Monthly Archives: May 2012

Rare Audio of Gershom Scholem lecturing in 1975

This morning I received an anonymous email from an ip number in Tel Aviv with the only available recording of Gershom Scholem. There is also another single recording in the Israeli broadcasting Authority vaults. But here was the only publically available mp3. It was from a lecture given in 1975, the year that Scholem spent in sabbatical at Boston University, when many of the Brandeis students who entered the field of Kabbalah attending his lectures. This lecture was delivered at the Panarion conference, 1975, an annul Jungian conference held in Los Angeles.

Extremely rare audio of Gershom Scholem lecturing on Kabbalah in 1975:

An entry describing a recording of Scholem speaking at any length

The topic was the Tzelem- the astral body. A talk that Scholem gave 15 years prior at the Eranos conferences and was only available in German at the time of the lecture. One gets a good sense of Scholem in the 90 minutes.

He opens with a two interesting autobiographical statements. First, that research into kabbalah- is research into the hidden recesses of the mind. Second, that Scholem in his turn to kabbalah was searching beyond the Talmud.

It is interesting that even after 60 years in Israel his accent is still entirely German even when pronouncing Hebrew. It is noticeable that he even has no Hebrew accent when pronouncing Hebrew words.

Scholem made a joke that there were so many PhD’’s in mandate Palestine that one would think “Dr” is the Jewish first name . And that no one could evaluate his work before he was hired by Hebrew University, so he was reviwed by a Rabbinical botanist in Hungary who read in Scholem’s edition of the Bahir about male and female palm trees.

He claimed to have an optic memory not an auditory one.

Now to the lecture itself, which Scholem claimed was really two lecture. The first half of the lecture on the personal confrontation with the soul and the second half on Tzelem. One sees how much Scholem was interested in psychological explanations even when not at the Eranos conferences.

Scholem opened up with the opposition of Ibn Latif to kabbalistic psychology and the need for someone in do a study of him. (Ibn latif, Rav Pe’alim, ed. S. Schoenblum, Berlin, 1885, reprinted: Jerusalem, 1970; see also: ed. H. Kasher, Ramat Gan, 1974.)

Scholem quoted from Moshe of Kiev – Shushan Sodot, the following passage from a student of Abulafia. As you read the passage note that Scholem reads the passage as reaching the psychology depth of the soul and Moshe Idel in his work uses the same passage to discuss prophecy, prophetic kabbalah, and visual phenomena.

The wise and illuminated R. Nathan, blessed be his memory, told me ‘Know that the perfection of the secret of prophecy for the prophet is that he should suddenly see the form of his self-standing in front of him. He will then forget his own self and it will disappear from him. And he will see the form of his self in front of him, speaking with him and telling him the future.

Scholem explains it as showing the Kabblah as offering self-knowledge into the depths of the human nature. From a 2012 perspective, it feels funny that he treats the conceptions of the self as a static entity. He is writing pre-Charles Taylor pre- Foucault without any genealogy of the construction of the self. He attributes the differences between the centuries of texts to creativity and imagination, not to the changing constructions of the self.

In the second half of the talk, Scholem presents his article on Tzelem. He acknowledges the universality of the idea of the Astral body. He make a big point that the audience should read Sylvan J. Muldoon, Hereward Carrington,  Projection of the Astral Body (1923) who offer a theosophic approach in line with Madame Blavatsky. Then he traces the history of the astral body from Greek papyri to Iamblicus and from there to the Arabic magical works and Pico.

From there, Scholem discusses the concept of a personal angel, the Zohar need for garments to enter this world, -the haluka derabanan- bodies of light- and the idea of an ethereal robe. He basically treats them as if they are all the same with different imaginative understanding. He finishes up with the soul traveling through the spheres and planets, Dante’s concept of the shadow and the zelem hovering over body. So read the original essay.

I yearn for some historical sense. Scholem jumps from his classical knowledge to the use of the classical material in the kabbalah, then he just sees the synthesis in the 16th century as a synthesis. Looking back, Scholem can use to actually deal with the topic Ginzburg’s discussion of the pneuma, Warburg studies of melancholia, and then some Yates and Brian Vickers. His applying the 20th century sense of self to the 16the century is unnerving.

Peter Schafer responds to Daniel Boyarin.

In the current issue of the New Republic, Princeton Professor and leading authority on early Judaisms Peter Schafer has a critique of Boyarin’s new book. But rather than a discussion of method by two senior scholars, we get Schafer himself acidly writing about Boyarin. “As the younger Talmud professor in the acclaimed Israeli movie Footnote says to his hapless student, “There are many correct and new aspects in your paper—only what is new isn’t correct and what is correct isn’t new.”

Schafer acknowledges that the quest for Jesus as Jew and his Jewish context is the topic of our decade. Long gone are the Lutheran inspired dichotomies of The Rabbis and Jesus. Rather, Christians are eager for these new Jewish insights. “That the historical Jesus was a Jew, that his followers were Jews, and that the Gospels as well as the letters written by the apostle Paul are Jewish writings, firmly embedded in first century C.E. Judaism—all this has become almost commonplace.” Boyarin is part of this larger trend that includes many other authors, both clerical and academic. Schafer himself just released a volume on the topic The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other (Princeton University Press).and this seems like academic rivalry. It seems he agree in the basic thesis but thinks his approach is the better way. I will comment on Schafer’s book when I receive a copy.

Schafer grants that “the pendulum has swung far in the opposite direction, with scholars outdoing each other in proving the Jewishness of Jesus and the New Testament, and arguing that there is nothing in Jesus’s message as reflected in the New Testament that oversteps the boundaries of what might be expected from the Judaism of his day.” So let’s have a discussion, acknowledging in advance that German scholars and Jewish scholars differ many time due to different methodological considerations.

Instead, Schafer condemns the book with four objections. First, it is not original. Second, he rejects the connection of Boyarin’s Jewish bi-theism with the Trinity, a rejection already made without the cattiness by Moshe Idel. Third, bar-nash of the book of Daniel may actually be hypostatic of the Trinity or at least bi-theism and is not messianic redeemer as Boyarin thought. And finally, the book of Daniel may refer in its lower manifestation to the angelic or heavenly hosts and it may have political elements. Daniel does not just refer to two powers in heaven.

The latter two could have been dealt with as a minor repair as a fellow scholar, with near similar conclusions, amends Boyarin. Boyarin argues his understanding of Daniel based on the role of figures who ride on clouds as well as the Canaanite background to the text. Schafer considers neither strong enough.

The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ By Daniel Boyarin
The most recent voice in this chorus is Daniel Boyarin… announced with great fanfare, that the evolving Christology of the New Testament and the early Church—that is, the idea of Jesus being essentially divine and human, the divine-human Messiah and Son of his Father in heaven—is deeply engrained in the Jewish tradition that preceded the New Testament. Theologians would call this idea “binitarianism,” that is, the notion of two divine figures of equal substance and power, mostly an older and a younger God (or Father and Son).

But for Boyarin this extraordinary claim is not enough. He lets himself be gladly carried away by the assertion that even what theologians call the Trinity (the notion of three divine figures, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) was present among the Jews well before Jesus made his appearance. It is worth quoting this even more audacious claim:

Fortunately, Boyarin forgets about the Holy Spirit and the Trinitarian claim, and focuses instead on the binitarian idea of two divine powers as part and parcel of the pre-Christian Jewish tradition. It must be said at the start that for the reader familiar with the scholarship this notion does not come as a shattering innovation.

Jonathan Z. Smith, who published an English translation of the Prayer, aptly summarized its theological importance: “Rather than the Jews imitating Christological titles, it would appear that the Christians borrowed already existing Jewish terminology.”

Crucial for this claim is his first chapter, which reveals the major assumption on which his book is built—that, paradoxically, the appellation “Son of God” refers to the Messiah as a human king, whereas the appellation “Son of Man,” contrary to what most Christians believe, refers to the divine redeemer, that is, the divine origin of the Messiah.
Yet with a stroke of his pen Boyarin erases all the pre-Christian Jewish traditions in which the Son of God means much more than just a human king, not to mention the New Testament passages—in particular in Paul’s letters, which predate the Gospels—that speak of Jesus as the divine Son of God.

All the relevant pre-Christian Jewish sources as well as the New Testament sources have been exemplarily presented and analyzed by Martin Hengel in his seminal book, The Son of God: The Origin of Christology and the History of Jewish-Hellenistic Religion, published in many editions, of which Boyarin seems unaware.
AS TO THE Son of Man as a divine figure, Boyarin’s main evidence is the famous vision, in the biblical Book of Daniel, of the Ancient of Days and the one like a human being (“Son of Man”) to whom is given dominion, glory, and kingship forever. This vision forms the core of Boyarin’s argument,

Since Daniel tells us that, although “thrones [in the plural] were set in place,” only the Ancient of Days (that is,
God) took his seat, we must conclude, according to Boyarin, that the second throne was reserved for the Son of Man as a second divine figure (in human form)—a younger God enthroned in heaven next to the Ancient of Days as the older God. Having summarized Daniel in such a way, Boyarin arrives at his desired thesis that Daniel’s Son of Man is the Jewish forerunner of Jesus Christ, long before Jesus was born, the divine-human Messiah, “a simile, a God who looks like a human being.” Ultimately, Boyarin assures us, these two divinities “would end up being the first two persons of the Trinity.”

