We are now in the third round of this debate and it seems that some of the issues of the original debate are being replayed.
I acknowledge from ej that Green had no idea how his ideas would play out in Orthodoxy but where was Landes until 2010? Did Landes not read Green’s prior works? Did he not read Jay Michaelson or Reb Zalman?
Yes, Green’s Hasidism has little to do with historical hasidism, with real Hasidim, and unio mystica, but where was Landes for the last 40 years when Hasidism has been taught as panentheism in Orthodoxy, in Pardes, in Aish Hatorah.
And even here to tarnish Mordechai Kaplan with Rubinstein and Nietsche and assimilation seems odd. American Jewry went into decline according to Landes specifically because of the efforts of Kaplan! Did Landes forget that the very model of any Orthodox synagogue in the US that serves as a social center, has a men’s club and youth group, is involved in politics, is from Kaplan?
From Green’s perspective, he has never been in a minyan going society. But Landes comes off as guilt by association to Kaplan, or more likely Landes is still the kiruv rabbi of his youth and sees every American Jew as a potential Orthodox minyan goer. But still, why bring in Nietzsche? Since American modern Orthodoxy owes more to Kaplan to than to other thinkers, this is an ad hominem.
The best part of the critique is the one brought up by Tepper is the progressive supersessionalism “you considered classic belief – which includes that of your teachers Heschel, Zeitlin and the Sefat Emet – as “childish!”
Any further thoughts on why this debate is occurring Now and not after Green’s work from 20 years ago Seek thy Face? Is there a fault line in the community? Who is outside the debate? Any more insights on why they cannot speak to each other in a meaningful way? I still plan on writing my thoughts when this settles down a bit.
Mar 8th, 2011 by Bogomolny
These are Rabbi Landes’ further comments:
Rosh Hodesh Adar Bet
You conflate transcendence with immanence. In your theology, Nature is all there is – as a manifestation of mysterious Being. What you see is what you get. For nature never transcends itself. Reading you once again, God only “exists” as a human need in consciousness. For you, (the Personal) God Itself is symbolic projection. This is really not Jewish panentheism which has all that stuff – nature and Being – within God. And you exchange, as pride of place, the focus narratives of Genesis and Exodus for the “greatest story” of evolution. And now, Judaism becomes one ethnic commentary amongst the many.
In the end I thought Judaism got over the pantheism you advocate with Bereishit Bara E-lohim. And your articulation (in the Rosenzweig lectures, no less!) hasn’t room for The Other as Creator, Revealer and Redeemer. Indeed, your God can’t do what you would even grant as a right to any human (and probably to lower evolved creatures as well) – the ability to love, decide and act. Your God is not a more but a less, if anything at all. Certainly not ‘Ayin. It seems to me that you were earlier disappointed by a mysticism that failed to “dare” to collapse everything into the Absolute. But it is the panentheism of the masters of Kaballah that not only triumphed the Absolute but provided the ground and dynamic place for our large but finite existence. They were wise in allowing the Divine to be, well, divine and for the world to be the world in its veiled separation from God. But even so, an exciting meeting between Heaven and earth takes place within Fellowship – spousal and communal, mitzvah and in prayer. Done with attempted attainment of true transcendence, you instead collapse it into that very large but ultimately finite immanence of stuff where all is all and all is the same, without redemption. As for spirituality: in union mystica, at least, you become part with God; in the union with nature, you become one with – a raindrop?
Kimohem Yihiyu Osaihem. Theology has implications. Mordecai Kaplan, the indelible father influence on your generation – Richard L. Rubenstein, the first to proclaim Jewish radical theology 45 years ago, moved via Kaplan’s monism and acosmic god and Nietzche’s murder of the traditional God to an alternating return to mother earth and an empty “Holy Nothingness” – has left precious few third generation Kaplanians who rush to make the 6:15 am Thursday morning March minyan. – I do fear for the impact of radical Judaism. I don’t think it has legs. How can this mythic language, without a reality behind its God, not just words that articulate a particular consciousness that comes and goes, comfort the troubled, challenge the young and, yes, command ethical behavior? You, like Kaplan, have great charismatic abilities, but I don’t think the theology on its own will hold. A Jew is enchanted by saying in the morning HaMichadesh B’Khol Yom Tamid Ma’aseh Bereisheet – “He renews each and every day the work of creation.” But with God as no more than Nature/Being found in consciousness, the thrill is gone. Better to stay in bed.
Finally, in your communications, printed and otherwise, you make accusations regarding my intent.
This is how I got to write the review. I picked up your book in the store at the San Francisco Jewish Museum. I read the first part on the flight from San Francisco to New York. I called the editor of JRB and told him that I didn’t fully get it, but that I was taken aback that you considered classic belief – which includes that of your teachers Heschel, Zeitlin and the Sefat Emet – as “childish!” As any good editor would, Abe Socher simply told me to write it up and submit it.
On the flight home, I read the rest. I became further disappointed as you dismissed Halakhah, and upset when the State of Israel had no spiritual place in your inclusive theology. And, yes, reading all this again, I do believe that you have, in your words, the “right’ for others than Jews to be in your “religious landscape.” You can walk, talk, shmooze with anyone and have them speak at your seudah shlishit tisch. But you do not have the right to bestow the covenantal name of Israel upon them.
There is no conspiracy here, even of one. I read, reported and reacted. If my langauge is sharp, it’s a tool to slice through rather lofty philosophical to examine the earth below.
Sof Davar Hakol Nishma ET . . .