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God, Torah and Israel in Modern Jewish Thought Introduction to Judaism: Lecture 8 February 4, 2008 1. Rabbinic Judaism im agined a complex relationship between the Oral Torah (Mishnah, Talm ud, Midrash) and Written Torah (TaNaCh) in which one could not be understoo d without the other. Describe the rabbinic understanding of this relationship. Be sure to explain how the rabbis of the oral tradition connected themselves to the bibli cal account o f revelation at Mount Sinai, whil e at the same tim e reinterpreting, and even rejecting, aspects of scripture. Provide examples from the halakhic and aggadic sources we have read. 2. Conceptions of God in the Jewish tradition have undergone continuous theological reinterpretation from the Bibli cal to the Modern Period. At the same time, many of these interpretations have shared certain basic assumptions about the nature of GodΥs relationship to the Jewish people and the world outli ned in the Bible. Compare and contrast the theologies introduced in three of the periods we have studied (Bibli cal, Rabbinic, Hell enistic, Kabali stic, or Modern). Make sure to include specifi c textual examples from the reading to ill ustrate your conclusions. For beli evers in any of these theological systems, what would some of the strengths and weaknesses be of each understanding of God? Goals for Today 1. Identify the central modern modes of thought that influenced Judaism’s premodern symbolic vocabulary 2. Understand the various ideological/religious responses to modernity 3. Discuss the implications of the range of Jewish expressions that exist in the modern period. Student Question • “I am having a hard time understanding how the oral Torah got to be an authoritative text…How does one come to see the oral Torah as credible when the interpretative techniques that it employs are seemingly abstract and irrational?” GOD The Structure of Judaism’s Basic Symbolic Vocabulary TORAH ISRAEL MITZVOT Time/History MESSIAH The Enlightenment and Religion Enlightenment • Secular and anti-religious • Reason in opposition to Revelation • Universal not particular truth What are the Challenges to Judaism’s Narrative? • Don’t write--Think! Modes of Thought Influencing Jews • Autonomous Reason – “Think for Yourself!” • Scientific Naturalism – “Prove it to me!” • Historicism – “What really happened?” • Nationalism – “Where is your primary allegiance?” Are They Different From PreModern Challenges? Moses Maimonides 1135) (b. Abraham Geiger (b. 1810) Ideological ResponsesOverview • Secularist/Political Responses – Zionism – Bundism • Modernist Responses – Reform – Orthodox – Positive-Historical/Conservative • Traditionalist Response Response 1: Secularist • God-Tool for exploitation • Torah-National Culture, History – No Halakhah, Mitzvot (commandment) • Israel-Persecuted People ready for freedom • Messiah-Revolutionary Fervor Zionism: Jewish Nationalism Bundism • Revolutionary Social change through socialism • Join Jewish workers with non-Jewish revolutionaries Response 2: Modernist • • • • • • Reconcile Judaism and Enlightenment Judaism=Religion Universal over Particular Ethical over Legal Non-Political Response Four main denominations… Reform Movement • Begins in Europe moves to U.S. • God-Ideal of ethical consciousness (p. 94) • Torah-Revelation of Reason – Historical husk vs. moral core • Israel-The Mission Theory • Mitzvah-Ethical Commandments • Messiah-Universal Integration (p.100) Orthodox Movement • • • • • Created in Response to Reform Creator God Torah-“Discrete Words and Letters” Mitzvot are binding-Ethical Meaning Messiah-Redemption in Land and Loyal Citizens Positive-Historical Movement • Called Conservative in the U.S. • Accept Halakhah/Mizvot and historical change • Torah-Evolution of man’s relationship with the divine • Mitzvot and change Reconstructionst • Originates as a left branch of Conservative Judaism in 1968 • God-Process that Makes for Salvation • Torah-Jewish Folkways • Israel-Civilization, not Religion Response 3: Traditionalist/Ultra-Orthodox • Central and Eastern European • Similar to Orthodox (Mitzvah, Halakhah) • Reject modern political, social, philosophical thought • Premodern Messiah (p.101) • Present as authentic tradition • Are they? “…May your mind not turn to evil and never engage in corruptible partnership with those fond of innovations, who, as a penalty for our many sins, have strayed from the Almighty and His law…Be warned not to change your Jewish names, speech, and clothing--God forbid…Never say: ‘Times have changed!’…The order of prayer and synagogue shall remain forever as it has been up to now, and no one may presume to change anything of its structure.” --Rabbi Moses Sofer, 1762-1839 Discussion Questions • How would Modernists and Traditionalists Read Rabbi Akiva Story? • What are the strengths and limitations of each response? • What core symbols (if any) connect various expressions of modern Judaism?