Thursday, September 17, 2015

Okay, Okay, I Won't Call It That!

Well, I was inundated with comments and emails after yesterday's post about the book I am currently working on. Everyone agreed that the title I was toying with, One Judaism, Two Religions: Rationalism versus Mysticism, was an appalling idea. Thank you for your input, and I will abandon that title!

I liked two of David Bar-Cohn's suggestions the best. One was Rationalism Restored: Defending Jewish Intellectual History from Religious Revisionism. The other, which I prefer, was Rationalism vs Mysticism: Schisms in Traditional Jewish Thought. I like the way it presents the fact that there are very deep differences between the two worldviews, yet does not try to delegitimize either of them. That's an important component of my presentation, in which I always stress that while I personally identify with the rationalist worldview, I do not believe in trying to exterminate the other perspective.

Co-existence between the two groups is difficult. There is an unfortunate tendency among some mystics to brand rationalists as heretics, and there is an unfortunate tendency among some rationalists to brand mystics as idiots. But perhaps each can at least see that the other side has a long legacy, and that there are people for whom it is uniquely suited. It’s a case of different strokes for different folks.

Furthermore, fortunately Judaism is largely a religion of deed rather than creed. There are relatively few practical ramifications, on a daily basis, between rationalists and mystics. I myself daven at a wonderful tiny shteeble that contains both die-hard rationalists and staunch mystics, and we all get along just fine. It’s only when people give divrei Torah that the sparks fly.

57 comments:

  1. Not that my opinion adds much to this discussion, but I'm uncomfortable with the dichotomy between Rationalism and Mysticism. I think there is a wide spectrum between the two poles, with great sages who are mystically inclined incorporating some rationalism and others who are rationalistically inclined incorporating some mysticism and some sitting in the middle who evade classification.

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    1. There's definitely a spectrum, but it's still very meaningful to talk about the two poles.

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    2. Just to echo Rabbi Student: Dayan Grunfeld shows, in his introduction to Rav Hirsch's Choreiv ("Horeb"), page lxxxiv, "Intellect and Feeling", that Rav Hirsch included both the rational and the mystical in his thought.

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    3. @R Student: You've got the wrong criteria, IMO. The issue is not whether, in reality, there is a continuum. The issue is that those sages far enough to one side of the continuum consider the other side to be illegitimate. So some of the Rambam's views were perceived as heretical even by those like the Ramban who respected him. Likewise, the Rambam would undoubtedly view the Sefirot as heretical. In modern times, the Rav was considered beyond the pale by the end of his life by those on the right.

      You may take a bird's eye view and attempt to bridge the gap, but the participants did not and do not.

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    4. What idea of the Rambam did the Ramban consider heretical?

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    5. I agree with R. Student. If you follow the Rambam's ideal lifestyle, you enter a path well recognized in mystical thought, and much of what he wrote in the Guide regarding the noncorporality of G-d and what the Divine Attributes are has close parallels in PseudoDionysius ( the Divine Names and the Mystical Theology in particular). (Not that Rambam probably knew, much less read the Areopagite.) Chabad actually draws as much from Rambam as it does from Arizal. It was the ultimate Catholic rationalist, Aquinas, who leaned on Rambam as he wrote his Summae who near the end of his life had some sort of spiritual experience that led him to declare everything he had written was twaddle.
      Maybe you should not call it mysticism. To me what you are contending with is anti-rationality...ignorance for the sake of ignorance, the sort of thinking that emulates Tertullian's aphorism (I believe because it is impossible)

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    6. Gil Student: What idea of the Rambam did the Ramban consider heretical?

      That all stories mentioning angels in the Torah are allegorical. I think that he says that it is not permitted to listen to this theory, let alone believe it. Which I think implies that it is heretical. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

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    7. Sorry, I wrote imprecisely. The Rambam says that they were visions, not allegories (although visions themselves contain allegories).

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    8. @David Ohsie: "Likewise, the Rambam would undoubtedly view the Sefirot as heretical."