The most likely candidate for those being seated on these thrones, in addition to the Ancient of Days, is the heavenly court that sits in judgment, explicitly referred to in the Daniel text. Moreover, and more importantly, Boyarin cannot avoid noticing that the interpretation of Daniel’s vision given by an angel in the Book of Daniel itself does not go well with his exegesis.

This interpretation by the angel provides the historical background of the vision: the court’s judgment results in the dominion being taken away from the ruthless Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes and given as an everlasting kingdom to the people of Israel (the “holy ones of the Most High”). So what is at stake here in Daniel 7 is the concrete historical situation after 175 B.C.E., with the Seleucid oppression of the Jews and the Maccabean revolt against it, and the question of who is the Son of Man needs to be answered against this historical background.

The Church Fathers would have loved this exegesis, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it can be found somewhere in their voluminous works. But the evidence that Boyarin provides for his peculiar reading of Daniel 7—flatly against the grain of the Biblical text itself—is rather dubious.

In order to prove the divine nature of the Son of Man, he first points to the fact that clouds in the Hebrew Bible are common attributes of divine appearances (theophanies), and that accordingly the Son of Man’s coming on the clouds of heaven elevates him to a divine being.

Boyarin also invokes the Canaanite gods El and Ba‘al, the former being the ancient sky god and the latter his younger associate, whom the Bible tried—not always successfully—to merge into one God in order to accomplish its idea of a strict monotheism. The notion of a duality within God, he argues, is present in the Hebrew Bible itself. Fair enough—nobody would want to disagree with him here: that duality was a condition that the Bible sought not to affirm but to overcome.

Schafer does accept the new understanding of Jesus and the Law but says Boyarin was derivative. On the other hand, Boyarin is to be faulted for not including the Christian influence on Pesiqta Rabbati, the topic of Schafer latest volume.

No serious New Testament scholar would doubt the former part of this argument (Jesus did not want to do away with the laws of kashrut); and the latter part (Jesus quarreled with the Pharisaic concept of ritual purity) is heavily indebted to the work of the young Israeli scholar Yair Furstenberg.

Worse, Boyarin completely ignores the most important evidence of the vicarious suffering of the Messiah Ephraim in rabbinic Judaism, in the midrash Pesiqta Rabbati, where the notion of the Messiah’s vicarious expiatory suffering returns to the Jewish tradition. These texts have been thoroughly discussed in recent scholarship, and it has been argued that they most likely belong to the first half of the seventh century C.E. and may well be a rather late response to the Christian usurpation of the Messiah Jesus’s vicarious suffering. If this interpretation is correct, then there is clearly not a single unbroken line of tradition leading from Isaiah 53 through of all places Daniel 7—to the New Testament and the subsequent rabbinic literature. Instead what we encounter here is the rabbinic re-appropriation of a theme that is firmly embedded in the Hebrew Bible, was usurped by the New Testament Jesus and therefore largely ignored or better suppressed by most rabbis, only to make its way back later into certain strands of rabbinic Judaism.

Finally, Schafer acknowledges the broad discipline area that they agree about. They include: importance of Second temple Judaism, the slow process of the separation of the ways and the creation of a language of Orthodoxy. From my perspective Schafer lacks the transitional theological language of the 3rd and 4th centuries when many Christians were still monarchists, Arians, Sabellians and Subordinationalists. He does not want to essentialize but many Trinitarian positions had much in common with bi-theism. I found on the Amazon site a review of his work that makes the new Schafer volume almost entirely agree with Boyarin’s thesis, except in the above mentioned small points.

Schäfer showcases the binitarian concept, New Testament Christianity, which basically was binitarian (with the Holy Spirit not yet admitted to full partnership). Thus Judaism was not strictly monotheistic, nor was Christianity always trinitarian. Schäfer holds that binitarianism found an important support in the imperial concept, developed by Diocletian at the end of the third century CE, of the Augustus (or chief emperor) assisted by the Caesar (or junior emperor).

And methodologically, he is willing to acknowledge that many of these Second Temple ideas close to Christianity reemerged in kabblalah, yet in a medievalists eyes they were already there in the rabbinic texts. And how he can claim Pesikta as Christian influenced but Kabbalah as authentic Second temple is not sound. Each passage in both collections needs its own genealogy. I await reading his new volume The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other (Princeton University Press).

First and foremost among them is the recognition that Second Temple Judaism offers a much more complex and multifaceted fabric of ideas and thoughts than many Christians and Jews today are prepared to acknowledge. The various Jewish sources and schools (some of them mislabeled as “sects”)—represented by the late books of the Hebrew Bible, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, the literature of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, and indeed the New Testament—are overlapping, often competing, but always legitimate parts of this teeming spiritual culture.
After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., moreover, a process was set in motion that was geared toward taking stock and distilling some kind of “normative Judaism,” aimed at defining what is  “in” and what is “out,” and thus eliminating trends and directions that were regarded as unwelcome or dangerous

A CONCLUSION strongly suggests itself: if we wish to evaluate “Judaism” and “Christianity” in the first centuries C.E. from a historian’s point of view, we need to stay away from the dogmatic notion of two firmly established religions, the one defined by its ultimate triumph over Judaism after it became the religion of the Christian state—with all its horrible consequences for the Jews—and the other defined by the victory of the rabbis over their enemies from within and from without. In doing so, we will discover that there is no single line or single point in the first centuries of the Christian era that distinguished Judaism and Christianity once and forever. There are several lines and several points.
The binitarian idea of two divine powers does not constitute a definite line of demarcation between the faiths—but the Trinitarian idea of three divine powers does.

The vicarious suffering of the Messiah, or even his death, does not constitute an impassable boundary—but the scandal of his death on the cross, so much emphasized by Paul, does.

And we must not forget a later complication, or irony: some of these “heretical” ideas, suppressed by Talmudic Judaism, would return to Judaism ever more vigorously in what is commonly called Kabbalah.
Read the entire review

Roland Barthes in the NYT

This past Sunday, the first day of Shavuot, Sam Anderson did a fine piece in the NYT on Roland Barthes, the critic. The article presents Barthes as the antecedent of bloggers.

Among the brand-name French theorists of the mid-20th century, Roland Barthes was the fun one… Barthes wrote short books built out of fragments. He was less interested in traditional coherence than in what he called jouissance: joy, surprise, adventure, pleasure — tantric orgasms of critical insight rolling from fragment to fragment

Barthes’s basic idea (although with Barthes it’s always dangerous to reduce things to a basic idea) was that the operation of mass culture is analogous to mythology. He argued that the cultural work previously done by gods and epic sagas — teaching citizens the values of their society, providing a common language — was now being done by film stars and laundry-detergent commercials. In “Mythologies,” his project was to demystify these myths.

He wrote essays about professional wrestling, celebrity weddings, soap advertisements, actors’ publicity photos, trends in children’s toys and an initiative by the president of France to get citizens to drink more milk.
(“If God is really speaking through Dr. Graham’s mouth, it must be acknowledged that God is quite stupid.”) He wrote about plastic. (“It is the first magical substance which consents to be prosaic.”)

The most basic lesson of “Mythologies” is that everything means something, especially things that try to seem beyond meaning.

If 21st-century culture has embraced any of Barthes’s lessons, it is this one. What is the blogosphere if not a Petri dish of amateur semiology — the decoding of everything?

[W]hat angered Barthes more than anything was “common sense,” which he identified as the philosophy of the bourgeoisie, a mode of thought that systematically pretends that complex things are simple, that puzzling things are obvious, that local things are universal — in short, that cultural fantasies shaped by all the dirty contingencies of power and money and history are in fact just the natural order of the universe. The critic’s job, in Barthes’s view, was not to revel in these common-sensical myths but to expose them as fraudulent.The critic had to side with history, not with culture. And history, Barthes insisted, “is not a good bourgeois.”
Read the rest here.

Pretend that complex things are simple. Assert that the puzzling is obvious. Infer that the local is universal. Who does this? The next time you hear that some visible or invisible order of things is “universal” “eternal” or “natural,” remind yourself of Barthes.

And the article closes with a great example of the post-ironic.

Barthes admits to breaking down in tears when he hears a song by Gérard Souzay, a singer he once dismissed in “Mythologies” as the epitome of melodramatic bourgeois art. In this moment of contradiction, he seems very modern, and fully Barthesian.

Moshe Halbertal – On Sacrifice

What is the role of sacrifice in contemporary morals and politics? To answer this question Moshe Halbertal recently wrote a book on sacrifice.

The first part of the book explains that religious sacrifice is for its own sake as obedience or devotion. The second part of the part is on the role of sacrifice in our current world. Halbertal’s view of Biblical and Rabbinic notions seems rather Maimonidean, no appeasement of God, no trades with God quid pro quo, and no effect on God. He toys with the theories of violence of Girard and Bataille but politely returns them to the shelf.

The second part of the book argues that sacrifice of the self has to be valuable for a cause and not as an end in itself. The sacrifice of war has to serve just goals and is not an end in itself. In this, he implicitly differs with Talal Asad’s explanation of suicide bombers or Mussolini’s definition of a nation as one that fights together. Halbertal also claims that in our modern world, chesed is going beyond the self. The ethical demand of the book is that a self-sacrifice for another individual, value, or collective seems key to much of ethical life.

Moshe Halbertal argues that ‘self-transcendence is at the core of human capacity for moral life’. The idea of self-transcendence, or of leaving aside one’s own self-interest and adopting the point of view of the other.. Ahad Haam made altruistic ethics the Christian opposite of the Jewish ethic of consequentialism. Kaufman Kohler limited it to Buddhists and Christians. Usually mesirat nefesh is used in a non-consequential way or a devotional way. Here it seems a little more Kantian than Rawls, and a little bit of Levinas. The book shifts Jewish language from the current use of the word justice to that of sacrifice and hesed. And the prolific John Milbank, the Christian radical Orthodoxy thinker, is writing in this same idiom of self-sacrifice.

