When Global Religion Declines, We Celebrate the King

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12 Responses

  1. Tzvi says:

    The summation of Rav Soleveitchik’s analysis of Adam I and Adam II was especially powerful, and just what I needed to hear before Rosh Hashana.

  2. Joel Rich says:

    We believe not because of need and weakness, but because of our inner experience.
    ————————————-
    Absolutely, but how do you respond to one who says, “That’s wonderful for you bu that’s not my inner experience:
    kvct

    • It depends on what he sense he/she means by “it is not my innIter experience.”

      If it means that they have no reason or desire to believe, I don’t have more of a response than, “May you have a happy life.” I gave up on trying to provide cogent arguments for belief a long time ago. Either they are not terribly compelling, or I’m not very good at conveying them.

      If it means that they wish they could share my conviction, but my inner experience has not been their inner experience, my response would be very different. it would invite/encourage the other party to try on (parts of) the Torah lifestyle, and thus invite in what the Zohar calls the אור דנמנותא that resides in every mitzvah. In more down to earth terms, I would push towards limited observance, and – if challenged as to why G-d would ask for such a thing – provide a suitable hashkafic explanation of the interconnectedness of observance and clarified belief

      • mb says:

        To some, including this writer, anything from the Zohar might be counter productive. Instead, I would give them a rational reason for each mitzvah.

  3. Raymond says:

    I am not sure where I fall on the spectrum in the discussion above, but to the extent that I believe in G-d at all, it is coming from a sense that order and Goodness is an absolute value that must Trump (no pun intended!) the forces of disorder and darkness. To put it in stark terms, if there is no G-d, then the nazis clearly got away with torturing and murdering more than six million Jews. It means that the bullies of this world, the ones who with a smirk on their collective arrogant faces as they mock us, proclaiming with their barbaric actions that Might Is Right, are correctly representing ultimate reality. Or to use a somewhat gentler musical analogy, it would be like insisting that a series of discordant, disturbing sounds irritating to our ears is truly great music because it represents true reality, as opposed to, say, a magnificent piece by Mozart (or by Bach, take your pick) in which there is melody and harmony and in which every note has its perfect and rightful place. (May I suggest listening to the second movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto #20?)

    For better or for worse, having had read Bertrand Russell at a crucial age in my life, I can almost hear him in my head objecting to what I just said. I could well imagine him saying to me something along the lines of how I need to accept reality as it is, no matter how bitter that reality may be. He may very well be right, as I was not around when the universe was created, so what do I know, anyway? The problem I have with such a truly depressing view of the world is, however, why is it that such a worldview would bother me or anybody else? Why would any of us care whether the world operates under an ultimate scale of justice or not? One can make the counterargument that, well, we are worried about our own lives being harmed, but is that really true? I don’t think so. I think that people are very much bothered by the world’s injustices, even when it has no personal impact on them whatsoever. Think, for example, about those of us who are horrified by most abortions, or think about watching some video showing the heartbreaking torture of innocent animals. Why should we care? It seems to me that such a deep sense of right and wrong emanates from the deepest parts of us, that it points to the idea that we have a soul. Once that is acknowledged, we have admitted that G-d not only exists, but that He is a caring G-d. Is the Torah the true representation of G-d’s Goodness? Well, even putting aside Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi’s argument for the moment, given that even the most ardent atheist has to contend with the idea that the Torah is the most influential, important, best selling, well-known, indispensable, quoted book of all time, I think the answer to that question is fairly self-evident.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Classical music took a turn for the worse (with some exceptions) as Europe opted out of inner religious belief.

  4. Bob Miller says:

    1. About Gorbachev: His many machinations to retain power are described at length in Judgment in Moscow by Vladimir Bukovsky, which also detailed the many ways in which Western governments and intellectuals propped up communist rule in the USSR.

    2. The various forms of leftism are religions in their own right, substituting the State for God. The apolitical, or at least non-leftist, hedonists substitute themselves for God. I wrote a short paper once in college showing how the Stalin cult appropriated concepts, symbols, and rhetoric from the Church.

  5. dr. bill says:

    I perceive a decline in religion in a variety of contexts and for a myriad of reasons. A 13th-century cathedral must have been Awe-inspiring, and a largely oppressive life had to find meaning outside its own (earthly) domain. The unknown, which certainly was imagined as God’s domain, is increasingly explainable by science. But all of this and a lot more has been around at least to the increasingly informed for centuries.

    Of course, looking back, we were collectively foolish if we invoked such weak arguments for religion. But the modern-day has not been better. We are still looking to prove the unprovable. Yes, monkeys have not written Shakespeare, but the argument from intelligent design is fundamentally flawed given (even) the property of randomness when applied to the size and longevity of the universe as we now know it. Yet more troublesome is the propensity to (feel the need to) prove, be it by “bible codes” or beliefs in the infallibility of both the rabbis and our Mesorah. All this is just too easy to dismiss. Furthermore, the they could but we cannot claim that expand the articles of faith are exactly backwards.