      I recently came upon this in the Moreh (Part I, Chapter 50): "Those who believe that G-d is One, and that He has many attributes, declare the unity with their lips, and assume plurality in their thoughts. This is like the doctrine of the Christians, who say that He is one and He is three and that the three are one."
      I assume Kabbalists would counter that a distinction is made between Hashem's Essence, which is an unfathomable, single entity, and how He reveals Himself (to the Prophets, in the Creation), where we see Hashem bestowing Chesed, punishing with Gevurah, etc. (I'm sure readers here will still find what I'm saying heretical.)

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    9. I think that the Kabbalists, if they cared to bring along the Rambam, would simply reinterpret the Rambam as embracing Kabbalah.

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    10. For example see here.

      Maimonides Was He a Closet Kabbalist?

      According to many sources, not only was the RaMBaM a secret Kabbalist, he was also a receiver of the Holy Zohar prior to it being publicly known.

      By Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok

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  2. But perhaps each can at least see that the other side has a long legacy...

    It depends on the definition of "long". We are talking about 3000+ years starting from mount Sinai vs. 900 years starting in Spain.

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    1. The Rambam felt that his view went back to Sinai and I assume that the Arizal did too. You assume your conclusion.

      More importantly, you can trace this conflict back the Talmud at least. For example:

      There is none else beside Him: R. Hanina said: Even sorcery. A woman once attempted to cast a spell over R. Hanina. He said to her, 'Try as you will, you will not succeed in your attempts, for it is written: There is none else beside Him'. Has not, however, R. Johanan declared: Why is sorcery called keshafim? Because it overrules [the decree of] the heavenly council? - R. Hanina was in a different category, owing to his abundant merit.

      R. Hanina was not concerned about sorcery because there is not power other than God, while the Talmud argues (based on R. Yochanan) and explains that he was actually saved by his merit. Sound familiar?

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    3. Lazar--

      I believe that most or all of the Geonim were also more on the rationalist side, which puts us back further than 900 years.

      But more importantly: what led you to believe that that the Geonim and rationalist Rishonim (like Rambam) thought they were starting something that does not connect back with Sinai?

      I don't think you can pull out these bricks of our mesorah without the whole building falling down.

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    4. Agree with "Avi from BM of TIDE".

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    5. @David Ohsie: Regarding witchcraft: Wouldn't such a story demonstrate that witchcraft has/had some sort of mystical power, and isn't just pure nonsense, as the Rambam would hold?
      Similarly, there is a story in the Gemara (Shabbos 81b) where a Roman woman utters an incantation, and stops the boat of Rav Chisda and Rabbah Bar Rav Huna. They utter something, and free their boat. She then bemoans the fact that spells won't work against them, because of various practices of theirs (which don't seem to be so connnected to any particular merit).
      There is an aphorism of the Ba'al Shem Tov who asked: It's understood that the Gemara wouldn't cite what the Roman woman said. But why shouldn't the Gemara tell us what Rav Chisdah and Rabbah said? It might be of assistance to us.
      The Ba'al Shem Tov answered that the Gemara shouldn't read אמרו אינהו מילתא, but rather אמרו אינהו מל"ת--that they uttered the verse מכשפה לא תחיה, and that freed their boat.
      [This website discusses the Ba'al Shem Tov's question, and is hard pressed to find a version of the Gemara that matches the story: http://daf-yomi.com/DYItemDetails.aspx?itemId=13973]

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    6. @David Ohsie: Regarding witchcraft: Wouldn't such a story demonstrate that witchcraft has/had some sort of mystical power, and isn't just pure nonsense, as the Rambam would hold?

      R. Hanina said that there was no power except for God and therefore, there was no need to be concerned about the witchcraft to begin with an no need to counter it. I presume that if he was driving on the road and someone ran a red light in front of him, he would hit his brakes, and not just say "there is none else beside him" and continue drive at the same speed. So he felt that there was no validity to witchcraft.

      While the conclusion of the Talmud is to disagree and say that he was actually protected by his great merit, the dispute is there.

      You are correct that Rambam needs to either ignore as "minority opinion" or else reinterpret many Gemaras. However there are definitely others that align with his opinion.

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    7. @David Ohsie The Rambam felt that his view went back to Sinai and I assume that the Arizal did too

      How can the above be reconciled with examples like this: when Moshe would raise his hand, Israel would prevail, otherwise Amalek would prevail; or when people looked up upon the copper snake they would be cured of snake bite?

