Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Modern Jewish Thought - Aryeh Tepper


I can say that I genuinely like all of the classes that I take at the yeshiva, and I think that everything I learn is important in terms of being a knowledgeable Jew.  This morning, I especially enjoyed Shaiya's chumash class, having felt like I really interacted well with the text and Rashi.  But this afternoon, I had a most intellectually stimulating session during Modern Jewish Thought.

The main focus of conversation was Friedrich Nietzche.  Nietzche was a German philosopher in the 19th century who responded to the emergence of liberal democracy (we are studying him to later link him to the rise of Zionism and views on the "New Jew").  He toiled with the ideas of monumental history versus critical history; history through understanding it in its time and what it stood for in contemporary comparison versus historical consciousness coming into play.  It would be like discussing Abraham and understanding his righteousness in and of itself versus understanding it as if it he had the Torah sh'bikhtav, sh'b'al pe, etc.  He argues that people need to build society based on models of society and figures and leaders that succeeded - though he admits that, though it's not his favorite, that a critical view must be taken into account as well.   A new favorite quote of mine: "What is the use to the modern man of this 'monumental' contemplation of the past, this preoccupation with the rare and classic? It is knowledge that the great thing existed and was therefore possible, and so may be possible again."

What I liked about this particular shiur were the discussions that stemmed from this topic of conversation.  The conversation was very intellectually stimulating, and Aryeh especially had insights that showcase a man wise and knowledgeable in all areas.  I really enjoy it especially when the Rambam and other Jewish thought is brought into the context of the Nietzche discussion.

We devoted a good 10 minutes to discussing Conservative Judaism, as Aryeh was curious to hear what our relationship was with the movement and halakha.  Then, during our Erev Nativ program, we talked about Shabbat, so of course Conservative practice is an intrinsic part of the conversation.  Then Yossi and I had a great conversation about the subject afterwards.  My issues today fall within the categories of a) even where something is halakhically valid, if that's how I want to roll (e.g. mixed seating at services) and b) is bringing the bar down and making things more lenient a service to the movement and its constituents.  I won't go into it right now, as I need to go to sleep, but I have a lot on my mind there.

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