Halbertal examines the suicide bomber and the terrorist who doesn’t try to escape punishment because he wants to prove that the aim was worth risking his life. Halbertal claims that this kind of sacrificial transcendence is morally misguided. Legitimate moral demands may, in some cases, require sacrifice, but sacrifice can never legitimize action that would not otherwise be legitimate. Thomas Nagel, says Halbertal’s argument boils down to, “If violent action is right, it’s right without sacrifice. If it’s wrong, sacrifice won’t make it right” and described the paper as a “lucid and original discussion of self-transcendence and its pathologies.”

Halbertal in his own words from his preface, available as a pdf at Princeton UP.

The second part of this book, which is devoted to “sacrificing for,” involves different realms altogether— the political and moral spheres. Self-sacrifice for another individual, value, or collective seems key to much of ethical life and political organization. In Kant’s moral philosophy, as in other moral theories, the core of morality is the capacity to transcend the self along with its drives and interests, and therefore, as Kant formulated it, moral drama resides in the conflict between self-transcendence and self-love. While endorsing the value of self-transcendence, my study of the relationship between self-sacrifice and violence will try to show the way in which misguided self-transcendence has a potential to lead to far greater evils and harms than those that are motivated by excessive self-love. Unraveling the internal relationship between self-transcendence and violence will provide what I believe to be a preferable, deeper account of moral conflict.

War is a realm in which heroic self-sacrifice as well as utter violence and brutality are manifested. In my attempt to probe the relationship between self-transcendence and violence, I will try to demonstrate that the simultaneous occurrence of these two aspects of war is not accidental and that they are intrinsically connected. Focusing on “sacrificing for” will thus lead to investigating the role of sacrifice in war and the function of the state as a sacrificial bond.

Here is a solid review by the great scholar of myth Robert A. Segal, focusing on the first part of the book.

Philosopher Moshe Halbertal distinguishes two kinds of sacrifice: sacrifice to and sacrifice for. Sacrifice “to”, which is older, means a gift, as in the giving of an animal or even a human to a god. This kind of sacrifice is found above all in religion, and Halbertal takes most of his examples from the Hebrew Bible, although lamentably none from Homer and Hesiod.

Sacrifice “for” means self-sacrifice for a cause. It means “giving up…property, comfort, limb, or even life for…children, country, or in order to fulfil an obligation”. This kind of sacrifice is not distinctly religious and can be found in devotion to any cause. Halbertal insists that both types, not just sacrifice “for”, are “noninstrumental”. That is, no reciprocity is expected. After all, what can humans give God in exchange for what they want from God? When a gift becomes a means to an end, sacrifice “to” becomes a crass market exchange.

But Halbertal’s depiction of sacrifice “to” is hard to fathom. First, sacrifices are often demanded by God. Second, even if the two parties are unequal, these sacrifices are still seen as the best human means to secure some goal, such as winning battles and ending disease. In Judges xi, Jephthah vows that he will sacrifice the first living thing to greet him upon his return home if God will grant him victory over the Ammonites.

When Agamemnon is told that he must sacrifice his daughter Iphigeneia in order for the Greek fleet to be able to set sail for Troy, his sacrifice, which is “to” and not “for”, is hardly intended as an end in itself. Furthermore, the Semiticist William Robertson Smith, whom Halbertal discusses, rejects the view of sacrifice as originally one of gift because in his day gift was taken to be a form of expiation of sins.

Halbertal’s analysis of the consequences of sacrifice “for” is most insightful. We innocently assume that self-sacrifice is noble. Committing violence in war for a “just cause” is accepted. But he observes that self-sacrifice can turn the perpetrators of violence into victims, thereby turning self-sacrifice into self-interest. He does not limit himself to suicide bombers and notes that Abraham’s willingness to kill Isaac for (not to) God constitutes what Kierkegaard calls the “suspension of the ethical”.

Halbertal warns against the appeal to self-sacrifice in order to justify unjust undertakings. He contrasts Abraham Lincoln’s legitimately justifying the deaths of soldiers for the sake of freedom with George W. Bush’s justifying the continuation of the war in Iraq to finish the task for which so many had already died. Halbertal maintains that it is not self-interest that undermines the morality of war but the opposite: the turning of self-sacrifice into justification for immorality. This is a brilliant book.

From the scholar of the Rabbinic era – Catherine Hezser

Each individual citizen is asked to “sacrifice” part of their property by accepting higher taxes, interest rates, and prices as well as cuts to benefits and pensions. This self-sacrifice is propagated as a contribution to the common good of the respective society, economy, and political system. The terminology of “sacrifice” has a distinct political significance besides its religious connotations in world religions including Judaism and Christianity.

The notions of sacrifice and violence are closely linked. Sacrifice involves violence but is also meant to halt violence and effect purification. A proper victim is chosen to serve as a scapegoat sacrified on behalf of others to placate God or to prevent further retaliation by one’s enemies. The victim serves as a substutite for those who initiated the sacrificial ritual. Sacrificing him is believed to bring about atonement. This idea found its foremost expression in the Christian sacrifice of the son of God to secure atonement for others: “That sacrifice eclipsed all previous ones, making them redundant and void”.

The connection between sacrifice and violence is also evident in the use of the same term for a sacrifice and a crime victim in Hebrew (qorban) and a number of other languages (e.g., German: Opfer; Arabic: adcha). In both cases, the (innocent) victim experiences violence at the hands of others. Early Christianity “merges the crime victim and the sacrifice into the same persona”.

In rabbinic Judaism, which developed after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., other forms of substitution emerged: charity, suffering, and prayer. Rabbis suggested that by supporting the poor on behalf of God, who is seen as ultimately responsible for their well-being, the charity giver is “lending to God” and thereby reversing the dependence relationship between them. In a different way, suffering is seen to affect atonement, since it serves as “a symbolic substitute for the punishment itself”, says Halbertal. He goes on to say that daily prayer “was perceived to achieve the same goals: atonement, and thanking and appeasing God”.

The self-sacrifice of martyrdom constitutes the bridge between the notions of sacrificing to and sacrificing for. The martyr sacrifices his life for the love of God. This understanding of “the martyr as a sacrificial offering” emerged in Judaism from the seventh century onwards only. Sacrifice now also involved “giving up” one’s life (and/or property) for the sake of one’s religious – as well as ethical and political – convictions. A similar notion appears in modern philosophical writings which stress self-transcendence and sacrifice as the basis of morality in contrast to self-preservation and gratification.

Yet in war, this relationship is reversed: soldiers who are ready to sacrifice themselves evince “a form of moral self-deception” assuming “that sacrifice makes something into a good”. Halbertal argues that in certain situations, “self-sacrifice mobilizes crimes that in their magnitude are far greater than those motivated by self-interest”. He refers to the suicide bomber as an example for the connection between self-sacrifice and violence and the reversal of roles between aggressor and victim. Self-sacrifice is therefore potentially dangerous if it is misguided. It can be used towards the common good but also justify crimes and corrupt society. In religious parlance, misguided self-sacrifice constitutes idolatry.
The book presents a good basis for further discussion of the use of sacrifice-related terminology in political and economic discourse. Anyone interested in the continued significance of ancient concepts, ideas, and rituals in modern life and thinking would benefit from reading this book.

Jewish Standard article on my recent book

There is a great three part article in today’s NJ Jewish Standard about my new book. One long article and two full sidebars. I did not write the title. As I explain in the book, I don’t use the word dialogue because I am reflecting entirely from within Jewish texts and not in conversation. I use “theology of other religions” or “models of understanding.” And when I do go to meetings, conferences and interpersonal encounters, I prefer to call it a meeting, or better yet, the Levinas word “hospitality” for the accepting of invites to leave one’s comfort zone and confront the other. And rarely would I appeal to saying “nothing new” since I think contextually and temporally.

Alan Brill: Interfaith dialogue nothing new for Jews
Larry Yudelson Local | World Published: 25 May 2012

The story of how the Dalai Lama encountered the Jewish community in 1990 is well known.

Less known is how the Ashkenazi Jewish community first encountered the Dalai Lama — in a Hebrew-language book published in Europe in 1804, compiled from travelers accounts in English and French.

“Jews then were not as sheltered as we think of them,” says Alan Brill, who quotes from the book, “Meorot Zvi,” in his own book, “Judaism and World Religions: Encountering Christianity, Islam, and Eastern Traditions,” just published by Palgrave Macmillan.

The understanding of Buddhism shown by the author of “Meorot Zvi” is less positive than that of the Jewish religious leaders who traveled to Dharamsala, to meet the current Dalai Lama as recounted in “The Jew and the Lotus” nearly two centuries later. The Meorot Zvi called the senior Tibetan leader of his day the “father of impurity from which all the monks derive their way of crookedness from one of the spirits of impurity.”

This negative Jewish view of Buddhism, however, is only one perspective, and “Judaism and World Religions” aims to catalogue all of them, from a 13th century Jewish physician who accumulated enormous power in the Mongol court and wrote a biography of the Buddha through the differing views of contemporary authors and thinkers.

Buddhism is the subject of only one chapter of this book, which looks at Jewish understandings of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and the whole concept of religion itself.