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    8. I think the Mishnah itself answers that one: the mere position of Moshe's hands, or looking at the copper snake, were not decisive--but rather Israel "subduing/directing their hearts towards their Father in Heaven".
      [The Ba'al HaTanya asks in Likkutei Torah, Parshas Chukas: If the deciding factor was just telling anyone bitten by a serpent to direct his heart towards Hashem, why was there a need to make a copper snake? Moshe Rabbenu could just tell them to pray to Hashem, or the like. He answers that the point of gazing at the copper snake was to recognize that even punishments and things that we perceive as bad, also come from Hashem and are ultimately good.]

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    9. Mishnah on Rosh Hashanah 29b was bothered by the same question, and gives a "non-mystical" answer. In fact, this proves my point. If mystical forces prevail, why should it be hard to believe that upraised hands or a copper snake can cure?

      [It is written] and it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand that Israel prevailed, etc. Now did the hands of Moses wage war or crush the enemy? Not so; only the text signifies that so long as Israel turned their thoughts above and subjected their hearts to their father in heaven they prevailed, but otherwise they fell. the same lesson may be taught thus. [It is written], make thee a fiery serpent and set it up on a pole, and it shall come to pass that everyone that is bitten, when he seeth it, shall live. Now did the serpent kill or did the serpent keep a live? No; [what it indicates is that] when Israel turned their thoughts above and subjected their hearts to their father in heaven, they were healed, but otherwise they pined away.

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    10. I see above as mystical rather than rationalist. According to rationalist only doctors heals and only soldiers win the battle.

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    11. I think adherents to RJ can believe in Providence. Otherwise you would not classify Rambam as a rationalist.

      OTOH, if the mystical rules, then what problem is there to think that a copper snake can't cure?

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    12. Lazar, it's very important to note the following: the pasuk says,
      ...והיה אם נשך הנחש את איש והביט אל נחש הנחושת וחי.
      Not that the person was healed, but that he lived. And as we belive that the Torah is purposefully written and arranged, it makes this an important distinction.

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  3. Agree with Gil Student. But apart from his well-taken point, I have the feeling that your distinction is not between rationalism and mysticism at all. To me, reading your blog, you seem to be identifying trends toward 1) extremism, 2) simplification of complex issues, 3) autocracy - within democratic states, autocracies functioning at the level of community, and masses relying on leaders for decision making. I'm not sure that I see mysticism as playing a great role in the evolution of these trends.


    one group towards what in American history has been called populism, where simplistic views are espoused over far more complex ones,

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    1. Agreed. You can subsituate the words "Republican" and "Democrat" for most of this post, and it will read equally well. As in: "Demcocrats think Republicans are mean and Republicans thinks Democrats are fools." And, as Gil Student said, there is a large spectrum within these basic stereotypes. And also as in that nearly always the two groups manage to get along just fine, but occasionally the sparks will fly.

      That's what I meant in previous post that the distinction of rationalist v mystic is a universal one, common across all times and places. Man always breaks down into two basic prototypes, on any issue.

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    2. Not related to the post, but to DF's comment: After the debacle of the Presidential Elections in the year 2000, someone quipped: "How can you tell the difference between a Democrat and a Republican? A Democrat can't read, and a Republican can't count" [That is, Democrats who wanted to vote Gore were confused by the ballot, and voted for Pat Buchanan by mistake. Republicans "couldn't succeed" in re-counting the ballots properly, so eventually Bush won the state of Florida and the election.]

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  4. It all depends how you define "mysticism." When I googled the word, I got two interesting and very different definitions:
    1. belief that union with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect, may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender.
    2. belief characterized by self-delusion or dreamy confusion of thought, especially when based on the assumption of occult qualities or mysterious agencies.

    I'm assuming that R. Slifkin's challenges are directed more at 2 than at 1.

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  5. We may get along by and large, but I'm more than a bit surprised to hear you say that there are few practical ramifications of the mystical worldview.

    What about army service, for instance? Doesn't the mystical idea that Torah learning constitutes equal (if not greater) physical protection serve as the religious basis for many people to "opt out" of the draft and not join their brothers and sisters putting their lives on the line in the IDF?

