YCT Graduation Speech-Where is the Promised Land?

Here is Rabbi Linzer’s YCT graduation speech to the newly minted rabbis arguing that we do not know what and where the promised land is anymore. We live in an age of unstable reality because of Enlightenment and Emancipation, because of modernity, because of the Holocaust, because of post-modernism. The speech argues that we cannot hide and assume that the basic assumptions are still true. Not accepting all these changes is to be considered as running back into a nostalgia for the past. Who are they criticizing as running away?

According to the speech, there is a need to deal with Biblical criticism and the Holocaust. For the latter, you can tell everyone to read Kol Dodi Dofek, Yitz Greenberg, and Eliezer Berkovits but what are they expecting for Biblical criticism? Are they telling graduates to embrace it or just to spend an afternoon reading Mordechai Breuer? An if the goal is to open afresh: Why be Jewish? What answers do they expect?
He said “did we once again say that halakha will answer all religious questions?” Where are the new answers going to come from? How are they expecting the young graduates to grapple with these topics? Read Newsweek and blogs? Are these the topics that they should bring up with their congregations?

And what does any of this have to do with the quest of the actual graduates for social justice, simplicity, dairy weddings, and AJWS trips to third world countries?

Now, it is relatively easy to construct a perfect system, with Torah and mitzvot, with God in the center, as long as one is in the desert.

Since then, we have been encamped in another stable reality – in a pre-Modernity, galut Judaism. When change came this time, when our reality was shaken – were we ready to move forward? When Modernity and the haskalah presented compelling alternate views of the world, when they posited epistemological assumptions and value-systems that were at odds with those of tradition – did we rise to the challenge or did we build our walls higher? When the Holocaust destroyed a third of our people and raised the most profound questions about God as a God of history – did we begin to think theologically or did we once again say that halakha will answer all religious questions? When post-modernism raised questions about any and all truth-claims, and when feminism raised profound questions about power, equality, and morality – did we also struggle with these, or did we continue to live in an imagined, romantic past?

For many the response at this time was obvious. Judaism had lost all relevance, all claims to truth, all claims to morality. The answer was to leave – כתינוק הבורח מבית הספר. And for many others, the only solution was to pretend as if nothing had happened. To shift from the nice stable reality that they had become accustomed to over all these years, was unthinkable. The solution was to remain firmly encamped in the desert. Only a few understood that we had entered a new parsha, that we needed to move, but that we had to discover how to move – על פי ה’ יסעו- how to move forward with the aron at the center. While this new parsha will undoubtedly mean struggles, challenges, and risks, the alternative is unthinkable – to remain encamped in the desert, to relegate ourselves to irrelevance.

But you also know that to do just this is to keep the Torah from moving forward. You know that to truly face the challenges of today, you must be prepared to take on questions of the relevance of Torah Judaism, questions of faith and Biblical criticism, questions of God and the Holocaust, questions of the legitimacy of the State of Israel, questions of the morality of halakha.

You know that perhaps the most pressing question today is not how to get to the Promised Land, but what and where is the Promised Land? Not in the geographic sense, but in the spiritual, religious sense. What is the purpose of being Jewish? What does God want from us? What is our role in the world? You know that to not address these questions is another type of תינוק הבורח, another way of running away from the demands of the Torah, a Torah that must be brought into our world. You know that this is your responsibility, as you know become our rabbis, our religious leaders. You are the ones that will, that must, lead our people forward, to grapple with these challenges openly and honestly, to find their way out of the desert. Read Full Version Here.

Rav Shagar Z”l of Yeshivat Siah Yitzhak used to speak of the lack of clear direction in the post-modern world. We need to do teshuvah- to return- but to where? Rav Shagar’s solution was to look into the self, Neo-Hasidism, and its fragmented perceptions. I am not sure it is the same here.

Discussion on Synthesis and Modern Orthodoxy continued in later post here.

