Symposium Upper West Side 3

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Audience Member: It occurs, turns out to be the true, we will know how to adapt to it and we will know how to deal with it, we will know how to accept it and make something of it. We have to put this on the table and we have to deal with it seriously and think about it seriously and get more people to think about it seriously and put it on the agenda, put it in the curriculum if it’s not in the curriculum, there are no books, it’s not in the Jewish schools, it’s not in the Jewish text, it’s a subject that must be discussed because our children are talking about it. Our children are worried about it, are troubled by it and there’s no access coming.

Speaker: What do you think are some of the key issues that Jewish youngsters, say in high school or college, are troubled by, how can this turn around?

Audience Member: I would say an answer that can come from your writings to the Jewish high school or to the Jewish university student is that what they are searching for, within the divine, within the world of God and within their own daily life is a sense of spirituality and meaning, which they’re not finding in their curriculum and in their life. They find something missing which is one of the reasons that so many of our finest boys and girls look elsewhere and find an answer elsewhere when the truth is that divine potential is calling to them. They have that divine potential

Speaker: And it’s straight from the Torah itself.

Audience Member: It’s Jewish.

Speaker: If you wish to view that.

Audience Member: The Rabbi with the long beard can teach it easily and well.

Speaker: If he wants to.

Audience Member: If he wants.

Speaker: Correct.

Audience Member: Right now they don’t want to and they don’t even have the question, but their students have the question and the questions of the students are not being addressed. Sadly, when I lived in the Far East and I was the only Jewish contact for all the gurus, etc., who provided a spiritual meaning to their life and they would come to me and say that Rabbi our best followers, your people are so spiritual, our best followers are from your people. They said it as a compliment. I was very hurt by it because in fact they are Jews, you have Llamas now, Tibetan Buddhism, who were Bar mitzvah in Syosset who grew up in the tradition of Jewish families, but who did not have this book and there was no message for them. They all had their Bar mitzvah and left.

Audience Member: Perhaps the problem is that the relevance of all of that is a mark of distinguished [inaudible 0:02:34.9] as though there is some sort of divide between spiritual man because it goes up to contemplate the world from on top of a mountain and religious man, a nothing man, one who is [inaudible 0:02:54.7] I think the problem in Hebrew education in Shiva’s is that somehow that spirituality that is supposed to derive from fulfilling commandments and is missing.

Audience Member: It’s missing.

Audience Member: That’s what is missing, it’s not your

Audience Member: There needs to be a spiritual emphasis on spirituality. Spirituality needs to be tied to the performance of the [inaudible 0:03:14.6] to fulfill.

Audience Member: Easily there, right, so we also have a [CROSS TALK 0:03:18.3]

Speaker: Well I think what you are trying to say is that Judaism doesn’t need a metaphysics because classically if you [inaudible 0:03:28.6] spirituality should derive from that.

Audience Member: Ideally.

Speaker: However, Judaism does not say that. Judaism says that’s true, but we also want a metaphysics. Judaism says we want both. A Jew does not say no that’s sufficient, you might have a section of Judaism that says that, it should all derive from [inaudible 0:03:48.1] probably everything should flow from that.

Audience Member: Really, I’m just mentioning the idea of separating out the notion of spirituality is something that is very attractive, everyone wants to have this metaphysical or other world experience, but it’s not Judaism. The spirituality has to be bound, earth bound and within the context of

Speaker: Listen, this will cement and bind the mitzvah very directly. It binds kosher directly to cross potential, many mitzvahs very directly to this, but metaphysics cannot point just to Orthodox Jews, morphed metaphysics has to also bind universal and this metaphysics crows to be more universally, it crows for the young boys in Seder, if the Rabbi wants it to and it works for the agnostic in Timbuktu. That’s the finesse here that it does purport the dance in both ways and it’s a tight rope of finesse, but I believe it works.

Audience Member: This reminds me of a famous joke these, actually it’s a cartoon from many, many years ago, these two women are sitting in shoal and one of them is reading a book called, it’s not a Jewish book, it’s something that a missionary on the street gave to them, she says, the one woman who is reading the book says, you know those Christians they have these lovely things called Psalms. How come we don’t have them?

Speaker: Fair enough.

Audience Member: In essence we need both spirituality and the grounding in and [inaudible 0:05:36.2] you know this was the gold of the Musser movement was to get, to try to aim the spirituality with the [inaudible 0:05:49.2] observance and with the rigorous Ushiva type orientations.

Audience Member: You speak of Rabbi Salvata [PH] he was also involved with existentialism. So existentialism is not pure, rationalism, but

Audience Member: But everything that he took from the secular world he was able to place within the context of Holafal [PH] Judaism where he saw that there was a commonality where it was not a violation of any basic principle.

Audience Member: People say to me well when you present this metaphysics, Maimonides, Rambha [PH] who has done his metaphysis, what do you say to that?

