More G-d Stuff
"We are all afraid of Judaism becoming irrelevant. But we are afraid for different reasons, and our hearts sing in different ways. I have a place for feeling in my heart. I have a place for the Hasidism which sings such feeling and makes it true. It is in the way they sing and dance, as Professor Malter told his son. The scholarly world of academia cannot quite sing and dance like that. And as for me, there is something of that lightness in me, something that I would like to retain, that I cannot give up. I will not give it up."
This is my Chabbad background coming up again. (Just out of curiosity, how many of my readers, excluding Nemo, Yoni, and the Sabra, have learned hard core Chabbad Torah? I'm just curious, it would be cool if I could get a head count.) When Chabbad originally got started as a Chassidic movement, it had a mission statement: to combine Litvishe lomdus with all the emotional transcendence of Chassidut. As anyone who's actually been inside a Chabbad community long enough to be able to get at some actual Chabbad Torah knows, this is exactly what they accomplished. The Rebbe's sichot are intensely logical arguments, mostly between the Rambam and the Rashba, and half of Tanya is basically gemarrah. But yet it's mixed with a healthy dose of the Zohar, and laden with niggunim, and back lit by fantastic stories that make up almost as much of our heritage as the rest of it.
It wasn't until I left Chabbad that I realized how many Jews do not mix these approaches. Mainstream trend seems to be, either you're spiritual, or you're logical. The two don't mix. Now I understand that there are lots of people who just can't get into the spiritualism thing. It can get pretty hokey, I'll admit. And I can understand that there are people who basically thrive on air- on love and energy and the food of the spirit, and can't wrap their head around a halachik argument for the life of them. And I don't have a problem with the fact that there are people who can only really do one and not the other. But this puts me in a bit of a pickle.
See, the line between the rational and the spiritual is so stark, the divisions are so black and white, that it takes people a while to realize that the two can in fact intermingle. That a person can reach a truly spiritually transcending moment when learning a daf gemarrah, or a perek of Rambam, or even the kitzur shulchan aruch. The intellectual workings of the mind have always been intensely spiritual for me, and extremely emotionally uplifting. I connect to everything through my mind, so of course that's how I would connect to G-d and Judaism. But this connection is such a spiritual thing. I can't seperate the two no matter how hard I try.
And that's perhaps why I'vebeen having issues lately. See, when your connection to Judaism is all about nostalgia and community and maintaining a cultural heritage, those are things you still connect to even when you don't believe. But when your love is for the text, and the text is found wanting, then where are you? Where is the connection then?
Don't get me wrong. I still love learning. And I don't think, by the way, that the faults in our texts are any faultier than the faults in everyone else's texts, and this gives a certain amount of defendable legitimacy. But the connection is not the same.
Anyway, the reason I brought the excerpt from Chana's post is because we are all afraid of Judaism becoming irrelevant. And clearly different people are having different reactions as to how to prevent this. And I am more than willing to dedicate my life to the re-birth of a rational, halachik Orthodox Judaism that is capable of existing, and being halachik, and orthodox, (and even rational!) without stifling the individuality, or the passion, or the intellect of almost anyone. And I think part of the way towards doing this is by showing others what Chabbad has shown me - that the intellectual and the spiritual do go together hand in hand, and that when this is done properly it is potentially the most fulfilling way of serving G-d.
The problem is - I really don't know that I can do it.