Sunday, January 12, 2014

About my interview with the

Last week, I sat for an interview with the It contains a few new thoughts and some material recycled from previous posts. You can find it here.

Someone called David made the following comment:

A great interview. Thank you. I would like to ask Dovbear a question regarding #6. You say you keep mitzvot mainly because of the emotional connection and reward you feel. Now that is fine. Why wouldn't anyone want some sort of satisfaction? But that, from a traditional point of view is a result, not the primary reason for keeping the mitzvot. From a traditional point of view, the answer would be "because God said so." 

Perhaps that's the answer a traditionalist would give, but it isn't correct. "Because God said so" doesn't tell the whole story. You also have to care about the ritual, and you need some incentive to act or some disincentive to refrain from acting.

And even if you don't believe that God said so, you might still care about a ritual due to reasons of upbringing or education or peer pressue, and you might still find yourself in a situation that offers the necesary incentives or disinventives. Today, for example, was some kind of no pants day in New York City. Lots of people walked around without their trousers, but not one of them thought displaying their underwear pleased God. They just cared about the ritual and participating in it offered some kind of incentive. All rituals, be they secular or religious, work this way.

I'm not talking about rabbinic laws, but the primary mitzvot. So yes, you personally might get a great feeling from doing certain mitzvot, but taking it outside of the "personal" and into the religion itself....why should anyone keep any mitzvot if not for God?

Maybe, I should ask a follow up question as it relates to #9. If you, with your experience have had trouble reconciling the idea that mitzvot are God given, don't you serve as a model for what Judaism has to fear? That IF exposed to historic truth, there would be an unresolved split between keeping mizvot and WHY we keep mitzvot?

I don't agree that there would be any kind of split. We've always kept mitzvot for the reason described above.

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