“Judaism and World Religions” is a sequel to Brill’s previous book, “Judaism and Other Religions: Models of Understanding.” In the earlier book, Brill, a Teaneck resident who holds Seton Hall University’s Cooperman/Ross Endowed Chair for Jewish-Christian Studies in honor of Sister Rose Thering, examined different approaches to religions at a more abstract level. Is Judaism the only true religion and all other religions false? Or is Judaism the root of all true religions? Or are all religions true paths to approach God? As could be expected, each of these positions had some support from Jewish thinkers over the ages.

“The first book deals with the fact that we’ve forgotten that we have many universal and inclusive positions, that we share monotheism, and other elements. It’s not a zero sum game. The second book deals with the specifics,” says Brill.

Brill has been an active participant in interfaith dialogue. A Yeshiva University-trained rabbi with a doctorate in religion from Fordham, a Catholic university, Brill has been part of the Jewish delegation in meetings with the Catholic Church — the most formalized and regular interfaith dialogue — but also with meetings with Orthodox Christians, at the Madrid interfaith conference convened by Saudi King Abdullah in 2008, and with ongoing meetings with Hindu religious leaders since 2006.

“The Jews — including the Israeli chief rabbinate — have recognized that Hindus worship a supreme being and are not idolatry,” says Brill.

In his book, Brill shows that this is not a revolutionary departure for Jewish observers of Hinduism.

“A lot of the texts in earlier times conceptualized Hinduism and Buddhism using an Islamic lens. The Muslim world had the trade routes and the borders. Jews were the merchants and doctors and translators.

“The Eastern religions got translated from Arabic into Hebrew, so the 30 thousand million gods of Hinduism get translated as ‘malachim,’ angels, to preserve a monotheistic understanding. They understood almost all Asian theological categories through Judaeo-Islamic philosophy.

“The statues stood in Afghanistan for 800 years peacefully under Islam, because the Buddhists were seen as worshiping one principle, and it’s only the recent Taliban that saw them as a problem.”

Brill was surprised by how much Jewish contact with Buddhists and Hindus his research uncovered.

He was also surprised to discover that the relationship between Judaism and Islam had even more connections than was commonly known.

“We’ve crossed over many more times than we usually conceive of,” he says. “Jews don’t begin to understand the incredible overlaps of law and texts and mysticism between Judaism and Islam.”

On Islam, Brill quotes from what he calls the earliest Jewish responses to the rise of Islam, midrashic works such as “Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer.” He shows how medieval Jewish thinkers such as Maimonides viewed Islam as a theological phenomenon.

“Judaism does not have the same problems with Islam that it has with Christianity, that is, trinity, incarnation, and resurrection,” Brill concludes. “But to envision a Jewish theology of Islam, there are many questions that would need a fresh analysis to move the discussion forward, especially finding a way to read the negative statements about Jews, either conceptually or contextually, in a way that would minimize their effect.”

And he raises some of the questions that he wants Jewish theology to answer regarding Islam, among them, “Can Judaism find a place for Muhammad in Judaism as not a madman” as he was portrayed by Maimonides? “Can we find a place not in the realm of an Islamic polity (dar islam) or in an anti-Islamic polity (dar harb), but walking alongside? Can we have a sense that we worship one God, have common laws, common revelation, and common resurrection?”

Much of the classical Jewish theology on Christianity appeared in Brill’s prior volume. Here, he details contemporary Jewish thinking on Christianity, such as Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who Brill writes “can serve as a barometer of the inroads of ecumenical thinking about Christianity in many traditional Jewish circles. Riskin’s speeches show that segments of his community are begging to sincerely acknowledge the tremendous strides in Jewish-Christian relation along with post-Holocaust sensitivity to Judaism and the State of Israel.”

For Brill, even after 50 years of formal Catholic-Jewish dialogue, plenty remains on the theological agenda.

“The next question is how do we go forward? We have to break discussions down into much smaller units, starting from the questions of where we overlap, to the other way, where do we diverge?”

Brill says that in thinking about other religions, Jews have to be fair and consistent. “You can’t compare a Christianity from the 14th century to a modern Judaism and then say, behold, they’re opposites.”

“The next question is how do we go forward? We have to break discussions down into much smaller units, starting from the questions of where we overlap, to the other way, where do we diverge?”

Brill says that in thinking about other religions, Jews have to be fair and consistent. “You can’t compare a Christianity from the 14th century to a modern Judaism and then say, behold, they’re opposites.”

Past models of Jewish understanding of Islam

Jews were comfortable enough with Islam that many aspects of medieval Jewish culture were articulated, defined, and systematized under Islam. Knowledge of Arabic linguistics allowed Jews to refine Hebrew as a sister language. Jews followed Arabic and Persian models of poetry, and Jewish law was influenced by Islamic courts and Islamic jurisprudence.

A remarkable indication of the depth of this penetration of Arabic language and culture is the adoption of Islamic terminology to designate even the most sacred notions of the Jewish faith, a fact which has practically no parallel among Ashkenazi Jewry prior to the modern era. For example, the Hebrew Bible would be referred to as the Koran, the halakhah as the shari’a, and Moses as rasul Allah “‘the Apostle of Allah’.”

Siman Tov Melammed (before 1793—- 1823 or 1828, nom de plume Tuvyah) was an Iranian Jewish rabbi, poet, and polemicist. Melammed praises the Sufis for transcending their physical bodies and the habits of ordinary life to become servants of God. They are radiant and contented from their devotion to God and they lead others back to a straight path to God.

Ignatz Goldziher (1850 — 1921), Hungarian orientalist and Orthodox Jew, is certainly the strongest and most unusual advocate for Jewish—-Muslim understanding in the scholarly history; he regarded Judaism and Islam as kindred religions. Despite his status as a Jew, he was allowed to study with Muslim clerics in Al Azhar in Cairo. Goldziher had the utmost admiration for Islam and thought that Islam had evolved into “the only religion which, even in its doctrinal and official formulation, can satisfy philosophical minds.”

“My ideal,” he said, “was to elevate Judaism to a similar rational level.”

For Goldziher, Islam is not simply a sibling religion of Judaism; he urges the Jewish minority in Christian Europe to view Islam as a model for its own development.

Trude Weiss-Rosmarin (1908-1989) was an Orthodox Jewish-German-American writer, scholar, and feminist activist. She co-founded, with her husband, the School of the Jewish Woman in New York in 1933, and in 1939 founded the Jewish Spectator, a quarterly magazine, which she edited for fifty years. She advocated already in 1967, a strong Jewish-Muslim dialogue as the only source of Middle East peace.

“If henceforth Jews will assign to Jewish-Muslim dialogue the importance that is its due, the Arabs, in whose nationalism religion is as important as it is in Jewish nationalism, will eventually — and perhaps sooner than cold-headed realists will dare expect — rediscover that the Jews are their cousins, descendants of Abraham’s eldest son, Ishmael, who was Isaac’s brother.

“If the young State of Israel is to survive and prosper it must become integrated into the Arab world and be accepted by its neighbors. We believe that with a complete reorientation, especially a muting of the insistent harping on the theme of ‘Israel is an outpost of Western civilization’ the Arab nations would accept Israel on the basis of the kinship which unites Jews and Arabs.”

Starting points for a future theology of Islam

Teaching the importance of Islamic sources in the works of great Jewish thinkers can create an awareness of the possibilities of encounter. This educational process would be an internal Jewish endeavor and could carry important implications. First and foremost, if Jews are taught about the prior integration of the two faiths then there would be greater clarity that the political war between Arabs and Jews is not a faith war. It could promote an understanding that Islam and Judaism can coexist.

The Catholic Church moved from teaching contempt to recognizing Judaism as a living faith. We cannot preclude giving any group in Islam that wants dialogue the chance to change and slowly learn tolerance and respect, especially since it serves their own needs for entering a global economy. We recognize that certain Islamic countries currently have a lack of religious freedom, fund hateful literature, have negative views of Judaism, and fail to recognize the State of Israel.

But we cannot compare their worst comments to our best. Both sides have saints and both sides have advocates of hatred. We must, however, remember heroic figures, such as Sister Rose Thering, who confronted her own church with the anti-Semitism that was being taught in its textbooks and helped bring about an interfaith revolution.

In the interim, we need to give those that seek encounter our support. We must not look to the past and use that to dissuade us from working with our counterparts now and in the future. One must first transcend the past and look to the future, then one must transcend polemical arguments on both sides, and then give precedence to common points. But we can look to the past to see how long it took most Western countries to achieve the liberties of the modern world, and know that it will also take many Muslim countries time to achieve this openness.

Such starting points will allow for a positive future Jewish theology of Islam.

Random Thoughts on the Asifa

I have kept out of the fray and much of this post was written before the asifa but I was way too busy to post my comments due to finals, MA defense et. al.

First, the broader Satmar context: The Hungarian Hasidim are not following some pre-Enlightenment relic, rather a 1950’s product. Reb Yoelish Teitelbaum was important for rebuilding and recreating Hungarian Hasidism after the war by collecting all survivors from all over Galicia and Hungary. According to Poll, Reb Yoilish turned them into petit bourgeois of store keepers, merchants, and American trades. He made them adapt modern medicine, clocks, electricity, bookkeeping, and the way of the modern world so that in regard to “material culture” they were of this world. No more folk medicine, magic, graveyard rituals, or rural Judaism. (If I had more time, I would cite some teshuvot where he says that we dont do things like in the old country.) Since life in America needs a newspaper, he founded one. He taught them the world of apartment life, NYC bureaucracy, voting, and transit. Yes, he was obsessed with stockings and hosiery but that was not his major contribution in life. He also made everyone dress in shtreimel and capote, even if they dressed in work shirts and caps before the war, to look different from the goyim. For a good study of the changes of the 1960’s, see Solomon Poll’s readable 1970 book on Satmar, The Hasidic Community of Williamsburg: A study on the Sociology of Religion. George Kranzler’s book is also good but better yet study Reb Yoiish’s letters and responsa. (Today’s authors waste all their time talking about his politics.). Electrical timers became “shabbos clocks” and modern hospitals needed a new form of bikur holim. He created a community for the 1960’s and now there has been enough social and political to warrant some leadership for guidance for the new challenges. But they lack new leadership.

