Loving the Stranger (within)

You may also like...

5 Responses

  1. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “This not only means acknowledging things about which I’d rather forget (or repress) about myself; it also may mean acknowledging a past from which I had hoped to distance myself, the stranger within…To be open-minded in this sense is not a path to solipsism and heresy, but the pre-requisite for authentic avodas Hashem–service of G-d.”

    Very thoughtful piece! I think that there are two aspects to any appropriate “Torah-Open Mindedness”:

    First, “intellectual empathy”, the ability to appropriately identify with another’s mindset. In conversation, this would mean when appropriate, listening to a person without agreeing with their point of view, but entering their mindset to make them feel genuinely understood, which could be included under nosei b’ol im chaveiro.

    Second, there is honestly recognizing and accepting one’s own humanity, rather than disowning it. R. Yerucham Levovitz(Daas Torah, V’zos Haberacha)writes that the Chovos HaLevavos himself, may have gone through the challenges mentioned in Shaar Yichud Hama’aseh(including, I assume, the intellectual ones listed there), and successfully overcome them.

    There are sources which go further and say that it is specifically the challenges or the “skeletons in the closet” which are the cause of growth in avodas Hashem (eg, the letter from R. Hutner where he says about gedolim, “but who knows about their struggles, their failures, their falls and their regressions”). As far the application to “Torah-Open Mindedness” is concerned, if one realizes that one suffers or had suffered from the same or a similar malady, it could lead to a greater understanding of another.

  2. sarah shapiro says:

    The idea of understanding “love the stranger” as a command to “love the stranger within” is for me a new, fascinating interpretion, one that’s rich with multi-faceted meanings.

    Yet the phrase itself — “Openminded Torah” — still grates, somehow, and strikes me as a misnomer. Even though it’s clear from the above essay that this is not at all Dr. Kolbrener’s intent, my inner ear still hears those words as if they were apologetically acquiescing to those who view the Torah-observant as “narrow-minded.”

  3. evanstonjew says:

    I enjoyed the piece but I think you made it too easy. The disowned material is usually split off in some way, either vertically as unconscious material or horizontally as living in two conscious worlds and refusing to bring them together. If all the material is available upon straightforward introspection why isn’t it acknowledged and integrated. There is a reason why people thought the division of the mind as id, ego etc is useful. What sort of psychodynamics do you get from nefesh, ruach, neshama?

    My other point which is related is that where we come from can be described in more than one way, and not knowing where you come from means choosing certain descriptions over others. It is not a simple case of amnesia…who knew we were slaves in Egypt? It is recognizing that the people of Israel under the leadership of Hashem and through his servant Moses rebelled against an oppressive regime and risked their lives for freedom. Put this way it sounds vaguely radical and rebellious, the sort of thing an anarchist might say and one that does not fit in with normal politics. Obviously we remember the more passive description “G-d took us out of Egypt.”

  4. William Kolbrener says:

    I’m grateful for the comments and thought I’d take the chance to respond. Sarah correctly intuited my intention (notwithstanding her diyuk on my blog title). I don’t want to give the impression that Torah observant Jews are narrow-minded, but I do think that there are representations of Torah (appearing extremely authoritative to some) which give the impression that somehow being ‘open minded’ goes against the spirit of authentic Torah. I’m not writing from a sociological perspective, but hoping to write something that may be enabling to those who–in the service of their yiddishkeit–want to be more open-minded to themselves.

    As ‘Evanston Jew’ suggests the process of being open to oneself is in fact not so easy (because of all sorts of mechanisms of repression, avoidance, etc). Self-consciousness, as he suggests, may not even be enough to acheive such psychic balance. Bridging the gap between parts of the soul or psyche requires labor–and probably help from ba’alie mussar and perhaps psychologists. Integration is certainly a task of under-estimated difficulty. As for the psychic dynamic of ruach-nefesh-neshama, it’s something about which I’m still thinking…

    And with Baruch, I find Rav Hutner’s letter inspiring. The various reactions to that letter provides a window into the different segments of c’lal yisroel (oops, I am sounding like a sociologist), and how they might react–or have already reacted–to a book like The Making of a Gadol…

  5. Moshe Schorr says:

    I _like_ that quotation from R. Hutner. Where is the letter available? I
    have heard that the book Making of a Gadol (unexpurgated version) is fetching $1,500 on Amazon!

Pin It on Pinterest