Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Monday, 22 June 2015

Restoring This World

For centuries we, the Jewish people, lived in homeless exile.  As a result of being under the rule of other nations, even in our Land, we were denied the ability to observe large areas of Torah law.  Two thirds of the Talmud, Kodoshim and Tahoros were out of the picture.  Much of Zeriam was inapplicable to the majority of Jews, even in Israel.  And with only limited judicial autonomy much of Nezikin was also just theoretical.  It is no wonder, then, that over 1800 years Judaism developed an obsession with those few parts of the law that was still relevant to regular life.
Along with that focus came a new interest in the spiritual.  From vague references in the Torah to mysterious stories in Nach and occasional descriptions in the Talmud the spiritual developed over the centuries, especially after the "discovery" of the Zohar and the writing of the Ari HaKadosh came to light.  In the last few decades, the push by the spiritualist, especially with the new dominance of Chasidish thinking over the Chareidi community and the outreach efforts of Lubavitch, have led to its having effects on every day Jewish thinking.
What is this effect?  Consider the standard Lubavitcher line: this world is an illusion.  Imagine its implications.
One can understand why this issue is of great concern to Jewish thinkers.  God is infinite but if He is where does that leave room for us in the universe since He already occupies every nook and cranny?  One solution is that there is nothing else occupying that space because it's not real.  The door to my office, my car, my cell phone, none of these truly exist in this philosophy but are mere covers for their true spiritual essences which are all that really matter.
What has such thinking done to us?  It seems to have created a belief system in which this world is given no value at all.  Well, why should it have value?  It's not really there.  Besides, if the only thing that matters is Olam Haba then anything that is of value for this world alone is also meaningless.  The result is a culture in which there is an emphasis on the spiritual, on the purely bein adam l'Makom aspect of Judaism and a concomitant disdain for all other aspects of Judaism.  That's why we see endless examples of frum Jews who are meticulous in their observance of kashrus and complete menuvalim in their business and interpersonal affairs.
The emphasis on the spiritual has also contributed to the great divide between the secular and observant segments of our nation.  Secular Jews, for lack of a proper Torah education (or sadly, sometimes because of one!) are focused on the physical, on what they can see and feel.  They aren't so much worried about Heaven but about making that next mortgage payment and ensuring their families are well cared for.  They prize effort and achievement in this world.  Imagine the rejection they feel from observant Jews who sniff at their accomplishments because it has nothing to do with Olam Haba.  Imagine their disgust at Jewish leaders who work to ensure their followers remain in penury so as to minimize the temptations of this world in order to maximize their reward in the Next.
But it does not have to be this way.
As Rav Kook, ztk"l, taught, there is definite holiness in this world because God created it and it impossible for something that was produced by his supernal holiness to be void of its own inner kedushah.  Yes, everything has its own spiritual component but God is not on deity of trickery.  If there's a door post in front of me the physical component exists as surely as the spiritual one does and since it is one of His creations it has value.
This is where Religious Zionism needs to set up a counterweight to combat this galus-based philosophy.  In the absence of a State, in a wandering life where the questions of dealing with life in this world in all its facts, economic, agricultural, military etc., are absent one does not have to ascrbie any value to This World.  Having return to our Land these issues come up anew.
Modern Chareidism has dealt with this issue by retreating even deeper into the "only the spiritual matters" position.  We are told that the Israeli army doesn't really protect Israel, the Chareidi community's Torah learning (and, oddly enough, only theirs) does.  The Michtav MiEliyahu's radical position that all effort in This World is worthless and only a "going through the motions" because it's the spiritual realm where reality actually happens is waved about as the "authentic" Jewish position on these matters when it's really not.
Religious Zionism needs to point out that the reason God gave us the Torah in this world is because He wanted us to use it in this world.  There is holiness in all that goes into building Israel.  There is spiritual worth in all those activities which protect Jews and help them prosper.  It is through this understanding that we can reach out to our religiously alienated brethren and show them that, despite their lack of proper Torah observance in many areas they are part and parcel of the Jewish nation and essential components to it.  Their hopes and dreams have meaning and, if sublimated to Torah values, can be essential in pushing forward our progress through the Final Redemption.
There is, of course, danger in this approach.  A two way bridge encourages traffic in both ways.  Emphasizing material value could come at the expense of appreciating spiritual value and only with both as the primary emphasis in approach worship of the Creator does one truly fulfill the Torah imperative.  However, the cost of not doing it is what we see today - the vast majority of Jews, including in Israel, bereft of any sense of purpose or feeling of meaning in being Jewish.  Could this change not help bring them closer to our heritage?


RAM said...

Let's say for argument's sake that Olam HaBa is more real than Olam Hazeh. Our ticket from A to B is to do whatever HaShem demands of us, including in interpersonal relations on earth. So how can someone preoccupied with Olam Haba fail to carry out interpersonal mitzvot?

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Because the way its presented people are given the impression that bein adam l'makom and bein adam l'chaveiro are two exclusive categories.
In addition, there's a public glitz to the former that the latter lack. No one cares if you announce that you're very careful to be nice to people or not steal. But tell people you wait a little extra between meat and milk or won't daven somewhere because the mechitzah's not high enough and you get status!