However, it is important to note that there were 1930’s Eastern European rabbis, even some Agudah members, who were proud that they and their students resisted electricity, light bulbs, telephones, beds, and indoor plumbing. There were strong Luddite and anti-medicine trends before the war. In an alternate history, it would be interesting to imagine that if WWII had not occurred how these Jewish Luddite and Amish thinking groups would have continued and played themselves out.

Satmar Website- For those who remember, there were one or two Satmar websites in 1997-1998, that were competing with Chabad. They were removed after a few months.

On assifos: The traditional term for a gathering was a kenes or yarah kallah. The term seems to have taken on its current meaning sometime in the late 1990’s for gathering by organizations with lay leadership like Yad laAhim, Keren Birchas Shmuel, or Pe’elim. It got transferred to gatherings called by rabbinic leadership in 2005, but already in 2004 Leib Pinter anachronistically used the term in an Artscroll to discuss an Agudah kenes of prewar Europe. Hmm..
We then have in quick succession a number of assifos. See any patterns?

2005 – for bnos yisrael and a good shidduch
2005 against the internet
2005 tzniut
2006 against the internet by Rabbis R. Ephraim Wachsman and R. Mattisyahu Solomon.
2008 – tzniut
2010 – rubashkins [This was Chabad and not Lakewood or Hungarian.]
2011 – heart-death definition of the end of life
2011- anti-eruv
2011 Leiby Kletzky
Fall 2011 – in BMG- before Tishrei banning the internet and smart phones with both Rav Kotler and R. Mattisyahu Solomon
Fall 2011 internet- both R. Mattisyahu Solomon and Skulner Rebbe-
This big asifa was announced then in September and why would you expect different speeches for the larger venue than the originals in sept?
Fall 2011 against internet in Boro Park

R. Mattisyahu Solomon has been concerned for six years. He has been repeating himself for six years. This asfia was just a culmination of a number of asifos. Here is the write-up by Mississippi Fred of the 2006 asifa and if anyone wants I have mp3s of the internal Lakewood Elul 2011 asifa.(Very large zip file- It was sent to me for the halber –shabbos mention). If R. Mattisyahu Solomon has been repeating himself for six years, then why did anyone expect a new message? He said what he had to say in 2006- 2011. Is it his Torah method to consult some psychologists, social workers, and web filter companies to come up with a new message or give a practical message?

How big is 40, 000 and another 10, 000 in another stadium?
The West Indian-American Day Carnival brings together three million merrymakers to the streets of Brooklyn. September 3.
National Puerto Rican Day Parade has nearly two million people. June 11.
NYC Gay PrideFest Parade hosts more than one million participants
The Celebrate Israel day parade which has become the Modern Orthodox pride parade gets over 30, 000.
The March in Washington in 2000 organized by Honelin and Avi Weiss got over 100, 000 (subject to debate how much over 100k)

Evangelicals, Muslims, and others

Ultra- orthodox Jews are not the first to do this. Evangelicals started with stadium gatherings in the 1990’s for men’s problems and for them it is a regular part of their preaching.. However, the better analogies are the large gathering against the internet in Egypt and Turkey, with the same dynamic of being secular states with a minority who want a more sectarian approach. Turkey bans censorship so it will be a self-imposed ban that many are trying to make public. The direct similarity of the worst elements here is to the recent anti- internet rally by Muslims in Indonesia they have a rapidly changing country. There in Indonesia, we talk bans, exclusions, and fighting back. Here is the US, we already have Mormons ready to work together with Orthodox Jews to ban the internet. There really is an issue with the internet that may take a while to find guidelines without censorship. Remember, 1930’s movies had no ratings and then most countries created ratings systems.

A peeve of mine is the absolute Jewish ignorance and making themselves feel better by comparing it to papal infallibility. This should be a complete post but listen up Jews. Papal infallibility only applies for definitions of doctrine promulgated publicly. The only clear example in the 20th century is Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII, 1950, defining the Assumption of Mary. But when the pope speaks privately or even gives a public speech or homily it is not infallible. So too when he issues letters, positions, and statements they are not infallible. And certainly nothing he says about policy, social theory, or sciences is infallible. I repeat there was only one clear case in the 20th century and several disputed ones. Papal Encyclicals, Vatican councils and Magisterium statements are binding as practice because they have authority, not because of infallibility. There are levels of tolerated dissent and debate. But certainly personal Papal opinions do not stifle legitimate discussion.

Now, the new stuff after the asifa itself. I gave into my evil inclination and listened to the event as it happened, however here is a video recording of the event. Things I notice.

There seems to be a new alliance of Lakewood and the Hungarians that has been growing in past years. Nobody thought to discuss the alliance or get separate opinions from Satmar, Belz, and Lakewood. Those most in the know, did not seek to understand how each group related to it.
All speakers spoke a pidgin and the translation from Yiddish to Yiddish was a great display of different language usages.
It did go off the rails the internet filter company was to have had a display or tech-expo, which groups were included was still open days before the event, speeches ran overtime, the language was not coordinated, the order seems to have gotten messed up, R. Ephraim Wachsman was listed as moderator just hours beforehand. Yet, for most it was the chance for an outing, some mussar, a few derashos, and to be reminded of new problems. The language of the destruction of the holy vessels is standard for their sectarian worldview. There is talk of another one next year and yes it still created enough of a buzz for the Haredi world to create guidelines over the course of the coming year.

Since this is a structural change based on many changes since the 1960’s, and based on reading and listening to the prior asifot, I did not think there was one issue of the internet. The issue was change –same-sex marriage, new knowledge and technology, and those pesky Zionists with their Tal bill. The language that the internet is destroying holiness and is animalistic and klipot is standard for items rejected in Satmar. Outsiders were busy pilpulim the implications for a clear answer, but it was basically banned in BMG since Tishrei and in the Hasidic groups- what counts is the version in the takonos.

Great op-ed at the NJJN by Andy Silow-Carrol on why everyone is fixated on this.

But none of this questionable press fully explains the Jewish majority’s fixation on haredim and their sometimes questionable behavior. The truth is that to be a Jew is to identify with other Jews, no matter how their choices or lifestyles differ from your own. We cultivate this sense of peoplehood.
The haredim compound this sense of collective responsibility — and guilt — by looking as they do. The haredi uniform of black hat, black coat, and beard shouts “JEW” in capital letters. Arrest a haredi rabbi and you’re not just indicting a Jew — you’re indicting an archetypical Jew.
But it’s not just misbehavior that fuels our fixation on the fervently Orthodox. For good and bad, the haredim represent a version of Judaism we thought we left behind with the Enlightenment. Jewish success has been associated with Enlightenment values: higher education, scientific inquiry, cultural achievement, freedom of conscience. Jump ahead a century or two and you can add feminism and acceptance of gays and lesbians.
Haredim push buttons among the most and least engaged Jews. Observant Jews who aren’t haredi cannot forgive the “black hats” for suggesting that Torah values and modernity are in conflict. Many observant Jews will say that Torah comes alive only when it encounters the real world and all its shmutz. To drag Jews and their Torah behind a self-made ghetto wall is a hillul Hashem, a desecration of Torah and its real intentions. Read the rest Here

However, what I don’t understand is the great amount of modern Orthodox hostility to the event, even facebook pages making fun. Do you get involved with Satmar takanos in general? Do you discuss the stockings, hair coverings, and mikvah rules? Are you going to tell them your Modern Orthodox posek says you don’t need the stocking so it is OK not to wear them or that your have decided for them that they dont have to wear the “Palm” thickness? Do you regularly make fun of Lakewood for not having the same rules as YU? Shall the modern Orthodox tell Rav M. Solomon that they know better about what is bitul Torah for our age? They are separate communities with separate standards.

There was a nervous need to macht a gelechter fin de asifa. Was it a sense of superiority or anxiety? Provincial narcissism or unreal grandiosity? Do you ever play by the same rules as those communities? Their minhag is not going to bring in tech guys and a psychologist to speech about practical solutions. The patterns of derashos are usually four minutes on the practical topic and the rest is mussar and castigation, its not your style but it is theirs. College and public libraries can be used for good, but then they would not be Hungarian Hasidim but modern. Why is your approach different than a liberal rabbi criticizing an Orthodox conference for their lack of academic and social science knowledge, lack of social responsiveness, lack of the historical setting of a text, and how they can show you how to live a better life as non-Orthodox. When a modern Orthodox rabbi takes a piece of pop-psych from 25 years ago and uses it together with a tangential Rav Soloveitchik story for a major talk to address a social problem, do you want people to groan and make fun? No, because this is your minhag. What gives?