    And what about sexual predators who use mystical ideas to seduce and harm their victims? Segula/ayin hara peddlers who con people out of their money? Tens of thousands who fly to the Ukraine each year seeking personal salvation from a deceased Torah luminary? Kapparot done under unsanitary and inhumane conditions? Metzitza b'peh? The list goes on.

    True, not all examples of the mystical/rational divide are day-to-day issues among our neighbors, and they don't necessarily keep us from davening in the same shul, but when you say it's just "different strokes," I can't help but think: "What you talkin' 'bout, Willis?"

    Even if we make room for multiple approaches and work to get along with each other (and I agree we should!), it seems to me that 1) there *are* significant, practical consequences to the religious-philosophical divide that are palpable in the everyday sense, and 2) there's a place to advocate for one approach over the other when we perceive intellectual, moral or pragmatic failings that stem from a particular philosophical approach.

    Of course, you're as keenly aware of this as anyone I can think of! That's why the last paragraph of your post left me scratching my head.

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    1. Kollel, too. But I was thinking more in terms of daily religious practice than societal aspects.

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    2. With all due respect, the similarities and differences in daily religious practice, to me at least, are completely irrelevant when discussing the place and direction of Judaism in the modern world (just as the world has no interest in the exact time of day Sunni and Shia Muslims believe they can break the Ramadan fast). It is exactly the societal aspects that must be dealt with (as it is with many other religious groups). Sadly it seems that the time has come to make a stand and disregard the similarities with "orthodoxy" (I.e chareidism, which is what the wider world consider to be orthodoxy) and distance ourselves from the horrific ramifications of a mystical outlook that insistently places "this world" on the side with the hope that it will enrich the quality of "the world to come". Our ability to worm our way around literal scriptural interpretation is (to the rest of the world) the only thing separating us from the barbarism we see in the Muslim world and anybody who is willing to continue with certain "mesorot" eg. Meziza b'peh, is a threat to the acceptance of our heritage by the general public and hence its survival. Is it not time to point out our differences in the hope that, once the Mystics have self destructed in global opinion, there is still somebody to carry the baton for Judaism?

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    3. What about army service, for instance? Doesn't the mystical idea that Torah learning constitutes equal (if not greater) physical protection serve as the religious basis for many people to "opt out" of the draft and not join their brothers and sisters putting their lives on the line in the IDF?

      Is azionism/anti-zionism mystical?

      And what about sexual predators who use mystical ideas to seduce and harm their victims?

      I'm sorry that I have to say this, but this is ridiculous. There is no evidence to link mysticism to sexual and other kinds of abuse. The lesson that we need to learn is that such behavior cuts across communities and cultures.

      Segula/ayin hara peddlers who con people out of their money?

      Same issue. Hucksters come in all shapes and sizes.

      Tens of thousands who fly to the Ukraine each year seeking personal salvation from a deceased Torah luminary?

      As opposed to however many thousands that spend $50-100 on a single fruit in order to wave it around? Besides the fact that people almost certainly go to Uman because others are going and it is a unique experience.

      Metzitza b'peh?

      This is not mysticism but an unfortunate reaction to reform. The Chasam Sofer famously allowed dispensing with it.

      I'm not arguing for any of the practices that you mention, but I don't see them linked to specifically to "mysticism".

      IMO

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    4. Is azionism/anti-zionism mystical?

      I brought up a specific *rationale* certain people use to justify not serving in the IDF. The anti-Zionist enterprise as a whole is another conversation.

      There is no evidence to link mysticism to sexual and other kinds of abuse.

      I'm speaking about certain *victims* being lured in part by mystical beliefs. See e.g.:

      http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Safed-rabbi-indicted-on-12-charges-of-sexual-offenses-including-rape-410312

      “He would tell them they were lacking in ‘light,’ in ‘defense,’ and ‘encompassing light,’” and that through their deeds with him he was granting them spiritual abundance which they needed for healing purposes. Sheinberg would also tell his victims ... that he had received the approval of mystic rabbis for such actions."

      Same issue. Hucksters come in all shapes and sizes.

