Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Holy Kfira

This is the continuation of the topic from last post: http://www.tsmicha.com/2007/11/to-be-shtark-or-to-be-emet-true.htm I got some positive response so I thought of going a bit deeper the subject. The first post was mostly reactionary to the reality of Today’s Jewish World. This Post is more thought based.

Kfira in modern Hebrew means Athiesm. However, its root comes from the word “to reject”. In truth, it means “rejection” (in the case of atheism, rejection of God).
Rav Kook writes in many places that the kfira of his generation is not the same as the kfira of other generations. If we look at traditional Kfira, we see that people would leave religion out of “taava” (lust) for different pleasures. In Rav Kook’s generation, people left religion in order to go to what they belived were higher ideals – either secular nationalism or socialism.

Rav Kook explained that while Kfira is always bad (atheism is one of the worse sins), the root of Kfira in his generation was very holy. People were not leaving Judaism for lust, they were leaving Judaism in order to find deeper truths. They were presented with a superficial practice of Judaism which did not represent the deep ideals truly found in Judaism, and rejected it. Instead, they looked in secular ideologies for deeper truths.

Of course, they wrong to leave Judaism. They should have looked deeper into Judaism where the higher truth is really found. We can see confirmation of the fact they were wrong by today’s reality where everyone who left Judaism for these other ideals has also lost these ideals: Secular Nationalism is much weaker today (completely secular nationalism), Communism and Socialism are also very weak. What they should have done is look deeper into Judaism.

The root of Kfira is something amazing. It is not something bad. It is something definitely dangerous since it can lead to kfira but it is not something bad. If we took this root of kfira, which is asking so many questions of the truths of Judaism, and brought it to the right environment, brought it to the beit midrash, then we would be able to, through these hard questions, delve into the deepest depths of Jewish Thought.

We all have some form of kfira in us. We all have hard questions that we ask ourselves. There are 3 possible reactions to these questions and only one of them is correct.

The first reaction is to ignore those questions. Try to drown those question in an attempt to keep practicing Judaism in a superficial level. Stay “Shtark” without ever really understanding the depths of Judaism. This is a practice which is encouraged in a lot of religious circles but it is extremely destructive! Not only is it destructive to the religious community, since questions will always come up (if not today, tomorrow) and if there is no structure to deal with the questions, the questions then because very dangerous. It is also destructive to Am Israel as a whole, because the religious sector should be able to deal with the questions of the less religious sector in order to inspire them to accept and connect to God.

The second reaction is to take these questions and look everywhere for an answer. For example, after seeing how the religious community put so much emphasis on personal growth in the 1800s, some people asked themselves: “What about the nation of Israel?” “What about Humanity?”. Those who asked themselves about nationalism went to look at secular ideologies which encouraged secular Nationalism. Those who were worry about humanitarian issues looked at socialism and even communism. Unfortunately, by looking for answers in the whole world they left their own beliefs in order to espouse those of others.

The third reaction is the right one. The third reaction starts with a realization that God gave the Torah to the Jewish People. My point here is not to debate whether this realization should be attained rationally or through what some call “blind faith” – for the purpose of this post, what is important is that it should be attained. Once this is realized, then there is no reason to be afraid of questions. We know where the truth is found! Those questions will just make us delve deeper into this truth. We will bring those questions to the beit midrash in order for us to find the answer in the boundaries of Judaism.
This approach is not afraid of questions, it encourages them. It realizes that the root of kfira which is based on a quest for truth is a good root. It fosters this root and encourages it without allowing it to translate into kfira. It allows us to have an actual Judaism and not one which is based on “being “shtark””. It allows us to have an authentic connection to God and not just a set of blind rules. This is the whole point of Jewish Learning. The root of Kfira is also, when treated in the right way, the root of Jewish Growth.
Through this approach, Judaism will become deeper, more encompassing. Those who look for nationalism will be able to find it in Judaism which is full of it! They will realize that the fact that the people in the 1800s concentrated on personal growth does not mean it is all that is found in Judaism. Those who look for humanitarian messages will also find them in Judaism. They will not only find these messages but will also understand the right approach to them, which can only be found in Judaism. They will understand how ones nationalism, how one’s socialism can be a basis for ones connection to God. It does not need to be a contradiction.

More then that, it is through these questions which people will bring up that authentic Judaism will come out. It is through these questions that we will be able to being the light needed for the rebuilding of or temple on Har Habayit.

Only through the fostering of the root of kfira can we fight the two extremes: We’ll fight BLIND “Shtarkness” and we’ll fight the actual Kfira. Through it, we will bring AUTHENTIC Judaism. more...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Dan, i enjoy ur blogs, they are very refreshing. i have a question concerning ur lastest one, which i wholeheartedly agree with. i have jewish ancestry, but am unsure as of yet if it comes directly throught the maternal line. i love the torah, i do the parashah every week, i have a chumash, i eat kosher, i keep Shabbat and although my family is christian i dont keep any of the christian holidays, only the jewish/biblical ones. however, the few orthodox people i have met are sceptical of this and say it is unnessesary, i dont agree, if i am so strongly inclined towards torah why must i not live it? what is your opinion? If jews were meant to teach the nations then why can't 'gentiles' be seen to love torah too?

Dan said...

There are a few issues you brought up. The main one is how to act as a non-Jew who believes in Judaism. The fact is there are two options:
1. Go through a kosher conversion. There are many organizations which can help you go through it depending on where you live. Another option is going to study in Israel in a place like Machon Meir (http://www.machonmeir.net) which has some programs geared to converts. Once converted, you will be a full Jew.
2. Live your life as a Bnai Noach. Bnai Noach are non-Jews who belive in the Torah but want to stay non-jews. They are 100% entitled to that since Judaism is first and foremost a National Message geared at the Jewish Nation. That being said, they follow the 7 universal laws, the "laws of noach", since Judaism believes these laws apply to all. You wrote: "if i am so strongly inclined towards torah why must i not live it" As a Bnai Noach, you will be living torah! You will be living it fully! Because you will follow what non-jews are supposed to follow, thus fulfilling your role in this world. That being said, if you decide to join in the Jewish Nation, the conversion is the only option. I suggest you look at http://www.aish.com/literacy/judaism123/The_7_Noachide_Laws.asp.

The fact will remain that non jews can follow most of the mitsvot. However, Shabbat is one which is specifically given to the JEwish Nation. As long as you do not convert, you should not keep shabbat.

This whole issue only highlights the fact we have repeated many times here: Judaism is first and foremost a national identity for a special nation, not a spiritual identity. If you want to join the national identity, there are ways. If not, you can connect to the universal message of Judaism through the 7 laws of Noach but not to the National MEssage.

Hope this helps and I suggest speaking to a rabbi about those issues.