Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Necessary Synthesis

In Rav Dov Schwartz' book on the history of Religious Zionism he notes that the movement faces a critical issue in defining itself.  During the 20th century two rabbinic leaders towered over the ideology and did much to define it, the Rav, zt"l, and Rav Kook, ztk"l.  From today's perspective their influences were seen as different from one another.  The Rav's approach was strictly halachic, being faithful to his Brisker roots and his belief in the pre-eminence of halacha in all areas of Judaism.  Rav Kook, on the other hand, is recalled from the mystical perspective he brought to Religious Zionism which is quite different.  The followers of Rav seek to develop Religious Zionism along practical, halachic lines while the students of Rav Kook see things in a more messianic fashion.  The differences make it difficult to find common ground between the two factions.
But it seems to me that this doesn't necessarily have to be so.  For one thing we must remember that in addition to being a pre-eminent mekubal Rav Kook was also a major posek.  Yes he wrote a great deal in the mystical fashion but he also appreciated good halachic methodology just like the Rav.  The gap between the two authorities isn't as great as one might think.
What's more, recall that Rav Kook himself was a special synthesis of the two pre-eminent traditions in the Torah-observant community of his time, the Yeshivish and the Chasidic branches.  In his writings one can find evidence of his efforts to unite the two disparate philosophies and show that together they form one comprehensive and complete vision of Judaism.  As the Final Redemption draws closer it's important to encourage efforts like this so that what has become a fragmented faith with all sorts of different traditions finds an inner unity.
Why is this important?  On both sides of centrist Torah observance there are troubles brewing.  On the left side there is the movement that wants to bring secular liberal ethics into Judaism but still call itself Orthodox.  On the right the Chareidi world has become a self-righteous ethnic group more concerned with preserving itself than properly observing the Torah it claims to be the defender of.  Only with strong positions in both halacha and kabalah can centrist Orthodoxy, Navonim if you will, stand as viable alternatives to both.
For all those Chareidim who are fed up with the narishkeit their leadership is serving them there is little perceived alternative.  It's either the Oreo cookie outfit or complete secuarlism.  Centrist Orthodoxy, with its current emphasis on academic approaches to Judaism combined with a perception that it is "Orthodoxy-lite" does not seem to them to be a serious alternative.  As a result many bright and committed individuals who might find a home in a religious rigorous but moe rational Judaism are lost to Torah observance.  Centrist Orthodoxy could fill this gap if it were to know how much deep halachic commitment and mystical awareness are part of its heritage.
Similarly on the left such stands could finally define what is acceptable according to a rationalist mesorah and what is simply playing "pick a posek" Judaism.  This can only occur if centrist Orthodoxy demands firm loyalty of its followers to the proper halachic methodology.
It therefore seems to me that what is important for centrist Orthodoxy, both the MO and DL communities, is to unify around a greater commitment to learning the works of the Rav and Rav Kook and building a community around their values and traditions.  In this way an amorphous group can form a strong alternative.

7 comments:

Y. Ben-David said...

Why does Religious Zionism have to "define itself". Eretz Israel, Am Israel, Torat Israel.....we RZ's all agree on that. Within that framework, there is plenty of room for individual initiative and freedom of choice. Why should we have to "define things" and then cast out those who don't exactly fit in? There is already too much of that in the Orthodox world!

Adam Zur said...

Rav Kook and the Rav what I hear did some thinking about philosophy. But did they come up with something better than the Rambam or Saadia Geon?

SJ said...

Modern Orthodoxy is too expensive to be a movement for the masses. You gotta be a doctor lawyer or accountant in order to be able to afford it.

Yj. Ben-David said...

Adam Zur-
Each philospher deals with the problems and questions that his generation is facing. The problems that the RAMBAM faced, i.e. the relationship of Aristotle and Greek philosophy is not what troubles the modern Jewish belever to the same extent, although there is still value in reading it. On the other hand, our generation is facing the diffiuulties caused by the rise of a Jewihs state in Eretz Israel, plus the facg that most Jjews today are not mitzvah observant. RAMBAM and Sa'adia Gaon didn't have the opportunity to confront the questions of revived Jewish life in Eretz Israel.

Temujin said...

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MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

Lord Ironheart welcomes Temujin and hopes he finds this abode to his liking.

Temujin said...

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