is in this country has got to take itself seriously, beyn le-humra beyn le-qula. It can be done. It must be done. Our lives and souls, and those of our posterity, depend upon it.

2 comments: said...

When viewing the religious figures that have (or will have) the capabilities you describe, I'm not so sure that's it's all that simple (or even possible) to distinguish between those who have "gone native" and those who haven't. By the same token, it won't be that simple to distinguish which "elites" are impeneterable and which are not. If I sit down to learn Torah with someone, who's to say that I won't be "personally betrayed" as well? Who's to say that "Ruth Gavison" today will not become "Avirama Golan" tomorrow - or that it's not an inherent condition from the beginning?

It seems to me that while you are correct in your assessment of the overwhelming majority of Jewish Israelis in terms of wanting to be Jews, they still don't know how to translate this into political leadership and thus look to the elites as "big daddy" who will always bail them out. We need to stregthen our own house and build a viable, authentic torah minority before reaching out. Otherwise, OUR chidlren will become "couch potato" zionists as well (see Yair Sheleg's recent column). While I don't necessarily agree with the religious approach of the Mercaz Harav school of though, I think their cultural approach is what's needed right now for us RZ's (and ultimately the state as a whole).
We must reject Israeli culture - even if that means letting in a little foreign culture in order to blow off steam. My children will hear as much Marilyn Manson and Puff Daddy as they like (filthy lyrics non-withstanding) just to prevent them from wanting to seek out cheap imitators such as Hadag Nachash and Aviv Geffen who will undermine their Jewishness.

Jewish Exile said...

just thought I would take this opportunity to say your blog rocks.

-longtime lurker