Monday, November 05, 2007

Mirror images

XGH posted a reply from James Kugel to a question that many of us have been struggling with - how do people reconcile their Orthodox beliefs with the apparent contradictions from Archaeology, Science, and Biblical Scholarship, that assail the foundations of those beliefs.

I guess I find this reply though eloquent, lacking. Ultimately, though his reasoning may differ, his conclusions are remarkably like those of evanstonjew. Essentially, it sounds like he is recommending a two fold approach for the Orthodox Jews:

1) If you are not already aware of all the issues, stay ignorant of them. Avoid looking into Biblical Scholarship, or Archaelogy, etc.

2) If you already have been exposed to it, then compartmentalize the two concerns, pretending that the conclusions of one have nothing to do with the other. His defense for this approach lies in noting that the halachic lifestyle is not directly dependent of the Torah.

So I wonder what his advice would be to potential Baalei T'shuva. In my mind they are the mirror images of the Orthodox skeptics. They too are in a state of cognitive dissonance and are attempting to resolve it. Would Kugel and evanstonjew and the rest of the advocates of compartmentalization advise them to not become observant and to continue to live as unobservant Jews?


Anonymous B. Spinoza said...

>Would Kugel and evanstonjew and the rest of the advocates of compartmentalization advise them to not become observant and to continue to live as unobservant Jews?

excellent question. You should read On being a Jew by James Kugel. He probably addresses that. (I feel like his cheerleader recently)

November 05, 2007 12:02 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

I should read lots of things :), but first I need to win the lottery.

November 05, 2007 1:42 PM  
Anonymous B. Spinoza said...

you can at least read the preview on amazon or google books

November 05, 2007 2:28 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

B.Spin, I looked at the preview before, when the latest Kugel book came out, but I didn't see this topic mentioned.

I'll take another look. Kugel is currently queued behind Tolstoy's Confession and Leo Strauss's Persecution and the Art of Writing.

November 05, 2007 3:44 PM  
Blogger evanstonjew said...

I basically agree with what you said about Kugel, and I am working on a comment how he twists and turns but ends up with smoke. My views are not identical with his except that I agree with him that Orthodoxy can and rationally should go on as always even after one has become aware of bible criticism.

The point about compatmentalization is complex. There are vertical splits like the standard Freudian cases of repression, where one part is totally unconscious. That is not happening here. Then there are horozontal splits...charedi black hat on shabus, male stripper during the week.Here both are conscious but the two parts can't be brought together or they both blow up.

Our case is a little different....both worlds are conscious and can be discussed together...Kugel just did. It is just that the rules in each language game are different so that if you bring them together there is no clear answerr. Did Adam eat an apple...yes or no? How could one answer such a question straight up without some implicit context?

November 06, 2007 7:16 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

So EJ, can you please answer the question about the potential BT case?

November 06, 2007 7:22 AM  
Blogger evanstonjew said...

I am not, as you must realize by now in the kiruv business. I believe each denomination should be given chizuk to develop as they see fit. In fact I am opposed to grabbing young people against their parents wishes and trying to turn them.

If a grown up potential baal teshuva came to me for advice I would not attempt to convince him of the ikrei emunah; unless he already believed in which case I would not raise any doubts.

I would ask him to concentrate on the de facto community he is thinking of joining, its strengths and weaknesses, can he expect his decision to remain stable, issues of shiduchim and marriage. The guiding principle for me is the well being and happiness of the potential baal teshuvah which would include his desire to live a more religious Jewish life.

You example to the skeptic is apt. In both cases I give special weight to the culre that has already been internalized and how the potential changes would affect the existing beliefs. I also would consider the issue of depreciating one's religious/cultural capital when one changes.The burden is always on the side of change.

I guess I should not think of becoming a stringer for Aish or Ohr Sameach.

November 06, 2007 8:07 AM  

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