Gershom Scholem Conference at the National Library

Two months ago, there was a conference at the National Library in Israel to commemorate thirty years since the death of Gershom Scholem. The videos are exceptionally high quality in both audio and visual, so one can see the entire pantheon on Hebrew University scholars. Almost all of the presentations were polished and within time limits, not usually Israeli academic traits. Several were mechanical summaries of Scholem’s contribution to a topic or why he took a certain approach. Some of the highlights were:
Yehudah Liebes at his clearest presentation of his philological method applied to “rosh hermenutica demalka” of Zohar 15a. He connected the phrase to idea of Rashbi as author and traced the heroic figure who reveals secrets back to the myth of Orpheus and forward to the writing of Nathan of Gaza and his influence on the writings of the Gra and Rabbi Yonatan Eybeschutz. He has given these ideas as separate papers, all available online. But here we see him open a text, the way he does in his class.
Moshe Idel showed how Scholem hide his experiential attempts to work practice Abulafia and it only appears in his posthumous diary. As a neat lecture, he showed how Abulafia represented for Scholem diversity in Kabblah and that as he suppressed his interest in Abulafia he also made kabbalah monolithic.
Tzipi Kaufman showed how Scholem’s studies of Hasidut lacked questions about lumdanut, about diverse social roles, and about the importance of gestures and embodied practices.
Shalom Ratzabi showed how Scholem’s Zionism was not innovative in that it was part of the general approach of German Jews; they wanted Zionism to be ethics and religion, but had an aversion to any political element. As Hugo Bergman said- their Zionism is after having mastered Fichte not as fleeing from the uneducated shtetl. For Scholem, using traditional Jewish terms for Zionism would rob them of their ethical dimensions.
Yonatan Meir discusses Scholem’s avoidance of the Yeshivat Mekubalim in Jerusalem- yet shows that he still collected their works. He brought up a topic already started by Idel, that Scholem not only believed that history can only be written about past dead objects but like Walter Benjamim the angel of history leave a path of destruction and we are only left with an ineffable attempt to grasp lost secrets.

Here is the full program.
Here is the Liebes lecture and here are links to all the others.
Liebes maintains an updated website with pdf’s of all his articles. The top bar opens pages that contain full texts of everything he wrote sorted by myth, zohar, ari, classical studies, reviews, and classroom material.

Hartley Lachter on the popularization of Kabbalah in 13th cent Castille

Nice little piece in Zeek bases on the dozens of introduction to kabbalah written by those in the 13th Castille school. Lachter points out how the idea of esotericism is based on certain texts like Nahmanides and the Zohar and not on this wide spread 13th century mid-brow literature.Idel has already noticed both the midbrow second-tier of intelligentsia involved in these texts and that for most 13th readers the most important fact of the kabblah was how to do mizvot properly. Lachter offers us a transcription of a paragraph that commences to teach the reader the secrets of how to pray. The latter was important because according to the Kabbalists the philosophic- Maimonidean culture of the era caused many of the educated laity who did not pray or keep positive commandments since they figured they already grasped the Maimonidean philosophic meaning of God’s unity and attributes. They read Maimonides as if he was the Islamic haver of the Kuzari, a philosophic religion without need for most commandments. Kabbalah came to the rescue and offered supernal reasons for the observance. in addition, the 13th century was interested in a variety of ancient Hermetic traditions- Kabbalah allowed Jews to say that we have it also.

Re-considering the Elitism of Medieval Jewish Mysticism
By Hartley Lachter

One of the claims frequently lodged against 20th and 21st century popularizers of Kabbalah — whether in commercial forms such as the Kabbalah Centre or New Age forms such as Neo-Hasidism and Jewish Renewal — is that they are making popular what is meant to be an elite discourse, reserved only for the few…. In Gershom Scholem’s words, most medieval Kabbalists were “a small group of esoterics who had little or no desire to spread their ideas.” (Scholem, Major Trends, 244)

The perception of medieval Kabbalah as a carefully guarded, secret discourse is the result of an overemphasis on some early kabbalists, as well as a narrow selection of texts that have received disproportionate attention due to their prominence in later centuries. In fact, many medieval kabbalistic texts reflect an explicit desire to introduce Kabbalah to readers who are just beginning to study Jewish esoteric lore. While this might not constitute “popularization” in the simple sense, since these texts were only accessible to relatively literate and erudite Jewish readers, it is nonetheless the case that more than a few kabbalistic treatises were composed with the openly stated purpose of instructing non-kabbalists in the study of Kabbalah.

Dozens of texts were composed in the 1280s and 90s in Castile with the clearly stated goal of instructing novices in the wisdom of Kabbalah.

The evidence of these compositions suggests that, as the 13th century drew to a close, kabbalists become more actively engaged in promoting the central claims of their understanding of Judaism, namely, that the Jewish tradition possesses a secret doctrine concerning the inner life of the Godhead, and that the practice of Jewish law has the power to influence the divine realm and sustain the connection between God and cosmos.

Late 13th century Castilian kabbalists were prolific writers. They composed commentaries on the Torah, explications of the secret meaning of rabbinic texts, detailed interpretations of the kabbalistic meaning of the commandments, poetic allegories, and texts intended to provide a general overview of Jewish law. One genre of kabbalistic writing from late 13th century Castile is the peirush or “commentary” on the ten sefirot or ten divine luminosities that serve as the basic symbolic structure of kabbalistic theosophy (Chavel, 1984, p. 7). Over one hundred of these commentaries were written in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.

One interesting example can be found in a lengthy commentary on the ten sefirot entitled Sefer ha-Shem, or “The Book of the Divine Name.” Towards the end of the prefatory comments, the author states that he wrote it to create a guide to help those who are beginners in the wisdom of Kabbalah, as a service “to all of Israel, according to their capacity” and that he “saw fit to set forth a disquisition to enlighten the eyes of one who is beginning to learn Kabbalah” (Oron, 2010, p. 54). These passages clearly indicate the author’s interest in the instruction of the uninitiated in the wisdom of the Kabbalah.

We find a similar formulation in another anonymous commentary on the ten sefirot preserved in Milano Hebrew Manuscript 57, where the author introduces his work by stating that he wrote it for “one who desires [to comprehend] the wisdom of the Kabbalah in its entirety.” The author indicates that his enumeration of the divine names associated with each of the sefirot will serve as a guide to understanding the meaning of other kinds of Jewish texts, since “once one knows this, it will be possible for him when he reads a biblical verse or dictum of the Rabbis of blessed memory, or a matter described in a kabbalistic composition, that he will understand the intention of that verse or dictum, and to what matter it alludes. It is for this purpose that I composed this text.”

The dissemination of Kabbalah in late 13th century Castile, however, existed for reasons quite different from those of the contemporary popularizers. Rather than present a universally accessible discourse for the attainment of self fulfillment, medieval Kabbalists sought through their compositions to establish a shared symbolic framework that reinforces the Jewish tradition by re-envisioning it as the exclusive path to true knowledge regarding the mysteries of the Godhead, the meaning of the Torah, and the power of Jewish religious praxis.

For example, in a passage from an anonymous text entitled Mekor ha-Sekhel preserved in Bodleian Opp. 487, the author laments the trend that he observes among his fellow Jews of those who neglect prayer because they have come to regard it as worthless and ineffective. The author urges his readers not to follow such a path, but rather to recognize, on the basis of the sefirotic map, that “the prayers that come forth from a man’s mouth ascend to the place of the emanation of souls. And if it is pure and unblemished, free from impure thoughts, it shall go in peace,” (45r).

The text then, interestingly, illustrates this conception of prayer, and the practice of Judaism more broadly, with a parable that makes intriguing use of the idea of mapping: “This matter can be compared to a house filled with silver and gold and many kinds of food and drink and treasuries with keys, and before them lay scorpions and pits, trenches and caves, and there is a single good path by which one may be saved from all of these evils. When a man arrives who wishes to obtain silver, gold, food, drink or other things, if he knows the location of these treasures, and he knows the pathway leading to them, he shall obtain everything he desires, ‘he shall enter in peace and depart’ (Hagigah 9a),’ and he shall find that which he seeks. But if he does not know the pathway leading to the treasures, he shall grope in the dark and fall victim to the creatures and pits.” (45r–v)

The kabbalistic conception of Judaism that arose in late 13th century Castile accords well with the increased interest in esoteric discourses such as Hermeticism and Neo-pyathagoreanism. By putting forth a claim to ancient, revealed knowledge stemming from antiquity, kabbalists were casting Jews, and an esoteric chain of Jewish transmission, in terms that would have resonated with other forms of esoteric knowledge. Moreover, the secrets concerning the power of Jewish ritual in relation to the incomprehensible, inner life of God that the kabbalists claim as the unique patrimony of the Jewish people can be understood as a response to Christianity, as well as Christian anti-Jewish argumentation.
Read the rest here

“Vocation of a Business Leader”- Jewish Reflections

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace issued a pamphlet this month on business ethics that most readers have found exceptionally good, addressing the needed morals for our age without becoming mired in explicit partisan politics. Let’s jump right into the content before I give more background. People today speak of the need to give our families good values at home and to teach them well in school, but then spend the majority of our time and energy in social and moral contact with our co-workers during our work days. The document wants us to do the obvious: we should consider our workplace and our careers as just as important as our families and education for our forming our moral lives. Consider these thoughtful passages:

When managed well, businesses actively enhance the dignity of employees and the development of virtues, such as solidarity, practical wisdom, justice, discipline, and many others. While the family is the first school of society, businesses, like many other social institutions, continue to educate people in virtue, especially those young men and women who are emerging from their families and their educational institutions and seeking their own places in society.

