Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Thursday, 15 October 2009

Mirror Mirror

Years ago The National Post ran a piece on the concept of the "Madrich/a", a type of leader in the secular humanist part of the Jewish community. The madricha interviewed made it very clear that while she was proud to be Jewish, she utterly rejected anything that a believing Jew would recognize as Judaism. She was an atheist, thought the Torah was full of hate and lies and that Judaism was an oppressive patriarchal religion designed by evil men to oppress its followers. It was one of those articles that makes me roll my eyes. This person hates everything that defines Judaism but still wants to be considered a proud Jew. Right.
A week of so later there was a response from a Rav in Toronto who made an interesting point, one that has stayed with me since. The Torah, he opined, is like a mirror. What you see in it is merely a reflection of what is inside of you. If you see love in the Torah, it's because you're a loving person. If you see hatred, it's because of the hatred in your soul. As Chazal often state, kol haposel, b'mumo posel.
As a result, the Rav concluded, he could tell a lot about this madricha and what kind of person she really was inside. It wasn't the Torah that was at fault, rather it was her.
Perhaps this is why different people have such radically different opinions and understandings of the Torah. But if that's the case, what does that say about the folks who have such a negative opinion of it?

7 comments:

Not Brisk said...

Do you agree with him?

Anonymous said...

What if you see both?

Garnel Ironheart said...

To a certain extent, I do agree with him. Look, any piece of literature could be evaluated in that fashion but the difference is that how I relate to Torah is how I relate to God. Self-awareness is then the key. If I have a positive image of der Aibishter, then I must have positive feelings for Him myself. If I see Him in a negative light, then it's not because, chas v'shalom, God is negative but because I am. And since the Torah is, by our belief, the objective of good and truth, I have to change how I'm feeling instead of just assuming I'm right.

Dr Mike said...

Chazal themselves allude to this. How about: one who ignores those who insult him will have his insults towards Heaven ignored? Or the Avos that says Do His will so that He will do yours, etc.

David said...

Garnel--

The Torah is NEVER at fault.
The rabbis are NEVER at fault.
Judaism is NEVER at fault.

Defects are invariably foisted off on the person who perceives them-- doesn't that get a bit old after a while?

Oh, and since you see in the Torah nothing but utter goodness, beauty, subtlety and perfection, no doubt that means that you, too, are utterly good, beautiful, subtle and perfect. Seriously, would you buy this ridiculous reasoning if it were being offered on any other topic? BS does not alter its fundamental quality because it leaks from the tongue or pen of a rabbi.

And, further, as to your comment: "this person hates everything that defines Judaism but still wants to be considered a proud Jew," allow me to point out that we're all very flexible about what makes someone Jewish. When we talk about Jewish pride, we like to mention Einstein, Salk, Golda Meir, Sandy Koufax, Marc Chagall, Louis Brandeis, etc., none of whom were particularly religious. So, Jewish pride does not need to come from a giddy thrill at near eastern mythology. So, why can't this woman admire a rich history without having to admire the things that you like?

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

> The Torah is NEVER at fault.

That's right.

> The rabbis are NEVER at fault.

Yep, I agree.

> Judaism is NEVER at fault.

See? Now you're getting it.

David, do you know how many people I see in a day whose misery is entirely self-inflicted and who insist on blaming anyone else but themselves for their problems? Seriously, the vast majority of difficulties people face in life usually come from their inability to have decent insight and realize that they are the cause of the screw ups.
How many university students do poorly on exams and blame the wording of the questions or the lousy quality of the lecturers? When in reality they should have studied harder and skipped that kegger the day before but chas v'shalom they should be at fault.
Now the government up here and a few places in the States is talking about tackling the obesity epidemic by banning certain foods. Right, because its McDonald's fault that people walk in of their own free will, gorge themselves of their own free will, drink too much beer of their own free will, refuse to exercise of their own free will, smoke of their own free will...
People on average do not want to be responsible for themselves but they want to place the blame on others because the truth is too difficult. It means the person is wrong and has to change. Chas v'shalom.

