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יום רביעי, 3 בנובמבר 2010

Radical Judaism by Art Green

In his blog, Alan Brill has posted Arthur Green’s response to Daniel Landes’ unflattering review of his book: RADICAL JUDAISM: RETHINKING GOD AND TRADITION 
In the discussion which ensued, I offered the following comment:

Daniel Landes' critique took the words from my mouth when first reading Green's "Seek My Face" (Hebrew translation). Even more superb is his "uncovering" of the "hidden master".
Green's response doesn't make thing better and he unintentionally acknowledges Landes’ case:

1. There is indeed an "evolution" of God in Judaism. However this God was always consistent with his moral demands of Humanity and Israel. Therefore, both the Chasidic masters and R. Kook who maintain a panentheistic outlook never gave up a Torah lifestyle or the idea of Israel's uniqueness[i]. Also, this "God" never tried to market Himself to the changing whims and fashions of the people - whether they were following Egyptian, Canaanite or Hellenic deities. It seems that if Green had lived during the destruction of the Second Commonwealth he would have joined the newly triumphant Christian or Gnostic sects. As an academic, Green arrogantly boasts that he knows better then the previous generation what they actually believed in. In reality, they always made an effort to reconcile their theology with the biblical and rabbinical one, and never saw a contradiction between the "God"s.
The pantheistic religion a-la Green is a response to every new age trend in the market, and a justification of every almost every liberal fashion. If "everything is God" and therefore holy, there can be no true sense of right or wrong and a real moral stand cannot be sought-after[ii]. The conscious attempt to revolutionize a completely new theology is Reconstructionism by definition.

2. Evolution presents a problem only for the Haredim, who are just straw-men for Green's arguments.  For R. Kook the theory's "trueness" was irrelevant; he just saw it as a means to explain some Kabalistic ideas.  Green, it seems, adopts evolution because it's the current scientific paradigm, just as Kaplan adopted trans-naturalism[iii].

3. While Biblical criticism is a challenge for the Orthodox dogma, I personally don't think it undermines Torah mi-Shamayim. It may be claimed that the author(s) are divinely inspired [iv].Green's dismissal of this possibility is a definitive mark of Kaplan's teachings.

4. The Holocaust was not the first tragedy to befall the Jewish people, although it's by far the worst tragedy. In every generation Jews lost faith in God due to the difficulties of the exile.  For the faithful, the answers were either theodicy, or God hiding his face. Both of these are found in the Tanakh.  I wonder if Green is aware that "God is dead" is inherently Christian; if God is not present then he doesn't exist[v].

5. What's striking is that Green's response stops short with the Holocaust without mentioning the State of Israel which, according to the disciples of his beloved R. Kook, is God's return to the arena - no less!
For me, as a religious Zionist, one of his most disturbing ideas is the dismissal of Israel’s true significance for Judaism: It's not just a shelter, but the chance for Judaism to shake of the anomaly of the Exile. It's the only place where Judaism can once again become a real "religious civilization". Furthermore, his dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is quite ad hoc and naive.  He advises the Israeli's to agree to the Palestinians' demands on pluralistic grounds, i.e. just because the Palestinians demand them...  It seems that according to him that by clinging to our outdated notions of nationalism we fail to see that the century long conflict is just a misunderstanding... in the end we are all One and same.

[i]  This is one of Professor Leibowitz’s most important observations, that staying in the fold of Judaism is not a matter of adhering to some dogma, but adhering to Halacha. For example the rationalist Maimonides and the mystic Alter Rebbe of Chabad, has different ideas of God, but nonetheless both were great poskim.

[ii] Furthermore, Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits has shown that pantheism cannot have a commanding god because then there is no difference between the Commandant and the commanded.

[iii] I believe he should be warned against the attempt of joining religion and science. Scientific theories have a tendency to change or to be dismissed altogether, rendering their "spiritual" counterpart as pseudoscience.


[v] see Eliezer Berkovits: Faith after the Holocaust

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