Speaker: I say to that, I ask you if Maimonides read the work I think he might say maybe. I don’t think he would say no. I don’t think Maimonides was exposed to this level and these concepts and had he been exposed, I believe he might have beat me to the punch.

Audience Member: That’s what he met.

Speaker: That’s what he conjectured.

Audience Member: I would say this I can’t see a circumstance under which Rambha would have said absolutely no, unequivocally to anything on a philosophical planet. Whether he would have said yes, you’re right, or what, that I can’t say, that’s conjecture but his altered mind in this statement that puts him in the guide for perplexed, that if he actually believed in [inaudible 0:07:11.9] creation of the world from primordial material to something else he could work it into the first three verses of the book of Genesis.

Audience Member: He was sufficiently open minded that he would be willing to take even that aristicotilian concept is total epithetical to everything Judaism stands for or at least purports to stand for in terms of cosmology, because cosmology traditionally is [inaudible 0:07:43.3] from nothingness, but he said nevertheless if he really believed that it was so, he would be able to work with Aristotle’s position.

Audience Member: His guide to the perplexed is for the perplexed in his day. He doesn’t write eight hundred years forward or eight hundred years backwards. It’s the grandchildren of Rashid writing, that if Rashid would have known what we know, he would have perhaps, he would have used the more current information. I think if we were to guess whether, what the Rambha would do with this material, I think he would read it seriously and he would say it has potential.

Audience Member: It has a quest for potential.

Speaker: Right, right, I mean the Rhamba withstands a giant challenge design today when in his day he was sort of a Pariah he was excommunicated and whatnot and to hundreds of years

Audience: That was the test of time.

Speaker: And test of time.

Audience Member: I would suspect that if he were here today he would be a rather [inaudible 0:08:46.2] and not the Rashid that’s sort of [inaudible 0:08:48.3]

Audience Member: The idea of

Speaker: Be that as it may, you must understand that if it asks where the [inaudible 0:08:57.9] he would not jump up and down to join him. The Rambha does not speak his language. It’s simply not speaking his language and he’s not singing the right key.

Audience Member: It’s a different age.

Speaker: It’s not working.

Audience Member: No one is yelling about antimorphism, so dealing with different questions.

Speaker: So Rambha may have stood the test of time or made the town thinner, but it doesn’t work in contemporary times for those not be-wedded to the Orthodox Jewish establishment, as part of the establishment. Yes it works for the Rabbinic as part of the establishment. Yes it works for the Rabbinic who are wedded to the establishment and who go with the program. Beyond that it doesn’t really have any resonance nor do you hear about it at all. It doesn’t, it almost never comes up to that extent it’s not even disagreed with, it just doesn’t come up.

Audience Member: Yeah, I’m one of the many more narrowly focused issues of the teaching philosophy of any sorts. It’s also not in the

Speaker: Also true.

Audience Member: I went to the Shiva of Flat Bush and then Waterloo and we took three years of philosophy. One of which, two of which, more or less were the recapitulation of classical, the bits and pieces. The third year was an attempt to grapple with exactly what Rabbi Takar [PH] is saying that high school students have questions and how do we frame that within a Jewish text. I think the other issue of course is that we have to have each generation needs a guide from the perplexed. It’s interesting to note that in the 19th century early 19th,

Audience Member: [Inaudible 0:10:46.7]

Audience Member: Exactly a Rabbi by the name of Nathan Kraufmal [PH] who was one of the founders of the Kalitzian [PH] held scholars moved in to enlighten and trying to recover in essence Jewish historiography which was the big issue of the day rather than metaphysics wrote the book.

Audience Member: It’s not clear if that was the title he wanted or if that was the title that Leopold Ludwig [PH] imposed upon it.

Audience Member: That’s the title we know that we it as, Guide for the Perplexed of our day. You know perhaps every few generations we need to have another Guide for the Perplexed because life is perplexing and the world changes and

Audience Member: Though certain concepts do remain identifiable, but yet nevertheless things change, you mention in the book that there is this constant quest for farther and higher and more and advance which raises in each generation the whole slew of other questions.

Speaker: Professor Garrand and I teach History of the Holocaust courses and I don’t know how you start your class, but I start my class by mentioning that I’d like to be able to put this to a happy ending, I’d to be able at the end of the day give out a happy ending for this course and I do try to. I am not with the liberation of concentration camps or the establishment of the State of Israel. That said, I also tell the students, however, note that humanity has this amazing ability to walk along the path of knowledge, trip over some essential truth. The ultimate truth of the universe and then pick itself up, dust itself off and walk on the oblivious lip.

Audience Member: Think of how many genocides we’ve had since 1945.

Audience Member: I think that’s the negative side of this quest to move forward and higher in terms of idealism, I mean I think that one of the problems with the modern world is this notion that there are no absolutes in terms of good and evil and so there’s less of a horror or less of the response to the

For David Birnbaum philosophy, metaphysics, see also Trajectory/Complexification