Showing posts with label rambam rational. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rambam rational. Show all posts


Reform movement of Judaism.

While I was growing up in Beverly Hills my family went to Temple Israel in Hollywood. [note 1]

That is where I had my bar mitzvah. This was basically a very positive experience. [note 2] But I have two areas of criticism that I would like to address to the Reform movement of Judaism. One area is the area of bein adam lechavero between man and his fellow man. The other is between man and God [bein Adam Lemakom].
It is known that Reform has issues with many mitzvot. I am not sure how to deal with that here. But it does seem to me they went a little bit too much in the direction of making things permitted that the Torah forbids.  While I can imagine they would say that the Orthodox have gone too far in making things forbidden that the Torah allows. But here I want to give a critique of the Reform not the Orthodox.

 But there is another area that I think most Reform shuls synagogues would agree that we should improve on: that is Musar. [Musar meaning classical Musar; the books of Jewish ethics written during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.]

The advantage that Musar has for all Jews including Reform Jews is not just in character improvement but in the area of world view. Without Musar it is very difficult to come up with a consistent world view that corresponds to the world view of the Torah. That is you can read the Star of Redemption of Rosenzweig and the Guide for the Perplexed of Maimonides and still the world view of the Torah can be far off. Because world view is not the same as philosophy. It is the exact opposite of philosophy. It philosophy examines ones beliefs. world view is the glasses one wears to see the world .
 Perhaps Reform were too optimist they they would find and understand the basic approach of the Torah without use of dusty Medieval books.  And to some degree you can understand why. Reform is based in the USA and Americans  are by nature optimistic and the 1950s were unique in the history of the USA as being the ear people thought everything was possible. To eradicate all disease and racism and better the lot of all mankind. And when you had  the great Sartre and Freud to understand the nature of Human life who needed medical moralists? Nowadays all that seem incredibly naive but then it was common place

I know some people want to disenfranchise reform Jews completely but that seems to be based on an an approach that assumes that Orthodox Judaism is perfect. I think if I would have to choose between Reform and Orthodox I would go with Reform  simply because they have a lot of the between man and his fellow man part of the Torah in the right order of priorities.   Still I think they need Musar to improve their approach.

[note 1] This had nothing to do with movies. It was just that my Dad's place of work was at TRW which was in commuting distance while he was working on laser communication for the SDI project or Star Wars as it came to be called.]

[note 2] If I would be in Los Angeles I would never go near the Orthodox there because in the world view of Torah the between man and his fellow man comes before rituals. If I would be too far from Temple Israel on Shabat  then I would just have to buy myself a set of the Talmud and Shulchan Aruch and learn at home. But I would not go to any Orthodox place because the Orthodox in Los Angeles are not Kosher.


[Bava Kama 19, Rambam Hilchot Nizkei Mamon 2:9]

It seems clear that Maimonides and Tosphot are agree in principle about the case of a hen with a string attached to its leg and a pail gets caught in the string an breaks. It really bothers me to say this but in spite of the fact that the Migdol Oz tries to defend the Rambam by saying he is like Rashi I think it is crystal clear that this can't be true.

You find a movement started by Reb Chaim Solovietckik to try to give answers to the question why does the Rambam decide like he does.
The major personalities in this movement were Reb Chaim himself, Reb Baruch Ber Lebovitz, Reb Shimon Shkop, Rav Elazar Menachem Shach ( of Ponovith in Bnei Brak in the 1980's).
Rav Sach wrote the Achiezer on the Rambam and that was the last of this massive effort to understand the Rambam that I am aware of. 

You can see what I am saying if you read between the lines. When Reb Chaim wants to deal with the Rambam in how he decides the law about something not intended on Shabat he ignores the answer of the Magid Mishna --almost as if to say that it is not worth serious consideration. [Which indeed it is not. I wrote about this elsewhere.]

Here is the basic issue in short.We have a debate between Rabbi Nathan and the sages about the case of a ox pushing another ox into a pit in Bava Kama 53a. To R.Natan what you can't get from the owner of the ox you get from the owner of the pit. In our case in Bava Kama 19a we have a hen with a string attached and a bucket that gets tangled in the string and breaks. To the Rambam when the  string has an owner, he alone pays not the owner of the chicken. Clearly the Rambam holds the difference is when the string has an owner he alone is responsible, and the case of the ox and pit is different because there both owners are responsible. Exactly like Tosphot-- Not like Rashi there who says that even though the owner of the pit pays it is a {kenas} penalty  and not that he is really responsible.
Also let me add something I have mentioned before this. Why if the string has an owner that he alone is obligated" why could not both people be obligated like in the case of R. Natan? Answer because in the case of  a change like flying or a string attached there cant be more that one half damage. This principle you see in Tosphot and the Rambam both. It is the reason Topshot gives for why the Gemara rejected its original approach to Rav Huna. [Not like Rashi!] And this is the only possible reason the Rambam could have to saying the owner of the hen is not responsible in the case when the string has an owner!

It seems to me that there should be some effort to understand the opinion of Maimonides in The Guide for the Perplexed also. 


Rambam rational

There was traditionally a school of thought that thought there was a mystical element in the Guide for the Perplexed of Maimonides. The mystic Abraham Abulafia wrote a whole mystical commentary on that book and also said the secret of the redemption is contained in the first 40 chapters of the Guide.

The Rashba however was not thrilled by Avraham Abulafia. I have mixed feeling about the Rashba. His letters attacking the Guide for the Perplexed of the Rambam and the great mystic,  Avraham Abulfia annoy me. And yet he is quoted by the Maharsha. In general you can see people that were against the Rambam still being quoted by the great achronim (later authorities) like  Akiva Eiger. So who am I to judge? If the Maharsha saw value in the Rashba then maybe you could attribute the whole thing to the "Argument between saints." Two true points of view that are not consistent one with the other ontological un-decidablity .  The existence of the world depends on there being  the Empty Space (חלל הפנוי) that needed to be created by God so that there could be a creation. See beginning of the Eitz Chaim and the Mavo Shearim of Isaac Luria for details.]
Schelling says the same thing: This is the emergence of the finite world of entities that are connected to each other in an infinite chain of predicates from an originary indifference which is unconditioned. This emergence is not a smooth transition but a qualitative leap, a diversion, a falling away (Abfall) from its originary ground. And this in fact comes from the preSocratics.  [I got that quote from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

And as for the Rambam himself: apparently there is a mystic element in the Rambam that goes along with the  Geonic school of thought of the Chovot Levavaot (Duties of the Heart) that seems to have begun with Saadia Geon.
There was traditionally a school of thought that thought there was a mystical element in the Guide for the Perplexed of Maimonides. The mystic Abraham Abulafia wrote a whole mystical commentary on that book and also said the secret of the redemption is contained in the first 40 chapters.

[Incidentally, you can get his works in Mea Shearim bookstores nowadays. It used to be the case that you had to learn him with microfilm in the basement of Hebrew University. But recently someone printed them in regular Hebrew. But I perhaps should mention that they are difficult to understand. Professor Moshe Idel at Hebrew U and made a career of studying and publishing about Avraham Abulafia.]