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Judaism in Modern Times: Final Examination
Summary of the Most Important Elements of the Lurianic Kabbalah
The Lurianic Kabbalah is the foundation of modern Jewish mysticism. The esoteric part of Lurianic Kabbalah is the doctrine and practice of mystical prayers (Seventh Lecture 278). In such a manner, a mystic prayer is the most characteristic element of the Lurianic Kabbalah. Isaac Luria was the main founder of Lurianism; however, he developed it together with other Kabbalists. Other peculiar elements of the school, besides mysticism, are Tzimtum, Shevirat, Hakeem, and Tikkun. These features create the basis for the faith of the Lurianic Kabbalah as they explain the belief system of Kabbalism, in general.
Tzimtumis a Judaist traditional system, in which the divinity undergoes withdrawal that creates more space for the creation. According to it, God is infinite, while His creations are finite. The belief system further asserts that Adam Kadmon, the Primordial Man, was the first creation that stepped out of the light (Seventh Lecture 265). According to the Tzimtum belief, the light is the source, from which God created all beings. In addition, the followers assert that the light came from the space while unfolding at different stages and appearing in various aspects (Seventh Lecture 265). Therefore, Tzimtumis an element that accounts for God's creation of the Universe through the light in the primordial space.
The second element is the Shevirat, which is also called the Sephirot vessels. It exists in two forms. The first form of the Sephirot is the Iggulim that consists of ten circular principles; the second form is the Yosher, which is a scheme of three columns where Sephirot exists in harmony. The third system called Tikkun is a more important part of the system of theosophy (Seventh Lecture 273). Tikkun means rectification, and its features include less sublime lights, but they appear in strong and well-harmonized vessels. The system of the Lurianic Kabbalah is mechanical because its parts, including the Shevirat, Tikkun, and Tzimtum, are described in the form of arrangement of shapes and light in different variations. In other words, the school explains divinity in physically conceivable forms. The Lurianic Kabbalah believes in God's transcendence and immanence, especially through the creation of the Universe. He is beyond the human abstraction because He created yesh (something) from ein (nothing). God contracted the infinite light to create the primordial space, from which the universe emerged. Therefore, the Lurianic kabbalah and account of God's attributes are connected with the creation of the world. Judaism has been developing for many centuries; its modern form, namely Hasidism, has experienced some opposition from the reformation movements, including the Mitnagdim, the Haskallah, and political Zionism. In general, the current state of the religion differs from the traditional setup as it ignores some ancient Judaist practices; such behavior is especially widespread among immigrant Jews.
One of the aspects that the course of Judaism in Modern Times teaches is that two dynamics characterize contemporary Judaism. The first dynamic is the desire to clarify the religious traditions, while the second one presupposes some radical changes. The rise of modern Hasidism is a part of the second tendency. Modern Hasidism in Judaism is an issue of great social significance; it provided a new approach to leadership, which was called the Hasidic rebbe (Seventh Lecture 188). Hasidism also introduced the rebbe's influence into the social framework of the Judaist community of believers (Seventh Lecture 188). As the lecture explains, The Hasidic rebbe is a charismatic leader, who is not chosen or appointed based on objective criteria, like the community rabbi (Seventh Lecture 188). It means that the rise of Hasidism in contemporary Judaism has introduced a new kind of leadership that is more charismatic than the traditional one that is called the community rabbi.
Besides introducing a new kind of leadership, the emergence of Hasidism has widened the rebbesscope of influence. In such a manner, according to his role, a rebbe is a shepherd of the flock of Hasidism. Also, formally, he is not geographically defined or tied to a particular community. In addition, the leader does not derive his authority from any human appointment (Seventh Lecture 188-189). Despite the Hasidic rebbe being a different kind of Judaist leadership that emerged from the new Hasidism, it is not completely different from the leadership of a communal rabbi. Under certain circumstances, this person also carried out the duties of the rabbi. Nevertheless, the new leadership of the rebbe emphasized a basic contradiction between rebbesruling in the community rituals or civil law and decisions he made. The rebbes ruling on the rituals or civil issues was a subject of criticism, but the community neither questioned nor criticized his final judgments (Seventh Lecture 189). Consequently, his judgment was ultimate, and nobody in a Jewish community could alter it.
Furthermore, although according to the prominent understanding of the rebbesleadership, he was not tied to any specific geographical region, locations of the rebbescourt were characterized by an advanced economic and social development (Seventh Lecture 189). In such a manner, it is not true that rebbe does not need his position as a community rabbi. Consequently, hands that visited the rebbescourt brought a lot of economic and social prosperity to the region where the court was situated. It implies that a rebbe also utilized his position as a community rabbi to make the development of the court's location possible.
