Thursday, June 11, 2009

Overreaching and Understating

by The Bray of Fundie

Yesterday I managed the neat trick of overreaching and understating in the same post. I'd like to correct both of my errors/sins/ crimes against humanity.

In that post I maintained that receiving an Orthodox Jewish Day School education WOULD have prevented a girl like Laura Miller from converting to Islam. DovBear provided ample historical examples of Jews steeped in Torah education and culture who had, nonetheless, converted to other faiths. IMO many of his example were "apples and oranges" comparisons and, to borrow a page from his book, products of the times and places in which those apostates lived. As such they were utterly irrelevant to the discussion of a non-affiliated twenty-something Jewess in 21st century USA. Still, I must admit that I overreached.

Let me restate and revise my position; receiving an Orthodox Jewish Day School education MIGHT have prevented a girl like Laura Miller from converting to Islam. IMO it WOULD have greatly reduced the chances of such a conversion occurring.

I also overreached when I dismissed the capacity of non-Orthodox Jewish education to prevent conversion. If nothing else it would have given Laura some identification with the Holocaust and the State of Israel and some visceral fear and loathing for all things Arabs and Islam. At the very least she would probably have developed her fathers sensibility that such a conversion is "worse" than a conversion to Buddhism or Catholicism (see 1:16-1:20 of the clip). Yet I still maintain that the more intense and "total-immersion" the type of early-childhood-on Jewish education one receives, the greater the chances of it inoculating the student against conversion.

I understated here when I flippantly dismissed the historical example of Elisha ben Avuyah /Akher (the Tanna NOT the very talented Blogger) as a graduate of a Solomon Schechter Academy. In so doing I missed an opportunity to raise Qedusha consciousness that I will now avail myself of. (Parenthetically, other than DB is there anyone else out there so completely oblivious of my sarcasm as to suppose that I did NOT know that Elisha Ben Avuyah was a Tanna???)

Elisha was an iconic heretic, renegade and collaborator. Per Tosafos in Chagiga 15A citing a Yerushalmi, among the causes of his eventual apostasy were Avuyahs ulterior motives in dedicating his son Elisha to a life of Torah study and his in-utero experience of imbibing some scintilla of the idolatrous as his pregnant mother passed by a Pagan temple and smelled a savory aroma (presumably of sacrifices to the pagan deities).

Point being that Torah Scholarship, and in particular the spiritual edification that accrues from Torah study, depends on more than "what" and "how much". It depends on "why" and "how" as well. Torah being sikhliyus elokus= Divine Wisdom sets it apart from ALL other disciplines and intellectual pursuits. And while all humans, even great Torah Scholars, are endowed with free will, including the free will to freely opt out of Judaism for other faiths or no faith at all, the Milkhemes haYetzer = battle with the Evil Inclination that culminates in so dramatic a wrong, bad choice is usually a war of attrition היום אומר לך עשה כך ולמחר אומר לו עשה כך עד שאומר לו לך עבוד עבודה זרה= "Today he (the inclination to evil) tells you 'do this' and tomorrow he tells you 'do that' until (ultimately, bit bu bit) he tells you 'go worship false gods' ". For former Talmidei Khakhamim like Akher, Spinoza or Mendelssohn to fall precipitously from the proverbial "high roof to the deep pit" there may have been nothing defective in the what" and "how much" of their Torah scholarship but , more than likely there was something wrong with the "why" and "how" of their Torah study.

Torah Study worthy of it's name demands awe, trembling, kavod and eventually the pure motivation of it being studied lishmah = for it's own sake.

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