      Same response. Hucksters are enabled by their victims' beliefs.

      As opposed to however many thousands that spend $50-100 on a single fruit in order to wave it around?

      Yes, many beloved practices in Judaism are non-rational without necessarily being mystical. But nouveau practices like the pilgrimage to Uman are born specifically out of mysticism.

      http://www.breslov.org/aboutbreslov/quest2.html

      "Some Breslover Chassidim travel to Rebbe Nachman's gravesite in Uman in the Ukraine. Why?

      Rebbe Nachman made a promise no other Tzaddik in the whole of Jewish history has ever made. Taking two of his closest followers as witnesses, he said: `When my days are ended and I leave this world I will intercede for anyone who comes to my grave, recites the Ten Psalms of the Tikkun HaKlali, and gives some charity. No matter how serious his sins and transgressions, I will do everything in my power to save him and cleanse him. I will span the length and breadth of the Creation for him. By his peyot, his sidecurls, I will pull him out of Hell!' (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #141)."

      Besides the fact that people almost certainly go to Uman because others are going and it is a unique experience.

      Of course there are *also* other psychological factors at play, as with any practice.

      Metzitza b'peh? ... This is not mysticism but an unfortunate reaction to reform.

      That's true. However...

      http://ou.org.s3.amazonaws.com/pdf/ja/5767/winter67/24_41.pdf

      "sources in kabbalistic literature do make reference to the benefit of using specifically the mouth in the mitzvah of brit milah. For example, the seventeenth-century kabbalist Rabbi Avraham Azulai stated that man possesses a foreskin because of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden."

      "In a letter to Rabbi Horowitz, the Chatam Sofer wrote: We only find metzitzah b’peh as a requirement by the kabbalists, who assert that one must mitigate the strict attribute of justice with the mouth and lips."

      Again, mysticism is a *contributing* factor.

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    5. About the pilgrimage to Uman--one Breslov publication I saw quotes the Hagahos haBach on Sotah 14a--where the Gemara relates that all attempts to find Moshe Rabbenu's grave are futile. The Bach quotes another version of the Gemara, which says that if people knew Moshe's gravesite, they would ask Moshe Rabbenu to intercede for them, and he would succeed in nullifying any unfavorable decree.
      There are other examples in the Gemara of people praying at gravesites: Calev at Machpelah, Yosef at the grave of Rachel, etc.

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    6. @David Bar-Cohn:

      I should make my argument clearer. You cite practices that you either disagree with or are odious. Since these are practices by people who are "mystical" you attribute them to their mysticism. But correlation doesn't imply correlation. Even where the proffered "reason" is mystical, that doesn't mean it is the true reason.

      To take one of your examples, abuse is justified by authority figures in every culture and field by whatever can be brought to bear to achieve their goal. Does the fact that rationalist abusers will use non-mystical reasons have any significance?

      On IDF recusal, as R Slifkin has pointed out, the mystical reasons are not the real ones. They are simply keeping to themselves and their own "ghetto-recreating" culture. If you don't regard the state as anything superior to being in a European ghetto, then IDF participation has no particular moral value.

      Same with MBP. Yes, there are mystical factors. But if it turned out that Milah itself was as statistically dangerous as MBP, we would still do it. And the mystical factors were not enough for Chasam Sofer to change his mind; it is only now when Reform is/was an issue.

      My point about Uman is that this is not some kind of crazy absurd practice. They all get together and pray together in Uman and non Breslov go as well. Yes, correlated with mysticism, but so what?

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    7. Ummm... Obviously correlation does imply correlation. In fact it is equivalent. But you know what I meant :).

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    8. @David Ohsie

      Correlation doesn't imply "causation." Agreed. I never said we're dealing with a simple mechanistic cause and effect here, where mysticism "causes" these things. Yet to say it's simply "correlated" without having any effect whatsoever I don't think is accurate either. The reality is somewhere in between. Mysticism is a mentality that plays a role, is a factor, helps to enable - sometimes involving some not-so-great stuff. I don't think that's such a controversial suggestion. Is mysticism sometimes just an excuse and not the main motivation? Yes. Does equally bad stuff happen without the aid of mysticism? Yes.