In such a manner, the emergence of Hasidism has tremendously changed traditional Judaism. For instance, a new social grouping materialized from Hasidism. Traditionally, Judaism had a community that was called kehillah, but a new community, edah, developed from the Hasidic movement (Seventh Lecture 190). The two notions are distinct; the era followed the practice of free membership that was not confined to any hasid or rebbe. On the contrary, the traditional community (kehillah) had a definite and formal framework with clear geographical borders (Seventh Lecture 190). Apparently, the rise of Hasidism has changed the leadership arrangement in Judaism because the new community, edah, did not tie people to any particular region. It also expanded the sphere of influence of a rebbe, whose recognition and judgment grew to include all followers of Judaism, irrespective of their place of origin or location of the rebbes court. Therefore, the contemporary rabbinate has two major defining qualities, which are the development of a voluntary community and a voluntary rabbinate (Lecture Seven 190). Today, the members of the community and their leaders no longer face geographical restrictions as they used to do in the traditional community.
The Mitnagdimmeans the opponents of Hasidism. Hasidism grew and developed under conditions of intense opposition from the reformist groups. One of the groups of the Jews, who belong to the Mitnagdim, is the Ashkenazi. This organization opposed the early development and spread of Hasidic Judaism. The source of Mitnagdim was the rapid growth and spread of Judaism in the 18th century. The quick development of Judaism disturbed most traditional rabbis, who considered the rise of this movement heretical (Seventh Lecture 87). The indication is that the traditional rabbi opposed the emergence of Judaism; this factor has contributed to the growth of Mitnagdim.
The Mitnagdim strongly opposed Hasidism, and the opposition was seen through the bans against ex-communication, which targeted the Hasidic Jews. Besides the bans, different Jewish pamphlets were also created, and these actions were supposed to impede the spread of Hasidism. Solomon Zalman is one of the rabbis, who belonged to the Mitnagdim movement; he opposed Hasidism and asserted that claims of miracles and divine visions by Hasidic Jews were false. The followers of Mitnagdim did not support the doctrine of mystical miracles and magic; it was among the major reasons for the opposition against Hasidism. Luria's doctrine of mystical prayer and magic, which was an attribute of Hasidic Judaism, had a blurred separation of mysticism and magic (Seventh Lecture 277). The Hasidic Jews believed in mystical prayers and miracles, while the Mitnagdimmovement opposed the idea. According to Hasidism, a prayer was more than the mere acknowledgment of God's kingdom, and it passed the human hope to influence God's eternal decisions of Providence (Seventh Lecture 277). These reasons made the followers of Mitnagdimoppose the Hasidic Jews. According to the believers of Mitnagdim, humans lacked the will to influence God's eternal decisions of Providence. Consequently, the Mitnagdims followers believed that the Jews were to worship God without any hope to influence the outcome of their prayers. A perfect example of this opposition and confrontations was the case when they denounced the houses, in which the Hasidic Jews met for prayers.
In their opposition to the Hasidic Jews, the Mitnagdimtermed the followers of Hasidism as heretics, who quarreled among themselves practically over every issue (Seventh Lecture 86). Vina Gaons' issuance of the polemical letters in 1772, which brought the consequence of ex-communication, was a clear indication of how the Mitnagdim movement opposed the Hasidic Jews. The polemical letters disregarded the Hasidic Jews based on their prayer habits. Vina Gaon expressed his concern that the Hasidic Jews worshiped in unorthodox ways; hence, there was the pressing need for the Hasidic Jews to change their worship behavior. However, the Mitnagdim movement weakened when Vina Gaon died in 1797; this event resulted in the legalization of Hasidism in some countries worldwide, including Russia, for example. Other people, who believed in Mitnagdim, continued their criticism and issued numerous polemic letters. However, the movement was getting weaker while Hasidism was increasing its influence.
In conclusion, the Mitnagdim was a movement that affected the spread of Hasidism because of its strong opposition. The followers of the movement resented the quick development of Hasidism in the eighteenth century, and they joined to oppose the Hasidic Jews through polemic letters that criticized their worship styles. However, Vina Gaons death reduced Mitnagdims activism; this event allowed Hasidism to regain its fast growth, especially due to its official legalization.
