Friday, May 30, 2014

Spinoza, America, Africa

A few tidbits/ announcements:

- There's an interesting article in the New York Times called Judging Spinoza, in which arguments are offered as to why the cherem on him should not be lifted. Although the article engages in some strange backtracking at the end, it makes some very valid points.

- I am available for a scholar-in-residence weekend in the US for Shabbos of August 2nd. Please write to me if you want to arrange it.

- There are still four spots left on the Africa expedition at the end of June! Everyone who goes says that it's the best trip that they've ever done. See the Torah in Motion website for details and signup.

- Finally, here's a great video of "God Bless America" being sung by people that you wouldn't expect to see singing it:

25 comments:

  1. Great video. Thanks. Can you find one with HaTikvah?

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  2. Yeah, but do they say "Hanosein Teshu'a?"

    /snark

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  3. While your Africa expedition is way out of my price range, I very much like the inclusion of the Apartheid Museum in the itinerary. I think that we (Orthodox especially) tend to forget that we are not the only oppressed people in the history of the world. This quotation reminds me of the injunction "וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ-לִי מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים" (and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests):

    [T]o be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

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    1. liberal rhetoric gone staleJune 1, 2014 at 6:59 AM

      And can you honestly claim that this is the way they live after apartheid has been lifted?

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  4. In case anyone wants to know the source of the singing, it is from Hatzalah baseball came vs NYPD in MSC park, Coney Island. http://somehowfrum.blogspot.com/2010/07/brooklyns-best-build-bridges-hatzoloh.html

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  5. The Spinoza article was remarkably fair-minded. I see the last part not so much as "strange backtracking," but as a valid point about the wisdom and efficacy of religious censorship today. Surely you (lehavdil elef havdalot from Spinoza) should be able to appreciate the statement, "By enforcing conformity of belief and punishing deviations from dogma, religious authorities may end up depriving the devoted of the possibility of achieving in religion that which they most urgently seek."

    The chazzonishe National Anthem is slightly better than a performance I once heard by a cantorial choir, which was less a harmonious blending of voices than a competition to see who could outshout the others.

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    1. In Harry Austryn Wolfson's commentary on Spinoza Ethics, he tries to demonstrate how many of Spinoza's ideas are taken from the Rishonim--Rambam, Ralbag, Crescas, etc. It's pretty shocking how someone can take classical texts, and end up with something heretical.

      I think it's proper to lay down some sort of guidelines as to what is considered no longer Judaism, while at the same time not ostracizing people who might think that way--that they're still Jewish, but what they're practicing/believing is no longer Judaism.

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  6. Here is a different Chassidic group singing the National Anthem at a ballpark: http://jpupdates.com/2013/07/03/video-the-national-anthem-hasidic-version/

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  7. And here's Yoel Sharabi at Shea Stadium:
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-Wqt2sHKkc

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  8. I see that traditionalist Jews have finally made it in America, feel completely at home there and are fully accepted there by their non-Jewish neighbors.........just like they did in pre-expulsion Spain and in pre-Nazi Germany.
    I guess some people never learn.

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  9. Interesting points made by the article on Spinoza. Do we really need to repeal such a ban? Is there some ban on studying his works? If there is, then, ok, lift the ban so that we can study philosophy in the fullest (assuming you agree with the ban. There may be a ban on three books that happen to be connected to this blog; I still think it's ok to read them). But if not, what would lifting the cherem actually achieve?

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    1. Avram: Rav Herzog wrote a letter to the head of the Spinoza Society in Israel stating that there is no ban currently in effect on reading his works. You can find the source in Daniel Schwartz's "The First Modern Jew."
      \
      Lawrence Kaplan

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  10. The blacks is St could have been treated better, but still had it OK by African standards. Much better to visit Anglo-Boer War and Voortrekker museums. There you will get to know the history of the people that had turned the sparsely inhabited wilderness into a prosperous modern country. I think it's a matter of time before SA goes the way of Rhodesia, so hurry up.

