Thursday, October 06, 2005

Obiter Cogitata

Rosh Hashanah was, Thank God, extraordinarily beautiful and moving. I think I'm going to need a bit of time to reduce the salient thoughts that came tome to writing. In the interim, herwith are some varied items that came across my desk before and after the day. (I'm not going to get involve with the degree to which Rosh Hashanah is a Hag.)

1) Dr. Rivka Teitz Blau has written a thoughtful and moving piece on where american Orthodoxy has been and where it might be going.

2) Professors Avi Sagi and Yedidyah Stern are two of the most prominent religious academicions in Israel. Erev Rosh Hashanah they publish an essay on the dangers, the necessity and the possibility of messianism. I will admit that I agree with a lot of the points that they raise. Nevertheless, there are not a few to which I take exception:

A) The idea that the totality of opposition to the destruction of Gush Qatif came from 'messianic quarters' is not only incorrect, it is a distortion. Yes, there are large numbers of people who are undergoing messianic disappointment due to the events of the last few months. However, it is also true that much of the impetus for the destruction came from an ideological base that is opposed to Jewish residence in the Land of Israel. Period. Opposition to the removal is the contra to that belief. To trivialize it as messianic halucinations is unfair (at best).

B) Following the Rov, I find the idea of messianism very frightening. Jews believe in a Messiah. Candidates for that job can fail (and one will ultimately succeed). Messianism is a secularized, essentially un-Jewish version, of that belief that seems to owe more to Hegel and Marx than it does to Moses and Isaiah. What I mean is that traditional belief in a personal Messiah is not a process. Messianism is a mechanistic process, which verges on the irreversible. As such it breeds arrogance, destruction and is a denial of freedom of will.

C) In the name of 'even-handeness,' the authors cite non-Orthodox thinkers who evince messianic characteristics (Herzl, Ben Gurion and A.B. Yehoshua). It is stunning, absolutely stunning, that they make no mention of the utopian fantasiasts among the Jews, who have (I assume unknowingly) adopted the basic tenets of Sabbatian theology in an attempt to save Jews and the World by de-judaizing both. (I say stunning because that line of argument is eminently characteristic of the paper in which their article was published.)

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