Thursday, May 25, 2006

Defending the StupoDoxtm

Getting back to the Rambam and rational Judaism. The question that is on my mind is how the early Israelites conceived their relationship with G-d. In many ways, the Rambam is dealing with that question in the Guide. He devotes a lot of time to addressing the notion of describing G-d and understanding G-d.

In his latest series of posts, Godol Hador seems to separate Jews into "rational thinkers" and the StupoDoxtm. A lot of people probably find this insulting, but it is definitely part of our Mesorah to split up the population into castes, with the consequence of defining classes that are closer to G-d and those that are less close to G-d.

The first to set up this caste system is G-d himself. The Cohanim are the ones entrusted with most aspects of the sacrificial cult, with the Levites one rung down the ladder. The Israelites are furthest away from G-d. Later on, the Pharisees establish similar type of distinction between the Sages and talmidei chochamim and the laety, or am ha-aretz.

So how would a typical Israelite or am ha-aretz perceive G-d? I would guess in very concrete terms. This is how G-d himself lays things out in the Torah. What are the benefits of obeying G-d's commandments? Good harvests, success in war against your enemies, prosperity, abundant progeny. These are concrete things that regular joes strive for. If G-d wanted the Jews to truly become a nation of priests, implying people who have a closer relationship with G-d than the rest, and the relationship with G-d required a more philosophical introspective capacity, then why would that not be the primary rewards outlined in the Torah? In the famous passages of reward and punishment, why not couch it in terms of "You will become better human beings and learn true happiness and elevate yourself to the highest possible level" versus "You'll have great harvests and your sheep will multiply and you'll defeat all your enemies, etc..."

Now at this point you may be saying - "Well, but the people were not ready for this type of abrupt change. They just left Egypt and they needed to be gradually weaned off their abominable and naive ways...". Except that if that were the case, why does it seem like the framework for progressing from these primitive understandings never fully exposed. How long does it take for a people to grow spiritually, two generations, five generations? Even into the Talmudic period, the split between the intellectual elite, and the simple folk was never something that was healed.

And so getting back to the split between the Godol Hadors and the simple folks, it seems like by trying to bridge this gap now, you are going against the grain of thousands of years of status quo.


Blogger dbs said...

In his latest series of posts, Godol Hador seems to separate Jews into "rational thinkers" and the StupoDox. A lot of people probably find this insulting...

Hmmm, this is what happens when you have to blog in a hurry.

I guess that it's true that Rabinic Judaism is a religion of intellectual snobishness. Hence, the chasidim.

May 25, 2006 9:38 PM  

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