      By the way, I'm not against people going to Uman if that's what they choose, if it gives them and their families a spiritual uplift. Live and let live. But the belief-set that underlies the practice does, I think, warrant a bit more "investigation," even from a traditional religious point of view. (Which goes to Yehuda P's comment - even if there's some precedent in the tradition, we don't necessarily have to add to it.) Let's leave it at that for now!

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  6. Rationalism vs Mysticism: Schisms in Traditional Jewish Thought I'd say Rationalism/Mysticism : Schisms in Traditional Jewish Thought. This way they are not against each other but rather two philosophical positions.

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  7. Nathan an important mar makom on this subject can be found here https://books.google.com/books?id=9mv10jdWKswC&pg=PR5&dq=scholem+major+trends&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=3#v=onepage&q=scholem%20major%20trends&f=false

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  8. sorry wrong link mar makom is here
    https://books.google.com/books?id=9mv10jdWKswC&lpg=PR5&dq=scholem%20major%20trends&pg=PA22#v=onepage&q&f=false

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  9. I hope the book will address a point that rationalism seems to struggle with - namely the immense level of halachic detail pertaining to the performance of many mitzvos.

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    1. Good point--this is one area in which the mystical explanation seems more compelling. For example, there are numerous minutae about tefillin and mezzuzot, that they can be 100% posul, and no one would be able to detect it. So clearly there must be more to these mitzvos than just the feelings they arouse in the person performing them.

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    2. Ever learnt tax law? Is that mystical as well?

      How about a more simple, historical approach. Halacha is made by men who constantly disagree, because they think differently. Therefore, many aspects are included in its laws in order to fulfill a number of opinions.

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    3. @E the P: I think that you miss the point. The question is, why are the unargued details important. The Rambam's explanation is that there is no reason for many of the details even though there are reasons for each Mitzvah broadly as a whole. It's just that there has to be detail to make it a legal system, so it gets filled in. He even goes so far as to say that a Mitzvah may be harmful for a particular person in a particular circumstance.

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    4. I mean specifically the details that are of BIBLICAL origin - i.e., G-d thinks they are important! I have a hard time believing that the Rambam is of the opinion that most of these details are simply unimportant, just there to "fill in" the "legal system". (And why did he bother spending 20 years or so writing the Mishnah Torah, then?)

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    5. @Weaver: I could be misinterpreting the Rambam, so can you read it for yourself here. The relevant excerpt:

      I will now tell you what intelligent persons ought to believe in this respect; namely, that each commandment has necessarily a cause, as far as its general character is concerned, and serves a certain object; but as regards its details we hold that it has no ulterior object. Thus killing animals for the purpose of obtaining good food is certainly useful, as we intend to show (below, ch. xlviii.); that, however, the killing should not be performed by neḥirah (poleaxing the animal), but by sheḥitah (cutting the neck), and by dividing the œsophagus and the windpipe in a certain place; these regulations and the like are nothing but tests for man's obedience. In this sense you will understand the example quoted by our Sages [that there is no difference] between killing the animal by cutting its neck in front and cutting it in the back. I give this instance only because it has been mentioned by our Sages; but in reality [there is some reason for these regulations]. For as it has become necessary to eat the flesh of animals, it was intended by the above regulations to ensure an easy death and to effect it by suitable means; whilst decapitation requires a sword or a similar instrument, the sheḥitah can be performed with any instrument; and in order to ensure an easy death our Sages insisted that the knife should be well sharpened.