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  11. Am I supposed to be impressed by hassidim singing the National anthem? This community is expert at gaming the system and this is a part of it. They are phonies.

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    1. Am I supposed to be impressed by a snide comment from someone who doesn't know the difference between the National Anthem and God Bless America?

      Carol - you obviously know very little about hassidim. Not even enough to know that not all the the singers were hassidim. Your bias is showing.

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  12. Carol, what's up with your acrimony? First it was your comment "Typical of hassidim." And now you're saying hassidim are phonies, without even bothering to narrow down to certain people. Can you please think before you type?

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    1. I live in BP for 30 years and I deal with them every day. Not taking my words back. In the clip they seem to be visibly uncomfortable. Why did they do it? Strange.
      When I was in H. S. I had principal's permission not to say the pledge of allegiance every morning. I liked America, but my allegiance was elsewhere, I just couldn't say it. The whole class knew about it, but I had no problems. Now I appreciate what a great H.S. it was.

      Moshe, I slipped and it was pretty funny. Be impressed by the truth, nothing else.

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  13. Did Spinoza claim that his philosophy was Judaism? I don't know, just asking because if he, as I suspect didn't, what is the problem?

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    1. What traditional Judaism finds offensive about Spinoza's thought is not so much his philosophy as found in the Ethics, but his thoroughgoing, harsh, and rather nasty arrack on Judaism in his Theological-Political Treatise.

      Speaking of nasty, what is with your nasty comments about Hasidim lately?

      Lawrence Kaplan

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    2. Judaism has had no shortage of heretics in its history--it's intriguing why, out of all those who left the fold and wrote attacks on Judaism, would people somehow want to accept Spinoza back into the fold at this point in time.

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  14. I live in BP and they have been getting on my nerves more then usua lately. Apparently I went overboard, I'm going to stop.

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  15. liberal rhetoric gone staleJune 1, 2014 at 6:59 AM
    And can you honestly claim that this is the way they live after apartheid has been lifted?


    Can you honestly claim that the US lived to up to "all men are created equal" for the first 200 years of its existence? Can you honestly say that Orthodox Jews don't gossip about one another or love their neighbors as themselves? That said, I think that Mandela did a pretty good job of doing what he claimed and not allowing the situation to become apartheid in reverse.

    Y. Ben-DavidMay 31, 2014 at 11:37 PM
    I see that traditionalist Jews have finally made it in America, feel completely at home there and are fully accepted there by their non-Jewish neighbors.........just like they did in pre-expulsion Spain and in pre-Nazi Germany.
    I guess some people never learn.


    You can run that argument many ways. I guess that you haven't learned from our experience with the Romans that we are not free and safe in our land, that armed resistance is futile, and that we should hunker down and wait for Mashiach to simply appear.

    More importantly, for better or worse, strong, public Jewish participation in American politics is one factor that tilts American policy in favor of Israel, which probably saved it from a significant defeat in 1973, to pick one example of many. The world is not black and white.

    HadleyJune 1, 2014 at 6:36 AM
    Carol, what's up with your acrimony?


    Don't feed the trolls...

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  16. Y. Ben-David Your claim that Jews in pre-expulsion Spain and Weimar Germany were fully accepted by their non-Jewish neighbors (as in the massacres and forced conversions of 1391, the forced Disputation of Tortosa in 1414) show you know NOTHING about those two communities.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  17. Lawrence Kaplan-
    I am well aware of what you are saying. I was making an over-generalization and using sarcasm to ram my point through.
    Unfortunately sarcasm doesn't come through well in print. What I was trying to point out is that these people who feel "at home" in the US try to convince themselves that their neighbors love them. Don't get me wrong, the US has been good to the Jewish people and to me personally, but history shows that every single Galut community eventually turns on its Jewish population, no matter how good things were for them, even in their "Golden Ages" in pre-expulsion Spain and Weimar Germany.

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  18. Um, wasn't he being sarcastic? Not that I agree with the point he was trying to make, which seems to be that Jews who live in the U.S. have no business expressing love for it.

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