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August 19, 1983 - Image 50

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-08-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

50 Friday, August 19, 1983

Relevance of Hasidic Ethics to Modern Society Probed

Among these phenomena
are psychiatric problems,
uncompetitiveness, lack of
ambition and others.
Through a sociological
and psychological
analysis of the Hasidic
doctrine, Prof. Roten-
berg 'shows that the
kabalistic concept of
"contraction" (tzimtzum)
is a key optimistic princi-
ple which guides the
society and enables it to
accept diverse
phenomena, including
deviant manifestations,
as an integral element of
its makeup.
Even though contempor-
ary society has undergone a
process of secularization, it
continues to be influenced

JERUSALEM — The new
book by Prof. Mordechai
Rotenberg of the Hebrew
University, "Dialogue With
Deviance: The Hasidic
Ethic and the Theory of So-
cial Contraction" (Institute
for the Study of Human Is-
sues), is a groundbreaking
study of the impact of
Hasidic ethics on. contem-
porary society.
In the wake of a thorough
examination of the Hasidic
ethic, the author concludes
that the optimistic ap-
proach toward life which
characterizes Hasidism
provides its adherents with
solutions and means to cope
with phenomena which the
Protestant world views as
social deviations.

Music by

Sam Barnett

by the religious ethic, Prof.
Rotenberg notes, hence the •
importance of understand-
ing religious ethical con-
cepts.
Moreover, although the
impact of Eastern and
Western theologies on
society have been studied in
considerable detail, virtu-
ally no systematic attempts
have been made to deter-
mine the possible relation-
ships between Jewish ethics
and contemporary society.
According to the concept
of contraction, God volun-
tarily withdraws into him-
self, thus evacuating space
for the human world. The
belief in contraction is indi-
cative of the coexistence and
dialogue between man and
God and between man and
man. This principle enables
the formation of the "I and
Thou" situation between
man and God, already noted
by Martin Buber in his
analysis of Hasidism.

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BELIEF: Myths a Realities

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The Jew in History: Footnote or focal point?

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Intermarriage: What is the Jewish view?

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Medical Ethics in Today's Society:
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The Creation of the Theory of Evolution.
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It is this bilateral "I and
Thou" concept that ex-
plains the talmudic no-
tion of chutzpa, by which
man can argue with and
even influence God. The
existence of a mutual re-
lationship between be-
liever and God is the
dynamic and optimistic
element of Hasidism —
unlike the Protestant
ethic which is based on
the concept of "I or
Thou" between man and
God.
societies,
Protestant
based on unilateral "I or
Thou" models of behavior,
are deterministic in nature;
the conflict between man
and God necessarily ends in
the surrender and abnega-
tion of man.
Another section of
"Dialogue With Deviance"
deals with the continuous
struggle between, good and
evil as viewed through the
Hasidic prism. Here, Prof.
Rotenberg develops the
popular Hasidic notion of
"ascent through descent,"
which denies the existence
of evil, into a theory of
"functional deviance."
That is, while West6rn
psychiatry has not enabled
rational - man to overcome
his fears of the unknown
and irrational, Hasidic "as-
cent thrugh descent"
teaches that joy (ascent)
may be preceded by a tem-
porary state of deviance or
depression (descent).
Thus, descent, however
long it l‘sts, is always a
temporary state whose
aim is to prepare man for
the desirable, predomin-
ant, joy-filled state of as-
cent. This means that
what the Protestant
world conceives of as evil
and as unrectifiable, is
considered in Hasidism
as a positive, highly bene
ficial situation.
One of Prof. Rotenberg's
most striking conclusions is
that the 18th Century
Hasidic movement "appears
to be a most instructive case
in the sociological history of

revolutionary movements."

UN Scores

Israel, S. Africa

GENEVA (JTA) — Is-
rael's policies in the West
Bank and South Africa's
policy of apartheid came
under severe criticism at
the United Nations World
Conference to Combat Ra-
cism. The conference, which
ended last weekend, voted
104-0 for measures to com-
bat apartheid, ranging from
economic sanctions to a
complete cutoff of all scien-
tific, cultural and sports
contacts.
The United States and Is-
rael boycotted the two-week
conference attended by 124
nations because of the 1975
UN General Assembly reso-
lutions equating Zionism
with racism.

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