The Haskalah and Emancipation
The Haskalah is a historical movement that brought enlightenment to the religion of Judaism. The movement was an effort to bring intellectual renewal to Judaism; it gained popularity in the 18th century (Credo 145). During the 1770s and 1780s, the Haskalah introduced a politicization of intellectual life, which diverted the focus of Judaism from its original religious programs to the new era of politicization. Therefore, the Haskalah was significant because it brought emancipation to the religion of Judaism. The movement's critical role was the introduction of politics and rights into religion. According to Credo (144), Jerusalem was the city that vividly demonstrated the emancipation that the movement brought. During the spread of the Haskalah movement, the perspective on the politics and rights of different people, including the Jews, changed significantly. For instance, during the 1760s, Mendelssohn developed political ideas that he applied to the nation of the Jews. He confronted the specific political circumstances of the Jews, which is termed as the civic oppression of the Jews (Credo 144). Therefore, the purpose of the Haskalah was to eradicate what was considered as an oppressive practice that other communities or religions directed to the Jews.
Mendelssohn used publications and wooed others to join the movement that would bring freedom and equal rights to the Jews. For example, Credo (144) explains that in 1780, the man encouraged Dohm to join the movement so that they could protect the rights of the Jews with the help of joint efforts. In addition, Mendelssohn supported the Haskalah movement in the preface to his translation of Manasseh ben Israel (Credo 144). Also, he responded to the challenges against the movement, for example, the challenge that Cranz placed by publishing an article called Jerusalem.
Apparently, the Haskalah movement presented an opportunity for such people as Mendelssohn to participate in the debate over the rights of the Jews. These efforts would end the oppressive treatment of Judaists, as well as the perception of superiority of other religions over Judaism. One of the themes that Mendelssohn included in his publications was the issue of the rejection of oaths. He considered this perspective within the general framework of the unsuitability of the written word to expressing the divine truth (Credo 142). Also, Mendelssohn's publications communicated the preference for the government through education (Credo 142). In Mendelssohn's view, ancient Judaism embodied the idea of the essence of the government through education. Consequently, the Haskallah was a significant move because it linked religion with the government not by developing new platforms, but by explaining the place of the government in ancient Judaism.
Despite the absolutist nature of the state, the Haskallah movement provided the basis for building the relationship between the government and Judaism or the religion, in general. Credo(146) discusses that the Haskallah moved Mendelssohn away from his initial preoccupation with the intellectual renewal of Judaism, and he stepped into the political arena, from which he was able to protect ad fight for the rights of the Jews (Credo 146). The man's perspective changed during the development of the movement, and he saw the civil rights of the Jews as the absolute way to bring freedom to Judaism. According to Credo(146), Mendelssohn led the Haskallah movement by exercising independence of the mind and by being willing to accept the novel means towards the conservative ends of the Jews.
The Haskallah movement was essential to the emancipation of the Jews from the oppressive treatment in the world, including the lack of equal rights. The Haskallah was a period when the religion of Jews experienced a lot of political influence, especially from Mendelssohn. He wrote publications that sensitized and explained to the Jews their rights, as well as some other issues that influenced them. Therefore, the movement contributed to the freedom and enlightenment of the Jews.
Neo-Orthodoxy is also known as the modern orthodoxy; it is closely connected with the wave of reforms that occurred within the religion itself. Reforms that led to neo-orthodoxy were mainly offered by the wise men, whose minds were full of knowledge and ideas, and they had a profound understanding of all sciences (Sofer, 190). Neo-orthodoxy is a development that has culminated over a long time. As Sofer explains, the wise men have given their perspectives that have brought reforms to the religion for about two thousand years, yet nobody has protested against the ideas (190). Neo-orthodoxy represents a new approach towards the modern culture of the Jews. It symbolizes a shift from most traditional rituals and behavior that the conservative Jews still practice. Neo-orthodoxy holds the view that there is the need to revise both traditions and ancient practices of the Jews so that they are in tandem with the modern changes that have reshaped the religion, in general.
Neo-orthodoxy is different from ultra-orthodoxy. According to the lecture reading The Manifesto of Ultra-Orthodoxy, the ultra-orthodox Jews preserve the original traditions of Judaism. They refer to themselves as the Haredim because they believe that the fear of God involves maintaining the Jewish tradition, for example, keeping the Sabbath day holy by avoiding lighting the fire. However, Neo-orthodoxy considers these peculiar traditions essential to Judaism. Nevertheless, most important is the understanding of how neo-orthodoxy has developed. The migration of the Jews to other countries is the main source of the development of neo-orthodoxy. The reading states that the German Jews, who had migrated to the United States, introduced Reform Judaism, and this is the basis of neo-orthodoxy in modern Judaism (The Manifesto of Ultra-Orthodoxy 522). Different reform congregations had developed by the time of the Civil War. For example, radical reforms had emerged in the practice of Judaism by 1885; it was the time when Rabbis convened the reform at the Pittsburg conference (The Manifesto of Ultra-Orthodoxy 522). The convention provided the platform for incorporating changes into the contemporary Jewish religion.