28 responses to “YCT Graduation Speech-Where is the Promised Land?

  1. We are rapidly moving yet into another reality, of psychology neurosciences and waves of changes. In this brave new world there is little choice but to bring the desert with you and build a ghetto of validated answers from the tradition.

    • Avakesh-Can you explain more? Your post was mighty cryptic. What is the new world and why is there one choice? What is the relationship of neuroscience and validated answers? Are you saying rabbis need to know psychology and waves of change?

  2. Maybe the answer was not to have someone without a grasp of Jewish history, Philosophy, Haskalah and “postmodernity” give a speech about it. RDL is apparently wonderful at Hilchot Niddah, so maybe they should have given a commencment speech with that or something else from the classic Badei Hashulchan, or the Ovadia Yosef world that he seems to have mastered.

    If I can gently criticize my teacher Dr. Brill, perhaps there is not a need to respond to YCT, Art Green, Landes or Hartman. Maybe they are just not well thought out, or not taking the effort to think through what each loaded and sedimented term in a series of them might mean. When discussing Haskalah, are they thinking of Euchel, Mendelssohn, E Europe or none of the above? Are they really wondering about the postmodernity of Lyotard? What is an “imagined past” and what is a “Romantic past?”
    I am pretty sure that attention has been devoted to all these questions and more in more serious fora. While it is benevolent to extend the charity you do to your interlocutors, a more parsimonious attitude might better reflect reality.

  3. “And what does any of this have to do with the quest of the actual graduates for social justice, simplicity, dairy weddings, and AJWS trips to third world countries?”
    While this may describe the personal quest of one particular graduate with whom you have a close personal connection as is evidenced by the fact that you were invited to his wedding. It certainly does not describe many or even the majority of current students/alumni. The YCT of today is not necessarily the same as the one that you may have had close familiarity with just a few short years ago (come and visit sometime).
    Do kol dodi dofek, greenberg, and berkovits still posses the most compelling answers to our theological challenges? Who knows what encouraging students to engage in the deep theological thought might bring. Perhaps the next R. Soloveitchik, R. Greenberg or R. Berkovits.
    The questions that R. Linzer suggested need to be looked at again are ones that come up on a regular basis. If a Rabbi doesn’t raise them others will. I think what is being encouraged is a serious sophisticated encounter with challenging questions within today’s philosophic climate. The talk was open ended answers could move in a variety of directions perhaps including towards R. Shagar’s neo-Hasidism.

    • Nachum-
      You volunteered for a guest post or two on John Franke and Manifold Witness: The Plurality of Truth about a year ago. I assume you are almost done.

  4. Who are they criticizing for running away? I’d say everyone from YU and to the right. I’m not sure what rhetorical point you’re trying to make. A graduation speech is typically used as an opportunity to discuss all the important work that is yet to be done. It’s where you point to all the great and noble tasks that the next generation is charged with. It’s not where you give answers, it’s where you pose questions. To my mind, R Linzer (like Rashi) is asking the right questions. The Holocaust-Israel-Religious Zionist narrative needs revising. Modernity continues to level withering critiques at Modern Orthodoxy. Biblical criticism has no compelling or rigorous response from within Orthodoxy, even as it is becoming a part of the canon of Western thought that any college student will have encountered. God-willing, YCT’s graduates will find ways to address these issues more successfully than Orthodoxy has managed to this point.

  5. Soryy for my unintentional obscurity. What I meant is that our culture renews itself at an ever increasing pace, currenlty about every two decades. The issues that R. Linzer discussed: Holocaust, Zionism etc, are already no longer the issues of the generation in which we live. The face of the culture is now about understanding personal inner states, relationships and digital technology and the paradigm that is coming in is neurosciences and the brain as source of reality. As a community, we dont have the resources to come up with consistent and sophisticated responses to every cultural shift and every couple of decades. Therefore, if you care about Judaism, you have no option but fallback into the Ghetto, in which old cultural apradigms still function, or at least, are understood, and utilize exisitng, worked out and consisten answers that work in those parametrs.

    It is more exciting to be trailblazer but more responsible to be a stewart for the sheep of His pasture.

  6. Avakesh, that is rather a sad thought. In your view it is a choice between accepting reality and moving with it or living a lie in order to keep the lie alive? It seems to me that the problem of modernity affects every historical institution that humanity has created…not because a passing storm that must be ridden out but precisely because it has shifted things on a global scale. Societies that do not interact with it FAIL to provide a means to make a living. Judaism will not survive if it reenters the ghetto. It needs to figure out an approach to modernity. Frankly, this is not a bad thing. The Ghetto is not what Judaism was supposed to be. The Ghetto was a way station on the path towards a renewed national existence.

  7. “The face of the culture is now about understanding personal inner states, relationships and digital technology and the paradigm that is coming in is neurosciences and the brain as source of reality.”

    While I recognize some component elements of this assertion, the totality it is demonstrably false. For all that Western society has become individualistic (including with regard to religion) it remains within the context of communities. Arguably, the need to form communities is what the “social networking” mania is all about. And these are not only virtual communities, but face-to-face ones augmented by electronic means.

  8. It’s easy enough to speak heroically and challenge students to confront the issues of modernity. But the talk is empty unless there is some possibility of working something out. Just struggling, grappling, being in pain is not enough. You don’t get credit for struggling with a math problem; you get credit for solving the problem. Sometimes it sounds that MO believe the struggle creates its own authenticity, and in and of itself turns a person immersed in medieval thought into a modern person. I hold this is a conceit on the part of MO and doesn’t even work when the contrast are charedim…wooo they hide in a ghetto and don’t confront, don’t struggle. I say thank God somebody is sane. Being masochistic, driving yourself crazy with questions that cannot be answered given the assumptions of Orthodoxy, is not a sign of virtue. MO are open to anything and everything as long as Orthodoxy is accepted as true, real etc, in an a historical way without giving up any mitzvot. Is there any chance that Orthodoxy will ever accept biblical criticism, the continuous ever changing nature of halacha or a post modernist approach to God and the afterlife? Not in our lifetime. So if you know where you have to end up, why go through the charade…you only end up with more bs.

    MO has been confronting for quite some time, at least since Hildersheimer and David Hoffman, and the score after over a century of play is secular modernity 100, MO zero. The tragedy of MO is this need to confront, to answer all contradictions between secular and Orthodox thought. I say better to have a vertical split in consciousness, to hold to contradictory worldviews or ways of talking if you like. Let the grandchildren worry about these problems. Parallel worlds will lead to more creative and modern ideas about Jewish life than all attempts at making sure everybody is on the same page. (see EJ 11/05/2006)

    • Yawn.

      Walking through East Germany, one notices remnants of a historic and titanic struggle. The same cannot be said of Bergen county. Modern Orthodoxy may use the tropology of a protean (as opposed to agonal) struggle but it seems like “more bs” to this observer. Perhaps the question needs to be recast as why the imagery is so fraught when the reality is so pedestrian. Maybe people wish very much that they were struggling, but they just are not. Alternatively, maybe the Hildesheimer and Hoffman reference really should be read as referencing the German Strum und Drang which overhangs the Soloveitchikian Kierkegaard legacy like Wagner playing in the background at Sushi Metsuyan. I really do not understand the overheatedness of this rhetoric except to return to my earlier suggestion that we filter it out as noise. We need to struggle to develop a sense of autopoesis where we manage our distances effectively and are able to avoid thinking that making “more bs” is heroic and not metabolic.

    • I don’t think life or religion are a math problem… and in any case, most teachers will give you partial credit on a math test for showing your work. I think you’re right that MO see the struggle as being authentic and granting dignity, and they pull from traditional sources and images, of which there is no shortage. The struggle often does birth new insights, but not every struggle, or struggler, is so fruitful.

      It’s the dissonance between the rhetoric and the reality that seems most intriguing. MO honors the struggle in theory, but the practical struggles are between minivan and SUV, not creation and evolution. Orthodox communities neither honor nor create space for those who struggle – not those who struggle with practical observance, or its theological underpinnings. Maybe the whole struggling trope is an existential answer to the contradictions of modernity and Orthodoxy, rather than a strategy for overcoming or resolving them.

    • In struggling on a math problem, even if you don’t solve the problem, mathematicians widely agree that you yourself gain something by having struggled. (Maybe I’m guilty of dragging the analogy too far, but it could have broader implications.)

  9. Chakira is, in his brilliant post, absolutely right, except the inspiration is less Strum und Drang and more German Expressionism, not Wagner, but Mahler and Schoenberg. The experience and expression of “crisis” were pan-German staples from before World War I and then leading up to World War II (Buber, Barth, Husserl, Heidegger). You won’t find it especially pronounced in Dewey or Kaplan or Wittgenstein. “Crisis” gets recycled in the United States in 1960s radical thought (along with Martin Buber, Hermann Hesse, and Franz Rosenzweig). You see it everywhere, in Heschel and Soloveithcik (after the Holocaust, you can’t blame them). It’s a major component in Protestant death of God theology, 1970s post-Holocaust thought (Rubenstein, Berkovits, Fackenheim), and the “God Wrestling” of Arthur Waskow and the Jewish (and Christian) feminists.

    For those of us today “out in the real world” (at Saigon Grill and at Shushi Metzuyan) the crisis has been pretty much absorbed, affectively at least. (Ok, no longer at Saigon Grill, given their current labor troubles.). I guess we all got used to tv, and shopping malls, and computers. It seems to me that this late in the modernity-postmodernity game, the bathos of “crisis” has lost its motor force. The quotidian act of “managing our distances” (Chakira) might in its own way be every bit as interesting as ersatz crisis-consciounsess. The great art critic Clement Greenberg, by the way, defined kitsch in part as ersatz expression and a long time ago Jacob Neusner, of course, had a lot to say against vicarious Judaism.

    For a liberal like myself, that also is why I found David Hartman so compelling when I first read him in the late 1980s. He seemed to have made his own intellectual adjustments without the Strum und Drang. As an outsider, I don’t see any intrinsic reason why MO has to be stuck, if stuck it is. It just means reading new stuff, as suggested by Avakesh, perhaps a little less Kierkegaard and a little more Deleuze.

  10. ZJB, beautiful response to my less than adequate musings. I agree with the Mahler Schoenberg aesthetic point wholeheartedly.

    Thinking further on the point rather than its resonances, I find that I am not prima facie against crisis. I just do not think these things constitute a crisis. For example, if a woman can be a CEO or Corporate Lawyer but cannot leyn, that is definitely an inequity. But on the other hand, she can also be a CEO or a lawyer. So what happens 40 minutes a week in shul is sort of ancillary. So there is no “crisis” of feminism, even if there is a problem. And I doubt anyone thinks there is a crisis. So the question is then why we would import this jargon of crisis or have it as a metaphorical residue. What work, if any, is it doing?

    A simple answer might be, to make us feel “specialness” in our otherwise quotidian lives. I buy the simple answer, but then I turn to people like AB and ask, what about all the other numinous rhetoric which fills this function in American culture and why this particular cultural peculiarity in MO?

    Other answers might lean heavier on the history and suggest that the sedimented language of MO has preserved this kind of absent position. Then the question for me becomes what you do with the open metaphor and how it becomes, to use the technical term, reoccupied. Everyone hears some struggle talk. They are not really struggling with ideology or the Holocaust. So the struggle will then be located elsewhere. Where is struggle transposing to and what leads to this peregrination? AB has had nice posts on the Rav becoming some kind of psychobabble divrei torah. So maybe the Coriolis effect can thankfully take Kierkegaard with him.

    In any case to return to the fun part of Weimar Germany, I specifically took distance management from Gehlen, Plessner, Blumenberg because it is the basic competence of humanity (Scheler, who had something to do with the Rav, called this world openness, a term appropriated in Being and Time, another prominent anthropological treatise). In any case, I did use the phenomenological term in a normative sense in terms of begging that the description of our activities tend to the deflationary.

    In order to complete the hermeneutic circle I will translate this Plessnerian insight into the reigning lexicon of Tyler Cowenese by saying that in the era of the infovore, the search button is obviously very important. But so is “hide from feed.”

  11. R. Linzer’s piece seems to argue for the need for more “responses.” I am tired of the use of “response.” Everything from pop culture to bible criticism to natural disasters apparently call for a “Jewish Response” or Hareidi, Centrist, Modern Orthodox, Open Orthodox, or (insert any other measure of Jewish identity politics) response. What does that even mean today? Are these supposed groups in some kind of discursive engagement with one other or the larger culture in any useful sense? The crisis/response model tells me that the only “crisis” left, and maybe the only one that ever mattered, is the crisis of identity which is either still -the- crisis of modernity or at this point something that only afflicts those seeking to reconstruct the pristine coherence of the premodern. Is the answer to have a newer or larger quiver of responses?

    There is also the persistent equivocation about crisis. There are demographic and social trends that foretell crises for certain groups and their are personal crises. Our recognized thinkers tend to think that their personal crises are the root causes of the larger social crises when it is more than likely the other way around. The crisis theology is the delicate identity of the person who looks around and thinks that his only fellow traveler is the person he sees in the mirror. “Woe is me, for only I am tormented by being an apologist for the domination of women yet utterly committed to the self-evident integrity of halakha (sure other people say similar things, but they mean it differently because they do not posses the unique combination of personal insight, historical consciousness, indigenous authenticity, human empathy, and genius as me).” So we have a bunch of very bright humpty dumpties walking around with fragile identities protecting themselves by projecting their crises out into the world who are too scared of getting called out to make more than vague gestures about what they actually think. (And liberal modern Orthodox theology never escapes the profoundly individualist sacrifice of the intellect motif).

    Get over it. Modern identities are built, marketed and sold off the rack -something that the hareidi wolrd gets. If you’re looking for bespoke you’re probably not even offering the “responses” that will matter in the long run. Modern Orthodoxy will be changed much more profoundly by the loss of suburban affluence than by having a women’s megilla readings or scholars in residence who discuss bible criticism. Aren’t we modern enough to realize that telling the flock that having the equivalent of a Talmud torah Jewish education followed by a year in Israel and an upper middle class profession is exactly what it means to be a good modern orthodox Jew will be more helpful to preserving it in the long run? But try constructing a theology around that.

  12. Maybe it’s just me, but Bill Safire’s words come to mind when reading this comment thread: “”nattering nabobs of negativism”.

    Question: if you were giving R. Linzer’s YCT graduation speech, what would you say?

    • How about something along the lines of: try to be the with it, culturally fluent, tolerant, competent, and reasonably knowledgeable rabbis we trained you to be. Don’t take yourselves too seriously, but don’t act like fools either. If you plan on going post denominational please don’t mention us, and for gosh sake, don’t do anything that lands rabbis in the pages of the NY Post. Now go forth and conquer the promised land of college campuses and left-leaning synagogues.

      • How about continuing with the theme of “vayhi binosah aron?”– Sometimes you need to cut and paste a bit in order to make up an appealing version of the Torah.

    • IH: Literally could not have put it more effectively myself.

      AS, Chakira, EJ: I am overwhelmed by the venom of your cynicism. Up until now I didn’t understand what people meant when they referred to cynicism as a negative trait, but you learn something new every day, I suppose. I guess this is what my friends feel like when they’re listening to me.

      We got it. You’re all fed up with the pettiness of Jewish politics, the aggrandizement of the alleged suburban struggle, the transformation of Judaism into a psychological commodity. So am I. So where’s the constructive aspect of your criticism?

  13. Jon, I have no idea where you see either venom or cynicism in my remarks. The view I expressed is a general point how to have a happy and active secular and Torah intellectual life. I am not fed up with MO in suburbia, right or left. I did not say a bad word about Rabbi Linzer or Hartman or Green. In my book they are important Jewish thinkers and I try to read and understand what they have to say. To be honest the question of how to give more substance to MO is not high on my Jewdar screen. My main interests are Israeli politics, the disappearance of the Diaspora, various philosophical issues, gossip and social
    commentary, preferably if they have a humorous aspect. I have this anarchist idea that all the different stripes are experiments in Jewish life, and everything else equal I am more than happy to say a good word for most groups and I have. I am on good terms with
    many different bloggers from hyper chasidish and litvish to farbissen atheists. I have also spoken out on behalf of liberal-leftist values on right wing proto fascist blogs. I might not be cutting edge, the Holocaust is still on my mind as are the great books produced in the century before the Holocaust. Gehlen, Schmitt,(see Taubes on Paul), Heidegger and Deluze might indeed be the future of Jewish thought , and I would have a difficult time getting on with such a program. But that is another sin entirely.

  14. chakira says, “So what happens 40 minutes a week in shul is sort of ancillary. So there is no “crisis” of feminism, even if there is a problem.” What do you mean, “sort of ancillary”? Is the definition that in our tribe women sit in the back or is that just a bit of meaningless (ancillary) theater? If the latter, then how sad a drama we play out. If the former, then well and good. You are in or out, your choice. Unless you believe that tribal life is God-given and obligatory.. Do you? Yes or no?

