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Law and Spirituality in Judaism

Dec. 15 2015

Although they have received little attention in the English-speaking world, the writings of Shimon Gershon Rosenberg (acronym: Shagar) are widely read in Israel for the way they draw both on ḥasidic teachings and on the work of noted 20th-century philosophers. Here he reflects on the tension between Jewish law (halakhah) and the individual’s inner life. (Translated with an introduction by Josh Rosenfeld.)

[The halakhic] obligation to do specific things at specific times stands in opposition to [a person’s] attunement with and attention to his own inner voice. Our own eyes see—and not just in connection with religious life—that when one prefers his own personal truth, he does not behave according to the dictates and accepted norms of society at large. For example, one who desires to be “more authentic” may be less polite, as the rules of etiquette are seen as external social constructions that dull one’s inner life. Similarly, this type of individual will approach halakhah . . . as a system that holds him back from his own truth, and not only that, but he will sometimes perceive it as a lie: from a halakhic point of view, he must pray at specifically ordained times, but in his heart of hearts he knows that right now his prayers will not be fully sincere, rather [he will just be] going through the motions. . . .

[T]his question has yet another dimension, which we may be able to sharpen our understanding [by exploring]: the chasm between objective and subjective experience. Should an individual seek out the Truth through his own subjective experience, or should he rather find it in the absolute objective realm of reality? . . .

The problem . . . is that our inner lives . . . are prone to ups and downs, steps forward and back. Because of the dullness of our internal lives, they are susceptible to all kinds of outside influences, and thus there is a subsequent lack of authenticity. This is the reason the Shulḥan Arukh [the standard code of Jewish law], not internal spirituality, is the basis for our religious obligations; it is the absolute cornerstone of our lives.

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More about: Halakhah, Hasidism, Judaism in Israel, Postmodernism, Religion & Holidays, Spirituality

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

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More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations