Friday, August 26, 2005

I have been a lazy blogger, but here is a topic for discussion

I have not posted recently because of laziness, a tremendously busy schedule, meetings, etc. However, I have managed to finish a number of books, including Rabbi Allan Nadler's "Faith of the Mithnagdim". I hope to discuss it in more depth in the future. One point caught me eye, and I am in the process of researching it more fully. R. Nadler notes that the Mithnagdim had a tremendously pessimistic view of life in this world, viewing it as sort of a neccessary evil that needed to be endured in order to reach the next world. Only the study of Torah and doing good deeds mitigated the uselessness of this world. Therefore, they believed that one should not derive pleasure from this world. One ideally should eat only what is neccessary to be able to study Torah, sleep in order to study Torah, have shelter and clothing only what is neccessary to study Torah etc.. Not that in the main they advocated pain or self inflicted punishment for its own sake, because the did not believe in any benefit from that either, rather an anhedonic existence.He then went on to briefly review the role of asceticism in Judaism. He notes that the Bible promises worldly rewards for good deeds, and only with the Mishna and Gemara does the idea of the world to come spring into prominence. He also claims that the main sources of asceticism in Judaism were directly influenced by other religions, namely Sufi Islam and ascetic versions of Christianity. So..... what is the role or place of asceticism in Judaism?

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