Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Pre Shavuot belief check

I started reading Professor Menachem(Marc) Kellner's book Dogma in Medieval Jewish Thought..(I have not yet read Marc Shapiro's book on the 13 principles of faith). He states that Torah and Rabbinic Judaism actually was pretty dogma free. It was much more concerned with actions rather than beliefs. Dogma was introduced first by Saadya Gaon in Emunot v'Deot as a response to the challenges of other faiths, mainly Karaiites and Islam. Other religions(including Christianity) had been considered Avoda Zara and therefore did not pose a theological threat. It was only the rise of monotheistic beliefs with a defined theology that required a Jewish response in kind. Obviously, Rambam(Maimonides) further catagorized and classified Jewish beliefs into his famous 13 principles.

The Mishna in Sanhedrin discusses people who have no part in the next world. As Prof. Kellner puts it, dogma is neccessary only to define who is part of the group, and who will achieve salvation(however you want to define salvation). He posits that the Mishna that discusses those who do not have a part in the world to come really doesn't constitute dogma, because many of the things that make one inelgible are actions, not beliefs. I would add that the use of the word "says"(as in " one who says....") may reflect an action as well, and may not apply to a privately held(and unspoken) belief.(I have not looked up the gemara in a while, so I may be wrong, feel free to correct).

Prof. Kellner holds that Judaism was more concerned with "belief in" rather than "belief that". If you think about the Ten Commandments, the first is "I am the Lord Your God." It is a statement, not a command, like "keep Shabbat" or "you may have no other gods." According to this, we are obliged to have belief in God, and follow His dictates, not neccessarily to believe a whole list of things about God. An analogy can be made to an earthly king or government(lehavdil). It is sufficient to accept the rule of the governement and keep the laws. One doesn't neccessarily have to believe all sorts of other things about the government.

However, Prof. Kellner doesn't address the command of v'ahavta, you should love God. That wouldn't be a belief, but a state of mind, something else entirely. Food for thought, to go along with the blintzes.

PS. R. Gil Student references a critique and Charles adds historical context in the comments.

Comments-[ comments.]

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Midevil Jewish Thought?
What is this like... hirhurin... wait I shouldn't

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Charles said...

The original p'shat of "ahav" probably has nothing to do with the emotion or "state of mind" which we moderns consider "love." Wissenschaftlich biblical scholarship considers the Tanach in the context of other ancient Near Eastern texts. There are many vassal-suzerain treaties where the vassal promises to "love" the suzerain in return for protection or certain benefits. In this context "love" is a political term connoting loyalty and obedience. We are commanded to "love" God, meaning our loyalty is to God and not to some other sovereign.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Mirty said...

But the "ahavta" is further defined as "with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength".... This does seem to indicate more than political allegiance.

BTW, where are the blintzes?

11:31 AM  
Blogger dilbert said...

Charles, thanks for the comment.

anonymous- post edited

Mirty- I am not a big blintz eater. My kind of shavuot dessert involves chocolate pecan pie and Starbucks vanilla latte with white chocolate ice cream(or something like that). I would like to see what Charles responds to your statement

3:44 PM  
Anonymous daat y said...

Mirty,-good.
this question addresses how can emotions be legislated.and therefor with all your heart,soul and strength can be interpreted as actions.See rashi devarim6:5.
(my shortened version,if need be I'll elaborate.)

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Charles said...

What daat y said.

I heard R' Saul Berman a few years back giving a three part shiur on a number of instances where the Torah seems to command certain emotions like "love" and "hate." Unfortunately it was a long time ago and I don't remember many details but I was impressed very much at the time. I wonder if he ever published anything on it.

6:30 PM  
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3:55 AM  

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