Thoughts on Judaism

Monday, January 30, 2006

My karma killed your dogma

We will pick up with the DaatEmet presently, but I wanted to pause to say a word about dogma. I have rarely found a less attractive trait among the thinkers of the world than dogmatic zeal. Dogma chews up the intellect and defecates it indiscriminately about the psyche. Dogma comes in all breeds, but it inevitably turns into pit bull. What is it?

Looking in the only definitive resource, the Rebel's Dictionary, dogma is the fervent drive to declare my values infallible and impose them upon you. With dogma, the vice of closedmindedness becomes the virtues of fervor and resolve. The virtue of self-examination becomes the vice of equivocation. The virtue of humility becomes the vice of liberality. The virtue of independent thought becomes the vice of rebelling. The virtue of diversity becomes the vice of diversity. And, most importantly, the virtue of reconsidering and changing a bad direction becomes the vice of heresy. Dogma is standing water that stagnates by its very nature and grows mildew on anything that comes near, causing the most beautiful cloth to smell repelant. It is a spiritual supernova, spewing forth loudly and brightly, followed inevitably by a spiritual black hole, falling in on itself and dying under its own weight for eternity.

It is the sign of the ketana emana (ye of little faith). The drive to make sure that others do not disagree with his beliefs, that they understand that they are not allowed to disagree, that it is a grave sin to disagree, that it is HERESY, is firmly rooted in personal insecurity with one's own belief system. He assures that he will not have to face tough questions, that he will not have to do the hard work of self examination, that he will not have to punt on any important question, but that he can firmly march forward with full faith that he and his are right, beyond common sense, beyond the casual sweeping aside of personal judgement, and beyond any need to wonder.

Curiosity may kill the cat, but the greater fear is that it will kill the dogma. Good riddance.


  • You have just described the current state of ultra-orthodox Judaism.

    By Blogger The Jewish Freak, at 1:06 PM  

  • On dogma... and how they deal with questons- the "I gotta go" phenomenon:

    It was recently suggested by a prominent chabad Rov in our town, that I speak to another prominent chabad Rov in Crown Heights about some of my hashkafa issues. So we finally were able to speak on the phone today. Originally I was supposed to travel there, but it was too expensive for the amount of time he said he would be available. Anyway, today I spoke with him on the phone and I had told him ahead of time that I really wanted to resolve the Jew/nonJew issues in the first perek of Tanya. For those who don't know, the first perek of Tanya is the first time that the superiority of the Jew is introduced, further elaborations are found through out the sefer.

    He spoke with me for about 45 minutes. The first 40 minutes went well because I didn't ask anything and just let him speak. He talked about the soul, what it is, where it comes from, where it resides- reviewing all the basics. I took notes on paper and said "uh-huh" and "m-hm" a bunch of times. At one point he stated that nonJews are better than Jews in only one sense - the extent to which they reflect and contain elokus (G-dliness). I then asked him my question about the Jewish murderer and the nonJewish Doctor. Who is better ? He told me that the criminal Jew should be punished, of course, and the nonJewish doctor should be rewarded, but regardless, the Jew still reflects G-dliness more in this world. He then went on to say that goyim work and acquire material possessions and are generally happy with what they have, but that Jews, no matter how secular they are, always want more because what they are really looking for is G-dliness, "which is not even a concept to the goy".

    I then asked how is it possible that the Jewish murderer reflects G-dliness more, isn't the very fact of his evil behavior contradictory to elokus ? This Rov then replied with a mashal. Ready ? Here it is : What is more superior, he asked me, a criminal or an animal. At this point, I did not go into why he is comparing nonJews to animals, or whatever, I simply said that it really depends and that a little puppy who has done no one any harm is superior, in my opinion, to a murderer who has taken a life. This Rov then became annoyed and said that all of my answers and perspectives are from a secular point of view, they are very superficial and he has no interest in continuing the discussion in that vein. To make his point about the criminal being superior to an animal, he asked me what is the value of the world without any people. I said that since I'm a person, I will obviously answer that there is not much value in a world without people but if I was an animal I would probably say something different, and he again became annoyed. I tried to ask him which he prefers, a world with only animals or a world with only criminals. But he said that he has to go now, his time is up and people are coming to his home. I thanked him for his time and we hung up.

    Let me clarify that this is a rov who is very well respected, knowledgeable and who has taught chassidus to many, many BTs and FFB chabadnicks all over the world. This is not some yeshiva boy who doesn't know the first thing about questions and how to answer them. In addition, I was pretty much polite and deferential throughout the conversation. I was not chutzpadik at all. And still, when I asked this Rov a question that was difficult, he quickly attacked my point of view and then had to go because his time was up.

    So I give up on trying to understand the first perek of Tanya. All done here. This is my typical experience when asking questions. People are happy as long as you let them talk. As soon as you challenge them or their view, you become the one with a problem.

    By Anonymous onionsoupmix, at 9:42 PM  

  • What does the Tanya have to do with Judaism?

    By Blogger The Jewish Freak, at 10:45 PM  

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