Chief among these obstacles at a personal level is a divided life, or what Vatican II described as ‘the split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives.’ The Second Vatican Council saw this split as ‘one of the more serious errors of our age.’

This message was the original message of R.S.R. Hirsch in his Bible commentary in dozens of places. We have to let the eternal values guide our everyday actions, when guiding means does it increase dignity, virtue, and help our education of how to act in that situation. It is not a bifurcated view where once something is permitted then I can become Mr. Hyde for the rest of the time. The extension here is that a well-run business is spoken of like a family. Business educates “people in virtue” therefore it should not stop when people are out of day school. The business does not only exist for profit but is at the heart of a just society. Right now, we imagine that we have justice in our home community and project our own vices onto the outside world.

This document was drafted as a group by a group think. It was issued by Cardinal Turkson, the president of Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, as “Vocation of a Business Leader.” The document, however, grew out of a seminar sponsored by the John A. Ryan Institute at the University of St. Thomas and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, held in February 2011, called “The Logic of Gift and the Meaning of Business.” Cardinal Turkson’s training was in Bible and one should see this document as the best practices clled by the team of drafters. It was not even published as an essay or article, rather as 30 pages corporate report with an executive summary, bullet points, side bars, and power point type graphics.

Here is another representative paragraph. Here we have some good mussar rather than Pope Benedict’s or Chief Rabbi Sacks fear of relativism and the need for covenant. As you read it, how many of the faults of the first line ring true? How would you give mussar to solve it? What would a service leadership look like? And if we look for moral exemplary, lets not pretend by using Moses as corporate leader or Rabbi Akiva as CEO, who would we use? And finally someone has put entitlement on the table. How many in the community or graduates of our schools have huge amounts of entitlement?

Obstacles to serving the common good come in many forms—lack of rule of law, corruption, tendencies towards greed, poor stewardship of resources—but the most significant for a business leader on a personal level is leading a “divided” life. This split between faith and daily business practice can lead to imbalances and misplaced devotion to worldly success. The alternative path of faith-based “servant leadership” provides business leaders with a larger perspective and helps to balance the demands of the business world with those of ethical social principles…
As a result we might have more private goods but are lacking significantly in common goods. Business leaders increasingly focus on maximising wealth, employees develop attitudes of entitlement, and consumers demand instant gratification at the lowest possible price. As values have become relative and rights more important than duties, the goal of serving the common good is often lost…
The Church calls upon the business leader to receive—humbly acknowledging what God has done for him or her—and to give—entering into communion with others to make the world a better place. Practical wisdom informs his or her approach to business and strengthens the business leader to respond to the world’s challenges not with fear or cynicism,

The interesting moral call is not to give back to your religious community but to give back to your work environment. Here are some of the bullet point goals. It is not free enterprise supply side nor socialist, rather social responsibility- leaving enough room for interpretation.

* producing goods and services that meet genuine human needs while taking responsibility for the social and environmental costs of production, of the supply chain and distribution chain (serving the common good, and watching for opportunities to serve the poor);

* organising productive and meaningful work recognising the human dignity of employees and their right and duty to flourish in their work, (“work is for man” rather than “man for work”) and

* structuring workplaces with subsidiarity that designs, equips and trusts employees to do their best work; and using resources wisely to create both profit and well-being, to produce sustainable wealth and to distribute it justly (a just wage for employees, just prices for customers and suppliers, just taxes for the community, and just returns for owners).

John Allen of NCR notes:

the idea is to be didactic on principle but interrogatory on policy. The church may not have to offer specific answers; perhaps it’s enough to frame the right questions. Perhaps the most striking element of the text, however, comes in its appendix. There one finds a “Discernment Checklist for the Business Leader,” composed of thirty questions which amount to an examination of conscience informed by Catholic social teaching.

Do I provide working conditions which allow my employees appropriate autonomy at each level?

Am I making sure that the company provides safe working conditions, living wages, training, and the opportunity for employees to organize themselves?

I can already see the potential Al-Het sheets for Yom Kippur that can-be based on this. You can read the rest of the document here. After you read it, do you have any thoughts for its application to the Jewish community?

As a side point of interest, for several years I sat next to Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, when there were the NYC meetings of Rabbis and Cardinals. At one of them graciously hosted by Bernie Lander and Touro, Turkson invited me to visit him in Ghana. He said just show up, everyone knows where he lives, and he will take care of everything locally and host me. Well, I did not rush to take him up on the offer. I schlepped on and on figuring out how many flights it would take to get to Cape Coast, Ghana and if could I get anything kosher and what season to go. In the meantime, Turkson had been appointed to head the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Rome. So, I never got to go to Ghana.

Social Legislation in the Talmud ISIDORE EPSTEIN

I thank JZ for providing me the link to this essay by Rabbi Isidore Epstein. The essay on social legislation gives us a good glimpse into the world of the Soncino and the world of English Judaica before the 1980’s. Isidore Epstein was the head of Jew’s College for many decades and worked closely with Rabbi Hertz. His is one volume book on Judaism was an essential work for many Jews. This work on social Legislation first a separate pamphlet and then included into the Soncino Talmud.

The first thing to notice is that his approach is historical and speaks of the creation of the Oral law through human response.
The thrust of the essay portrays Jewish law as “a moral enthusiasm and passion for social justice” more than economics or legislation. The essay takes a dim view toward private property, except for the minimum needed for social stability.He favors common or communal held property. Epstein stresses the role of worker’s rights, tenant rights and renter’s rights. He admires rabbinic control of the market and relegates free market thinking to those immoral Romans. Rabbinic thought sought to create a kingdom of God.Finally, for a specific example of his approach he translates “lifnim mishurat hadin” as within the law and not as beyond the law or supererogation. The law itself mandates within the application of the law itself the demands of justice, the good and the right, and righteous.

Here are some selections from the essay. My question is what are the changes in method, canon, and style between this essay and the recent 30 years of free enterprise-supply side-trust the market legalism? Beyond the obvious, by what specific means do they come to opposite conclusions?

Social Legislation in the Talmud ISIDORE EPSTEIN
This essay, which appeared originally as a Torah Va’Avodah publication, first in 1946 and then in a revised and enlarged form in 1947, has now been again revised and enlarged and, by reason of the relevance of much of its subject matter to the tractate Baba Mezia, has been included in this volume. The Publishers wish to record their appreciation to the Bachad Fellowship for their kind co-operation.

This only God and Supreme King had spoken to them at Sinai through the Law and continued to speak to them through priest and prophet. What He said and commanded was gathered up in books, which became the Book—the Bible—by which their individual and corporate life was to be guided. Thus arose and developed the religion of Israel. Grounded on the Book and centred in God, it was not like the Roman religion, the creature of the State, nor was it ever to derive its inspiration from political feeling.
Its laws, precepts and ordinances had to be interpreted both literally and spiritually. The change in their environment could not be neglected. Beside the Written Law, there had been from the first, from the divine commandments to Moses onward, an unwritten Law which law-giver and prophet sought to engrave on the hearts of the people. The Written and Unwritten both must co-operate in the guidance of Jewish people struggling against the inrolling civilisations of Greece and Rome, the unwritten being the dynamic factor of change, the written the abiding fundamental factor.

The Sadducees, representing the extreme latitudinarians in life, opposed the continuous interpretation and reinterpretation of the Law to meet changing circumstances. They failed and disappeared. The Pharisees who provided the chief teachers of the Law succeeded and remained, and the Talmud is not the least of their achievements… With the transformations in their surroundings and conditions, they were confronted with new dangers, new problems and new difficulties. Re-adaptation and re-interpretation of the Book to meet the kaleidoscopic changes in their situation, became more necessary than ever, and leaders arose to continue the work of past generations.

With the Torah as supreme guide in communal life, the primary end and aim of communal organization had moral and religious purposes. This does not mean that the economic and social functions of organized society were ignored. But it does mean that all was looked upon as subordinate to the moral functions. In other words, morality was made the dominating factor of communal life, and the underlying principle of all legislation regulating social and economic relations. This will be particularly seen in the personal responsibility which the community enforced on each of its members in matters of social righteousness. With the result that the Jewish communities were able to exhibit, even under the most untoward circumstances and environments, a moral enthusiasm and passion for social justice to which communities of enlightened European states but rarely testify.

The sense of solidarity in the life of the townsmen was expressed and strengthened by a number of common undertakings, including undertakings of a commercial character carried out on a co-operative basis with a pooling of resources and profit; and by the possession of no little town property from which the great body of citizens derived considerable benefit. There were public fruit trees from which all citizens were allowed to pluck. They could even take them home and eat them, provided there was no hoarding nor conserving.19 There were also common pasture grounds and woods on which citizens could send their cattle to graze.

The common property was equally at the disposal of all citizens. There was no claim to priority, nor discrimination. The right to the use of the common well was likewise shared by all townsmen. It was, however, restricted to drinking purposes, but did not extend to the requirements of industry, such as washing and scouring wool. As to the needs of washing clothes and personal washing, these were provided for in special containers.21

The larger sense of humanity transcended the confines of the town and even strangers shared the use of the common property. This was particularly the case with the pastural grounds on which also outsiders were allowed to feed their cattle. All likewise were permitted to gather shrubs and grass in all places, by force of an ancient enactment ascribed to Joshua.