    • Crisis rhetoric should be reserved for crises. I thought this was obvious and simple, but it turns out not to be. A crisis is defined as an internal contradiction in one way of viewing the world, one form of spirit, where it exhausts its own claims to totality. Let’s contrast a crisis with a non crisis to see how this works. One classical idea of a crisis is the crisis of the French revolution. According to this view, the sycophantic kowtowing of the courtly class led to the demise of the very sovereign who formed the center of their cosmic pageantry. Ultimately the pageant is aporetic, as to debase myself before the king requires for there to be a substantial notion of self that is there to be annihilated. So in the classical conception of crisis articulated in German idealism, Kant “fulfills” the French Revolution. That is, the philosophical notion of self legislating and morally autonomous subjectivity performatively enacts the subject required by the kabuki dance of Louis XVI. So there is an aporia immanent to one conception of the world– it goes off the reservation precisely because it can fulfill almost every claim, but not the claim to totality. A crisis is related to what philosophers call “having the world in view” and is produced when we are blindsided by whatever schema we use to see the whole.
      Now let’s take another crisis, the crisis of feminism, and give it a similar dialectical treatment. The crisis of feminism could be construed as historically having its roots within a vision of domesticity which prized certain forms of harmony, yet begged the question of the very domination used to produce said harmony. “One vote per household” actually sounds like a nice idea, until we realize that political personhood has the potential to fracture the world of the household and expose the domination implicit in its formation. Karl Marx famously pointed to the criticism of the “Holy Family” as stemming from the fact that it was holy– secularization. Dialectical Materialism, although the latter term is a bugbear in this context, seeks to critique the family itself. The very consummation of the household as a political unit worthy of the harmony which makes household representation seemingly possible as an ideal at the same time exposes the political disenfranchisement of the subsumed political non people within the household. In any case, this is one possible trajectory, others could focus on the struggle with slavery or the high moral claims of protestants in the US which lead to an immanent need for a reevaluation of the political personhood of the female sex. When suffrage is granted, the violent underpinnings of disenfranchisement are exposed like the architecture Bataille thought we best see when its on fire. However, and this is where we LEARN something, now we know about this primordial scene of violence and we subsume it into the less explicitly violent world of the political. The agonal struggle of the household is transmuted and raised into a political struggle which may lack none of the naked jostling of its predeccesor while being a little less horrible and a little farther from home.
      In any case, lets now take a world something like ours in which, as I said, a woman can be a corporate lawyer or even a Hedge fund manager. What are the relevant distinctions at work in our current historical crisis? Well we could limn it six different ways. Capital vs. labor is coming back in vogue (for a classic Marxist feel). We could frame the aporias of the political against representative democracy as Carl Schmitt attempted to do– still works. We could say that our age is one of the technologization and deauthenticization and deracination of the world, something like Heidegger’s vision of Gestell and the emergency of being in the time of the world picture. The point of these schemas is not that they are perfect or all encompassing, but they show us the constitutive blind spots of our current schemas. In representative democracy we have the issue of the exception. In technological society we have an obscuring of our very (human) being by contrivances meant to facilitate it. In valuing money as an arbiter of all else, we have lost sight of the normative, emotional and cognitive determinations that ultimately underpin its use. Whatever.
      The relevant distinction is not, female endocrinologist (taking time off for the kids) vs. male Cardiologist (no shabbos because he got a sweet deal from Columbia when who moved from NYU) who is now going to belt out Kesser (yes, its authentic nusach sefard, don’t mess!) while she cannot even announce the Stein Bat Mitzvah. This is a slight inequality, not a crisis.
      In articulating our criteria for crisis, we focused on its bringing into view the blind spots of an overarching conceptual schema. Lets talk about this case. Does it come close to doing that? Well, maybe if you never heard a geshmake Kesser before. But in all seriousness, for most people the deflationary and utterly commonsensical approach is to say that this is a pragmatic game. In the game of Bananagrams you will play in two hours, you form words from a Banana pouch. The game of shabbos prohibits you from playing it on the internet. Meanwhile the game of shul requires the pageantry of men and the relegation of women to an ancillary role they do not normally play in society. Comparing this to a drama is apt, if we remember that dramas often contain powerful kernels of our shared humanity. In other words, shul is a normative vision, but an attenuated and staged one. We can approach the world with a kind of “as if”– as if words have perlocutionary and magical value or as if women and men aren’t equal. For Durkheimians who come to schmooze, the latter is not the case (if you hang out with the right women who can hold court at a kiddush better than the wallflowers who comment on blogs). But even if you agree to some degree with the normative vision in shul, you return to your workaday life or your life of leisure enriched and enhanced by the experience, but with the world fundamentally unchanged. Perhaps what emerges from this is that cultural institutions are about the deferral of problems and the creation of weak normative frameworks to keep us outside the sturm und drang of historical spiritual upheaval (the reason why a permanent revolution is a contradiction) and to deaden our lives with the routinization which Max Scheler highlights as a hallmark of advanced age and a decline of world openness. Like any dramaturgy, shul can play at exciting struggles, political intrigue or messianic fervor. The point of this implicit conservatism is to moor us in a world of changing values with a knowingly false vision of constant and unchanging ones.

  15. AS’s response was devastating and totally accurate except for one thing –replace “reasonably knowledgeable ” with “minimally knowledgeable.” But I think people should be fairer to Rabbi Linzer and YCT. A lot (not all) of the people they hope to minister to are people to whom these questions and issues are relevant and even pressing IF they are to be religious at all (e.g. college students who could be involved or could drop out of religion altogether depending on their influences on campus). So while Rabbi Linzer’s speech may be laughable to some, it reflects that YCT is actually doing an important service to God and B’nai Yisrael by reaching out to the marginally committed.

    [siteowner comment- please use real email address next time.]

  16. I am overwhelmed by the sheer erudition of responses. Thank you. Let me just reference R. HIRSCH to Genesis 12:8 and 20:1

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