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July 01, 1994 - Image 77

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-07-01

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

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"secular Judaism was never rich
enough, culturally thick enough,
its texts not persuasive enough,
its rituals, ceremonies, holidays
not engaging enough. And, most
important, it remained parasitic
on an older religious Judaism
that it didn't, couldn't pass on."
He proposed "a critical en-
gagement with Judaism as a re-
ligious/intellectual/political
culture ... a Jewishly learned sec-
ular intelligentsia, which should
certainly form alliances with re-
ligious intellectuals, so long as it
retains its critical stance."
But Mr. Walzer's prescription
could be and is lived out by Chris-
tian intellectuals who have an
affinity for Jews or Jewish histo-
ry. It, too, does not include the re-
ligious root of Judaism. It does
not tell the Jew that he has a spe-
cial covenant with God to keep,
it does not compel him. It is still,
in essence, "parasitic" secular Ju-
daism.
Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg faced
the problem of Judaism today
when he said, "We cannot move.
from faith to text," — theimpli-
cation being that most Jews lack.
faith.
He then took a stab at a solu-
tion: 'perhaps we can move from
learning back to some kind of
faith, as each of us understands
it."
Here was a call for Jewish ed-
ucation not just for its own sake,
but for the sake of finding a Jew-
ish belief in God. This brought
the discussion, momentarily, to
a different, higher plane.
But the single sustained, pow-
erful, pure dose of Jewish spiri-
tuality came from Jerusalem's
Rabbi David Hartman. He did
not offer dogma. He did not say
that Jewish religion was an an-
tidote to doubt, rather that at its
sources, Judaism tried to come to
grips with doubt.
Rabbi Hartman recalled that
even in the time of the Prophet
Malachi, "The people who lived
by Torah [asked themselves], 'Is
this an illusion, a collective fan-
tasy? Why should we study
Torah? For what, for whom, it
doesn't resonate in the world."
Rabbi Hartman proposed an
approach to Judaism that begins
with that doubt.
"Are we going to face honestly
the fact that we have lost our
identity as a people of Torah? ...
The issue of our time is, how do
we retrieve the power of Sinai? ...
We all face that issue," he said.
It was for Jews now, he con-
tinued, to admit to each other
their longing for that lost faith —
"to feel the pain of that reality
and tell it to another Jew; not as
a solution, but so that we can
meet to talk about it."
It was a religious lament, and
an honest starting point for Jew-
ish continuity. O

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77

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