All roads were, of course, included among the common property and open to the free common use of all; but the public had in addition the right to use paths leading through private fields before the seeds began to sprout;23 and a private path in public use for some time could not be obstructed
As inalienable public possession, the common property could be used by every individual, provided this did not involve any appropriation of, or interference with, public access. No one was therefore permitted to place or cause an obstruction in the street or act in a way that would cause inconvenience to those who use it. If anyone happened to place an object in the street and failed to remove at after due warning was given, he forfeited all claims to it.27 If one had a tree on his private ground overhanging the street, he was required to cut the branches off at a height that would enable a camel and its rider to pass under it unmolested.28 Threshing floors had likewise to be set up at a distance from the city so that the wind might not carry the stubble into the city to the annoyance of the residents.

Though the rabbis recognised private property rights, these were governed essentially by social considerations, and only in so far as it provided a basis for social peace and welfare, and for a better ordering of human affairs, was the claim of the possession of property justified; and when it was to serve the public interest this claim might, by the properly constituted authority, be modified or suspended altogether.

This rabbinic attitude to private property is based on the [page iv] fundamental biblical principle that whatever man has, he holds from God: ‘For all things come of Thee, and of thine own have we given Thee’ (I Chron. XXIX, 14). Such property is conceived in terms of a Divine trust, in which no man can claim exclusive rights. While those appointed by God as trustees have their own specific rights of use and enjoyment, there still remain common rights to be shared by others in virtue of the Divine ownership.

It was this principle of Divine ownership on which rested the biblical laws designed to ensure the common rights of the poor to the land. In ancient Israel, those who could not earn enough were provided for by the precepts of the Torah regarding the reaping of the harvest. The landowner, while enjoying the reward of his diligence, had to recognise that others too had a right to live and that he had duties towards them to enable them to live.

The ethical principle underlying these precepts is quite clear. Its meaning is that the earth created by God as well as all the gifts of nature can never become altogether private property. It is handed out in trust to man, who by the sweat of his brow, brings out its produce. The right and the duty to apply his diligence to the land is the only relationship permitted him by the spirit of the Torah. Beyond this relationship stands the eternal truth that ‘the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof’ (Psalm XXIV, 1). It is from Him that man has received the land, and it is from Him that mankind derives common rights in the land; and in the olden days, the common property in the gathering of the harvest was an example of these common rights.

The Rabbis, actuated by the same ethical and religious motives governing private property rights, applied them to the whole range of social relations. This is particularly noticeable in the rigid control exercised over the price-fixing of commodities and the penalties attached in cases of contraventions. In Roman Law, price was entirely a matter to be determined by free contract.

It was left to the two contracting parties, the buyer and the seller, to agree upon the price at their own risk, subject only to the limitation that the seller was bound to reveal faults and defects, interfering with the proper enjoyment of the things sold. Paulus, a legist of the third century, stated that, in buying and selling, a man has really a natural right to purchase for a small price that which is really valuable and to sell at a higher price that which is less valuable, and each may seek to over-reach the other.3 What appeared to Roman Law natural and right was in the eyes of the Talmudic Law unethical and wrong.

Basing themselves on the biblical law in Leviticus, ‘If thou sellest aught to thine neighbour, or buy of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not wrong one another’ (Lev. XXV, 14). Jewish magistrates regulated the relationship of buyer and seller on quite a different basis than that of contract. For them it was determined by social considerations and based on ethical principles; and thus they developed and enacted a number of legal provisions that safeguarded the interests of both parties. They not only limited all profits, but fixed the amount which constituted in each case, according to the nature and circumstances of the transaction, a charge of fraud and the penalties attached to it.. It becomes clear that in a system where such laws and regulations were in force, the ideas about rights, of property were quite different from those that predominate today.

But apart from the social considerations which, in Talmudic legislation, govern the property rights of individuals, man’s lawful possessions were safeguarded by a number of strict laws and regulations. This is particularly seen in the law which considers the unauthorised use of any property belonging to another to be the equivalent of robbery, rendering the offender liable as such for any loss or deterioration suffered by the property even through an unavoidable accident (force majeure).

How little Jewish ethics were influenced from the earliest days by the idea of absolute property is already reflected in the position of the non-Jewish slave in ancient Israel. Even a slave was not recognised as an absolute possession. He was never to become a thing.
The same social conception of property governed the relations between employers and employees. Property did not give owners the right to hire workers on their own terms.

Akin to the ethical principle of ‘uprightness’ which, as we have seen, had in some respects the force of a written law, was the principle of lifenim mi-shurath ha-Din, which urged a man to act ‘within the line of justice’ and to forego his legal rights in favour of his fellow man on whom the application of legal justice would inflict undue hardship.
An early example of the operation of this ethical ideal is told in the Talmud: ‘Rabbah, the son of Hunah, engaged certain carriers to transport barrels of wine from one place to another. In handling the barrels, the carriers broke one barrel, spilling the wine. Their employer, Rabbah, seized their coats in order to secure for himself the payment of the damage. The carriers thereupon summoned him before Abba Arika who ordered him to return them their coats. “Is this the law?” asked Rabbah. “Yes”, answered Abba. “In order that you may walk in the ways of good men” (Proverbs II, 20). The carriers then said: “We are poor labourers, we have spent the whole day on this work and now we are hungry and have nothing to eat.” Abba Arika then ordered Rabbah to pay them their full wages. “Is this the law? asked Rabbah again. “Yes”, answered Abba, quoting the concluding part of the cited verse, “and keep the path of the righteous” Thus, though the law gave the employer the right to make the labourers pay for the damage caused by their carelessness, Abba ordered Rabbah to follow the rule of acting ‘within the line of justice’, and thus forego his claim in favour of the poor workmen.

Talmudic legislation also provided for the protection of tenants against the hardship of eviction. It insisted that no landlord could dispossess a tenant who rented a house for an unspecified length of tenure unless he gave him thirty days’ notice in advance so as to enable him to find alternative accommodation. This applies only in the summer, but during the winter season—i.e., from the Feast of Tabernacles until the Feast of Passover—when it was extremely difficult to obtain vacant premises, the landlord could on no account dispossess the tenant, but had to allow him to continue to occupy the premises under the original terms of the tenancy.

To sum up this rapid sketch. What impresses most in this study is the governing force which the religion of Israel supplied, and the remarkable humanizing influence it exerted on the dispersed Jewish communities during the centuries when Roman civilization was being shattered. These communities were able to acquire in most countries a large measure of self-government and independent municipal rights. They were in fact little empires within an empire, theocratic empires, in which the One and Only ruled supreme. To interpret His will, there was the Torah—the Written Law, and the ever expanding and adapting oral tradition by which the Law was amplified and adjusted, so as to bring the details of social life into subjection to the Divine will and at the same time into harmony with the changing environment and conditions.

Living amidst a mixed and unfriendly population, subject to violent currents of hate and persecution, the Jewish communities had a severe struggle to maintain the ideals of justice and mercy, righteousness and equity, which they drew from the Bible. It was not always possible for them to regulate the social relations of rich and poor, employer and employed, debtor and creditor, rulers and ruled, buyer and seller, sinner and saint, on the lines they desired. But the Jewish leaders, undaunted by all obstacles and difficulties, struggled bravely on, and thus kept their people from being submerged; and in what they accomplished they not only anticipated much that is best in the social ethics of modern civilization, but what is more, have provided the Jewish state of the future with valuable material for setting up on earth a Kingdom of God.

Mizrachi Worker’s Party: Happy May Day

Many German Orthodox youth became the backbone and ideologues of the socialist religious Kibbutz movement. So in honor of German Orthodoxy- happy May Day, the workers day.  It seems that there was only one Orthodox training camp to go on Aliyah from Germany so the members of Mizrachi and Bnai Akiva were together with Poalei Agudah and Ezra, and both with Blue-White. They replace Torah im Derekh Eretz with Torah ve Avodah, except for Breuer himself who said he was Torah im Derekh Eretz Israel. They formed Brit Chalutzim Datiim (Bahad). They traveled and settled together and all moved onto Keren Kayemet lands.

They taught, preached, and published that Torah and socialism go together. It was mainly a libertarian socialism like Buber or his student Akiva Simon except for Breuer who wanted a national socialism by libertarian organic means. The one exception to the deep connection of socialism and Torah was Yeshaya Leibowitz, who thought Judaism has no social doctrine – we choose socialism as a practical means.   We have a whole generation of socialist Orthodox rabbis. So spend some time today and look at the publications of Bahad, especially those that appeared in English for the German Jews who took refuge in England.

Torah and social Joseph Heinemann

Social legislation in the Talmud by Isidore Epstein

ha-Tsedek ha-sotsyali veha-tsedek ha-mishpati veha-musari shelanu  by  Moshe Avigdor Amiel

Hazon ve-hagshamah /Sh. Z. Shragai with Yesodot u-maskanot/Y. Bernshtain

They all spent a decade farming on the kibbutz. They avoided the use of non-Jewish labor as part of their return to the land, allowing themselves great leniencies for milking and running a farm on Shabbat. They also allowed free mixing of the sexes, changed the dress code, and prayed without a mehitza for many years –see the  extensive article by Lilach Rosenberg-Friedman- here.

They were generally liberal on Settlement -Arab issues. The predominate voice of the unified party of the religious parties was German immigrant Moshe Unna who advocated division of the land as well as just and flexible negotiations with the local population. (The secular labor party were the hardliners in those days.) Seven out of ten settlements did not survive the war of independence. (They were re-founded with different personnel a decade later.) Hence, after the war, the German Orthodox intellectuals all found their way to Rehavia and Talbiah to positions in education. Their way of life formed the basis for Bnai Akiva in the 1950’s and the textbooks of the 1960’s.