Neo-orthodoxy is a movement that has developed due to changes that Judaism experienced, especially during the relocation of the German Jews to America., In the article, On Changes in Judaism, Frankel explains that the new reformation movement that was against the orthodox party found its aim in the opposite direction. For instance, the new reform, namely neo-orthodoxy, considers it appropriate to overcome the past or traditional practices of the Jews (Frankel 217). The neo-orthodox Jews are not the traditional religion of Judaism to the full extent because they limit their faith in particular traditional practices, but not all of them (Frankel 217). Therefore, the neo-orthodox Jews are outside the limits of traditional Judaism.
The basic idea is that neo-orthodoxy is different from ultra-orthodoxy because of the observance of traditional Jewish practices. The migration of the German Jews to America is the genesis of neo-orthodoxy; it is possible that the exposure that the migrant German Jews faced during their migration brought the reforms. Unlike the ultra-orthodox Jews, who saw many ancient traditions of Judaism as important, the neo-orthodox Jews only maintained a few of the same. A close relationship exists between neo-orthodoxy and the enlightenment. The people, who brought reforms to Judaism, were wise or educated people, who had a lot of knowledge about religion and philosophy. Therefore, they limited their support only to the traditional practices that they considered either significant or relevant to the development of human rights. Neo-orthodoxy has distorted the form of ancient Judaism because it has created a breed of believers, who do not exercise all the traditions of the religion.
Moses Mendelssohn and the Reformers
Moses Mendelssohn's arguments contributed to the reformation agenda in several distinct ways because he countered most explanations of other reformers. At the center of Mendelssohn's concern, there were the ideas of human rights and the nature of Judaism (Credo 120). The man infused his knowledge to bring a separation between the state and the church, and his only intention was to maintain the freedom of conscience while advocating equal rights. It was demonstrated through the relationship between the church and the government (Credo 120). Mendelssohn developed the theory of the church-state relationship as an effective strategy towards accounting for the essence of the reforms, which he supported.
The general theory of the state-church relationships was Mendelssohn's major contribution towards the reformation of Judaism. Credo(120) asserts that Mendelssohn distinguished between the perfect and imperfect rights of a person as a part of demonstrating how religion did not coerce with the belief. His theory supported the freedom of conscience, so Credo (120) explains that through such a guarantee, he argued for the possibility of equal rights for all Jews. Mendelssohn made this difference a part of his response to the Cranz, the reformist who argued that the theorist had rejected Judaism by not accepting the ban of the ex-communication. Mendelssohn's focus, while leading the Judaist reformation, focused on minimizing the strength of the Mosaic Law or constitution. The Mosaic Law was coercive in Mendelssohn's view; however, he argued that religion should not have any coercive powers (Credo 138). He also denied the authority of the Mosaic Law in providing historical explanations.
Mendelssohn rejected the Mosaic Law and its authority by raising philosophical arguments around it. For example, in his reformist arguments, the man explained the difference between speculation and practice. The Mosaic Law, which the ancient Jews followed, was based on speculative reason, which affected the religious practice in general (Credo 139). Philosophically, Mendelssohn argued that the observance of the Mosaic Law was beyond the reach of abstract reasoning (Credo 139). He suggested that it was an exercise in futility to try changing the form and practice of the Mosaic Law because it was beyond the human both concrete and abstract reasoning. He supported the idea of the futility of modifying the practice of the Mosaic Law by postulating that such changes would require a second revelation that is similar to the one at Sinai (Credo 139). In other words, Mendelssohn's reformation did not intend to change the Jewish laws as he considered them to be beyond human reasoning and requiring God's revelation that was similar to the one at Sinai when He gave Moses the Ten Commandments.
Spinoza is another reformer, whose contribution was disputed by Mendelssohn. Spinoza had argued that theocracy impeded religious freedom. His viewpoint was similar to the liberal thoughts that developed during the eighth century. While refuting Spinoza's claim about theocracy preventing religious freedom, Mendelssohn reversed the judgments that the reformer, Spinoza, had reached. A sense of conservatism is evident in Mendelssohn's rejection of Spinoza's judgment. According to the philosopher, ancient Judaism was a religion that was characterized by an ideal government, which functioned on the principles of education and religion. Mendelssohn's writings intended to counter the arguments of the reformers, who named him a person, who strived to undermine Judaism. For example, he differentiated between the civil power and belief in Judaism by explaining that the punishments, to which ancient Judaism had committed its followers, represented civic infractions. Also, human belief could be subjected neither to scrutiny nor punishment (Credo 136). Mendelssohn's approach to Judaist reformation utilized philosophical thoughts to criticizing the explanations that other reformers gave about his viewpoint on Judaism. The writings of Mendelssohn demonstrate how such reformers as Spinoza and Cranz had misunderstood his position concerning the relationship between the church and the state.