    What religion ought to be to modern man is the desire to come close to a meaningful encounter with the Divine. For a traditional Jew, this requires adherence to a Mesorah that can help us be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, winning the admiration of others. That Mesorah, an admixture of strict halakha and adopted the practice, demands that we adhere as our unique method to approach/serve God. Tofastah merubah lo Tofastah clearly applies. When extraneous, antinomian, religious-feeling instincts invade our inner sanctum, we must demand adherence to our non-rigid Mesorah, nothing more nothing less.

    • mycroft says:

      , but the argument from intelligent design is fundamentally flawed given (even) the property of randomness when applied to the size and longevity of the universe as we now know it. Yet more troublesome is the propensity to (feel the need to) prove, be it by “bible codes” or beliefs in the infallibility of both the rabbis and our Mesorah. All this is just too easy to dismiss.

      Agreed-sadly too many people try to prove truth in a way that can be disproved

      What religion ought to be to modern man is the desire to come close to a meaningful encounter with the Divine. For a traditional Jew, this requires adherence to a Mesorah that can help us be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, winning the admiration of others. That Mesorah, an admixture of strict halakha and adopted the practice, demands that we adhere as our unique method to approach/serve God. Tofastah merubah lo Tofastah clearly applies. When extraneous, antinomian, religious-feeling instincts invade our inner sanctum, we must demand adherence to our non-rigid Mesorah, nothing more nothing less.

      Agreed-sadly it is a message that one seems to hear much less frequently than half a century ago

      • dr. bill says:

        thank you, we both went through our formative years then. I had the benefit of discussing religious philosophy with both RD Wurzberger ztl and Dr. Zev Harvey and rigorous training in logic.

  6. Shades of Gray says:

    In a talk  about Acher titled “Minus v’shelo Lishma”  given in the Ponevezh yeshiva in 1950(MME 3, pgs. 175-179), Rav Dessler has a subsection “Emunah Which Comes thru Torah” in which he explains how a clear and in depth experience of Torah study, itself, testifies to the Torah’s truth.

    The usual text of the Yerushami about Acher, as quoted  in Tosphos Chagigah 15a,  is that the words of  Torah study which accompanied the heavenly fire  at the bris of  Elisha ben Avuya “were joyful like when they were given from Sinai”. R. Dessler quotes however a different version of the text, which he synthesizes with that of Tosphos, as its quoted by the Orchos Tzadikim(Shar Hatorah)which substitutes “testify” for “joyful”, supporting his point above: 

    והדברים מעידים בינותינו שמהר סיני נתנו, ומתוך האש נתנו 

    R. Dessler also addresses in that essay the role that chakirah/philosophy of Rishonim should play based on the Chovos Halevovos. I would argue that today, in addition to the experiential component mentioned above, rather than offering knock-out proofs, one needs to validate intellectual struggle and to be exposed to sophisticated traditional approaches in the original that deal with academic issues(eg, Doros Harishonim).

    Acher, according to R. Dessler’s understanding of Chazal, had both read books of heresy and was a person with strong desires, as in the title of R. Dessler’s essay. Yet R. Dessler  quotes the Bal Shem Tov  that what Acher heard and chose to follow –the voice of “Return, rebellious children,” apart from Aḥer”– was  a “bas kol shel tumah l’fi madreigos libo”. Instead, he should have repented based on the promise of “לֹא-מְאַסְתִּים וְלֹא-גְעַלְתִּים לְכַ לֹּתָם”, which applied to his inner core.

    Interestingly, R. Dessler  also seems  to be addressing such people in the Ponevezh yeshiva with the proclivities of Acher  at the end of the essay. Similarly, R. Yitzchak Berkovitz of Aish Hatorah quotes a professor from Telz-Stone in an Ami interview this May who “told us that people don’t realize that when the Sfas Emes spoke about Shabbos he was often talking to people who were mechallelei Shabbos. That really opened my eyes to something new about the Sfas Emes and about kiruv…the Sfas Emes always talks about how Shabbos is mekasher with the shoresh”.   

  7. Shades of Gray says:

    In “The Rav on Shabbos Yom Kippur and Acher” (Torah Musing 9/13), R. Basil Herring summarizes the end of a Yiddish lecture of R. Soloveitchik given in November 1961 at a convention of Mizrachi-Hapoel Hamizrachi held in Atlantic City, NJ.

    Like R. Dessler I mentioned above who quoted the Bal Shem Tov (MME 3, pgs.  175-179), Rav Soloveitchik said in that speech “Do you think that Acher heard the heavenly voice well – and understood it correctly? God forbid! ”

    R. Herring has a number of  takeaways from R. Soloveitchik’s understanding of Acher, two of which are:  (#1)” the Rav challenges us to connect with our “inner Elisha,” the authentic spiritual personality dormant and hibernating in the recesses of our being, covered by layers of Acher-like pseudo-personality…” , and (#3) “When we see the incisive truth hidden in the two conflicting Talmudic passages at the basis of this story, and marvel at how the Rav harmonized them not only with each other but with penetrating psychological insights, who cannot be enthralled by the profound wisdom hidden deep inside the prism that is Torah she’be’al Peh, as uncovered and taught by the brilliance of a true Gadol in Torah?…” 

    This third takeaway of R. Herring also seems in line with the Michtav Meliyahu  I quoted before about the experience of discovering insight in Torah. See link:

    https://www.torahmusings.com/2013/09/the-rav-on-shabbos-yom-kippur-and-acher/

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