      A more suitable instance can be cited from the detailed commandments concerning sacrifices. The law that sacrifices should be brought is evidently of great use, as will be shown by us (infra, chap. xlvi.); but we cannot say why one offering should be a lamb, whilst another is a ram; and why a fixed number of them should be brought. Those who trouble themselves to find a cause for any of these detailed rules, are in my eyes void of sense: they do not remove any difficulties, but rather increase them. Those who believe that these detailed rules originate in a certain cause, are as far from the truth as those who assume that the whole law is useless. You must know that Divine Wisdom demanded it--or, if you prefer, say that circumstances made it necessary--that there should be parts [of His work] which have no certain object: and as regards the Law, it appears to be impossible that it should not include some matter of this kind. That it cannot be avoided may be seen from the following instance. You ask why must a lamb be sacrificed and not a ram? but the same question would be asked, why a ram had been commanded instead of a lamb, so long as one particular kind is required. The same is to be said as to the question why were seven lambs sacrificed and not eight; the same question might have been asked if there were eight, ten, or twenty lambs, so long as some definite number of lambs were sacrificed. It is almost similar to the nature of a thing which can receive different forms, but actually receives one of them. We must not ask why it has this form and not another which is likewise possible, because we should have to ask the same question if instead of its actual form the thing had any of the other possible forms. Note this, and understand it. The repeated assertion of our Sages that there are reasons for all commandments, and the tradition that Solomon knew them, refer to the general purpose of the commandments, and not to the object of every detail.

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  10. i would suggest putting the name of the rishonim/achronim that are most closely aligned with the world view of rationalist vs Mystic thought. I think it might get more attention from more people if the title attempts to softly show that rationalist thought is part of the mesorah or the Rambam etc.. i would also include if possible a unifying essay ... as conclusion or introduction...

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  11. I don't get why your first title is problematic. It's not like you have a fear of being put in cherem, why not say it like it is?

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    1. "One Judaism, Two Religions: Rationalism versus Mysticism" is a PERFECT description of the chasm between Kabbalistic/Chassidic Judaism and Rationalistic Judaism.

      When a talmid of Slabodka gives an entire Shabbos Shuva drasha quoting 95% Chassidic works and ideas (as occurred in my shul this year), it is clear that hardly anyone even notices anymore how much Kabbalah/magic/superstition/neo-platonism/wishful thinking has become synonymous with Judaism today.

      I personally don't have an interest in buying a book written in this subject unless it confronts this reality head on, without attempting to legitimize and equate all opinions. A stark title is not only intriguing and controversial- which will boom sales btw - but also sets the tone for the whole book. I don't think האמת והשלום יהבו. ought to apply to academic works.

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    2. Like it or not, its still one religion. Of course, you can make up your own definitions, but then the Talmud itself describes two religions.

      Can you provide any support that any academic works consider Chasidism to be a separate religion from Judaism?

      Were the Ramban, R Yosef Karo, the Arizal and the Gra were practicing a different religion?

      Did the Pharisees consider the Saducees to be another religion?

      If you love the truth, then you'll need to come to terms with the fact that your religion contains elements that you vehemently disagree with.

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    3. Another suggestion: "One Judaism, Two Religions?: Rationalism versus Mysticism"

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  12. "There is an unfortunate tendency among some mystics to brand rationalists as heretics, and there is an unfortunate tendency among some rationalists to brand mystics as idiots."

    Is that it? In the rationalist view, much of mysticism comes really, really close to heresy if it doesn't actually cross the line.

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    1. But the rationalists tend to be elitists and thus tolerate the rabble following foolish practices to a greater degree; thus, they are misguided fools, but not heretics unless they cross some particular line. You see that line drawing explicitly in the Moreh.

      The modern Charedi message is more universalist, I think. Daas Torah is produced by the elite, but is to be followed by the masses. Maaseh Mercavah is for the elite only.

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    2. David, I would phrase the difference differently. Halachic Rationalists tend to have a broad education but are limited in numbers, while halachic non-Rationalists have narrow or poor educations but are numerous. It would serve no useful purpose for the former to label the latter as accepting heretical mystical notions, just as it has not been productive for the latter to label the former as possessing heretical, independent thoughts.

      Y. Aharon

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  13. If you were paying attention to some of the recent parshas, you may have noticed that Moshe Rabbeinu does not regard the choice between "rationalism" (= monotheism) and "mysticism" (= not monotheism) as a case of different strokes for different folks.

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  14. As Temujin pondered the question of the book's title, his eyes were mysteriously drawn like lodestones towards his collection of R'Slifkin's books and in an awesome vision he saw, right beside the Rabbi's The Challenge of Creation, and in blazing gold seriffed font (as is the Rabbi's preference) against a background of black cloth binding, a flickering ghostly image of a companion to complete and add a continuum: The Challenge of Reason. As for a subtitle; many splendid suggestions above.

    --Temujin Returneth

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