Friday, September 09, 2005

Outside culture and Jewish philosophy

If you look around at what Jews wear, eat and, pray in, it is very clear that surrounding cultures have affected us. Chassidim wear the dress of Polish noblemen. Ashkenazim eat Russian/Polish/German food. Sefaradim build shuls that look a bit like mosques, while the Ashkenazim seem to reflect churches a bit. Look at Jewish music. It is quite clear that the outside culture affected food, dress, architecture, and other aspects of Jewish life. What about philosophy? How much have non-Jewish philosophical trends and developments affected what and how Jews think about their religion? Have the non-Jewish trends affected our basic beliefs and attitudes?

Clear examples:

the Rambam reflects classic Aristotilian philosophy.

The Rav(RYBS) reflects Kant and Hermann Cohen(obviously a Jew, but not observant and so would not count as a philosopher of Judaism)

As noted in the post below, R. Nadler notes that ascetic trends in Judaism seem to reflect the non-Jewish religious philosophy of the surrounding time and culture.

It may be possible(and I am sure someone has done it, if you have a reference, please let me know) to look at when ideas are first noted in Jewish philosophy(life after death, eternity of the soul, etc) and see how it compares with the presence of those ideas in the history of philosophy in general.

Has Jewish philosophy simply used the tools provided by general philosophy to refine and better express what we think and believe? or have our beliefs been significantly affected by what has been believed around us? It could be that different aspects of our beliefs have been muted or expressed to a greater or lessor extent either to agree with or provide more seperation from the outside philosophical milieu.

Shabbat Shalom

Comments-[ comments.]


Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

The very conception of the abstract God was stolen from philosophy. If you read Breishis, God is neither all-powerful, nor alone. That is to say, early Judaism was not monotheistic and YHWH was not all-powerful. He had some sort of pantheon (in Our image) and spoke about other gods not as incorrect and dangerous beliefs but as rivals. ("Don't worship other gods.") He talks to people and intervenes directly.

Over time, this semi-monotheism (worship of one God but belief in others) changed to real monotheism, likely with influences from Zoroastrianism.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Life after death and techiyas hamesim is disussed in the final chapter of Sanhedrin where it is noted that it is alluded to in the Torah

10:01 PM  
Blogger dilbert said...

anonymous- Rashi uses the fact that Az Yashir Moshe is written in the future tense to show that techiyat ha meitim is from the Torah. However, it clearly is not bepherush(written out specifically) in the Torah, and the whole reward/punishment system stated in the Torah now where explicitly says anything about life after death or olam haba. Of course you could say that Rashi is simply writing down Torah from Sinai, and that his explaination was given along with the Torah, and therefore the concept indeed is that old. Or, you could say that he is quoting midrashim that date from after the common era.

Jewish Atheist- there is an article which I will get you the reference in an Orthodox Forum series which shows examples of how Biblical law, while externally similar to Ugaritic and other ancient laws(code of Hammurabi), differ significantly in their emphasis on the Divine and in moral character.

3:43 PM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...


Everyone knows Moshe came down from Sinai wearing a Shtreimel!

3:07 PM  
Anonymous VosIzNies ( said...

get the facts right he had a shtreimel and a tie

5:02 PM  
Blogger Prince Imrahil said...

In the Torah, a 'God' is human projection onto reality. The reason the Torah speaks about other 'gods' is that there really are other gods. Any secondary cause, any force, intention, or power that is not the Timeless, Groundless, Sorce of Being (Hashem), is considered to be human invention and ultimately manipulation. That is why idolatry is outlawed and must be uprooted, and why Torah has no concept of belief at all - because there is no darn belief, there is knowledge of Being.

3:29 PM  
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Blogger Elise said...

"And he was gathered to his people", stated usually after a great person died, seems to be a direct reference to a world of souls.

12:51 PM  

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