The Beginnings of the Political Zionism
Zionism is a historical movement, the background of which is associated with Judaism. The movement was founded around 1897 by Theodore Herzl. The first Congress Address of 1897, which was delivered at Basel, marked the beginning of political Zionism. Theodore Herzl was the person, who delivered a powerful message, in which he explains that Zionism introduced a remarkable idea, which was the close union between ultra-modern and ultra-conservative characteristics of Judaism. According to Herzl, the idea behind political Zionism is impossible, yet the movement has introduced it.
Political Zionism began with the objective of transforming the Jewish culture. In Herzl's words, One of the first results of the movement (Zionism) will be the transformation of the Jewish question into a question of Zion, (Herzl 227). The indication is that political Zionism developed to replace the Jewish question. In addition, it intended to make its followers independent people, who would not rely on the state for livelihood. Herzl (228) states that the movement had a greater scope; also, Zionists wanted to encourage people to practice self-help. Herzl explains that the objective of political Zionism is only achievable if the movement does not awaken any premature or unwholesome hopes (228). At the moment of foundation, the movement had a Congress that planned its public procedure. Herzl emphasizes the essence of this public procedure.
The reading by Herzl reveals that the emergence of Political Zionism had the purpose of resolving the Jewish question. One of the elements of the Jewish question was the reservation of the agricultural practice for the people. Nevertheless, in his explanation of Zionism, Herzl argues that the Jews were also good at other occupations besides agriculture, for example, arithmetic. According to Herzl, the question of colonization of the Palestinian Jews would take nine hundred years; this calculation was based on the assumption that ten Jews in Palestine would undergo the colonization annually (229). He uses the argument to create a new sense of the Jewish identity as people that can succeed in many domains.
Zionism was founded on the principle of seeking a solution to the Jewish problem. The Jews face problems in the countries, to which they migrate; this issue makes the respective governments sympathize with the people. Zionism, which refers to the Jews' self-help or autonomy, thrives on the sympathy of the concerned nations (Herzl 229). Nonetheless, some states have suffered calamity because of the Jewish question. In these cases, masses confront their governments for supporting the Jews. On the contrary, a nation that mistreats the Jews is bound to suffer economically because of the significant Jewish contributions to international financial prosperity via global commerce (Herzl 229). The position of political Zionism is that the Jewish question is paradoxical because it causes mixed reactions in either direction. Consequently, political Zionism encourages governments to maintain a neutral attitude towards the Jews. Herzl (229) analyzes that Zionism is about attaining peace for both the Jews and the nations that host them. Due to the neutral position that political Zionism assumes, the movement can face the criticism that it does fight for the interests of the Jews. Such criticism is clear in the article by Rabinowitz, in which the author disagrees with the Zionist's claim that many Jews would have abandoned their faith in the absence of the Zionists (Rabinowitz 609). Therefore, there exists a significant conflict between political Zionism and the conservative Jews, who do not consider Zionists to be able to offer anything that can help Judaism, in general.
In conclusion, modern Judaism is founded on the Lurianic Kabbalah, which has such crucial elements as Tikkun, Shevirat, and Tzimtum. According to the school, God is transcendent and immanent. The development of modern Hasidism, which is an aspect of the radical change tendency, transformed the leadership in Judaism through the introduction of the concept of a rebbe, whose authority was not limited to a geographical zone. However, modern Judaism or Hasidism has faced some strong opposition. In such a manner, the Mitnagdimmovement opposed Hasidism because of the issues of mystical prayers and belief in miracles. Nonetheless, Vina Gaons' death paved the way for the further spread of Hasidism, with more support coming from its legalization in Russia. New developments, for example, the growth of neo-orthodoxy, have also contributed to modern Judaism, with the tendency of encouraging the Jews to abandon some traditional religious practices. Political Zionism is a good example of reformist movements that have affected the religion, and such changes have majorly occurred because of the migration and relocation of the Jews to other countries, for example, the movement of the German Jews to America. The development of philosophy, as demonstrated by Moses Mendelssohn and other reformers, has also affected modern Judaism. The consequence has been the existence of mixed belief systems in the modern state of the religion, though conservative Jews still exist.