> you, too, are utterly good, beautiful, subtle and perfect.

Golly, thanks David. I mean, you'll just get OTD jealous sweet talking me like that though.

> Jewish pride does not need to come from a giddy thrill at near eastern mythology

If Judaism hadn't been rigidly defined for thousands of years, you might have a point but it has been and so you don't. Judaism is a nationality with the Torah as its constitution and the halacha as its legal corpus. A Jew was someone who accepted membership under those conditions and joined in the common fate of the Jewish nation. Any other definition is an invention by people who want to be proud Jews but don't want to "do Jewish".
Was Einstein a great man? Yes, but his Judaism has nothing to do with it and he had minimal to do with his Judaism. So should I feel a sense of Jewish pride? What on Earth for?
Secondly, your list is somewhat deceptive. Golda Meir and Sandy Koufax became prominent because of their public Jewish behaviour. Einstein and Salk did not.
This does not take away from their tremendous achievements but to say that these deeds made them great Jews is like saying an introverted baseball player's 300 average makes him a great humanitarian when he has no connection with humanity at all.

David said...

"the vast majority of difficulties people face in life usually come from their inability to have decent insight and realize that they are the cause of the screw ups."

Possibly true, but certainly irrelevant. The woman in question was not claiming that she had any particular difficulties, nor was she blaming the Torah for anything in particular. She just wasn't buying it or admiring it, and she was finding something else in her people's history that inspired her. And this "rav's" response to an attack on the Torah is not a defense of the Torah, but rather an ad hominem attack predicated on a wholly indefensible assertion about the Torah. How pathetic is that?

The point here is that your position is silly, and the mirror analogy is just downright ludicrous. Why is she evil just because she thinks the Torah is bad? And, chuckle if you will, but the obvious corrolary to this rabbi's (utterly stupid and indefensible) view is that you and all of your fellow believers are spotless and perfect and the rest of humanity is somewhere below you.

"People on average do not want to be responsible for themselves but they want to place the blame on others because the truth is too difficult."

Precisely why they go to rabbis and other hucksters and rely on silly fairy tales. It's easier than thinking (as you so clearly demonstrate with this post).

"If Judaism hadn't been rigidly defined for thousands of years, you might have a point but it has been and so you don't."

Judaism is (now) rigidly defined to include any poor sap like me, who, regardless of his inclinations or beliefs, happens (through no fault of his own) to have a Jewish mother (don't get me wrong, I love Mom). I'm not sure that definition was always in place-- I think it might originate in the 2d century (clearly, Solomon wasn't worried about it).

"Judaism is a nationality with the Torah as its constitution and the halacha as its legal corpus."

It's also a small collection of ethnicities (ever hear of an Ashkenazic Buddhist?) and a group of people with a remarkable shared heritage and an impressive list of achievements. Most of which were unrelated to frumkheit.

"Was Einstein a great man? Yes, but his Judaism has nothing to do with it and he had minimal (sic) to do with his Judaism."

And yet Jews always seem proud to claim him. He's part of our history as a people, and there's nothing wrong with that-- just like Chagall (who was certainly influenced by Jewish ideas).


"Secondly, your list is somewhat deceptive. Golda Meir and Sandy Koufax became prominent because of their public Jewish behaviour."

However, neither was religious. Koufax was prominent because of his exceptional ability-- the fact that he chose to honor the high holidays is nice, but he would not have signed on to your philosophy. As to Meir, her view of Judaism owed more to 19th century Russian intellectual ideas than to Torah. Indeed, her Jewish pride was a perfect example of something you're now claiming has no legitimate existence.

Again, Garnel, you're returning to your favorite theme, which is that all of your beliefs are utterly perfect, and those of us who question them are defective. It's obnoxious and since you have yet to succeed in mounting a defense of this view, perhaps you might extend a bit more sympathy and understanding to people who don't see things your way. You're starting to sound like a slightly more sophisticated (and less sex-obsessed) version of Jewish Philosopher.