Tag Archives: Postmodernism

Vampires, Superman and Modern Day Paganism

Billboards have been announcing the new season of a show called True Blood. I don’t follow it (as it is described as extremely inappropriate) but I do follow the phenomena it is part of:
Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, Falling Skies, Green Lantern, Thor, The Avengers, Transformers, Man of Steel, Pacific Rim and Byzantium are only a short list of programs and movies that have – or will shortly- come across our “cultural” dashboard. There have and will be many, many more.
All of these shows and movies depict characters who are stronger, faster and smarter than us. They come from above, below and beyond. They battle among themselves for dominance over us mortals and our world and we are powerless before them, at their complete mercy.
They are immortal, or close to it.
Think of how much time and resources we spend on them. Books, magazines, movies, reviews, shows, merchandise, costumes and debates (Remember the “Stand By Me” debate? “Who would win in a fight – Mighty Mouse, or, Superman?” with the answer – “Of course Superman! Mighty Mouse is a cartoon! he isn’t even real”!
Is this any different than ancient polytheistic Greece?
Do we not “serve” these fictitious super-humans with our money, time and creativity? do we not go visit them in their temple-theaters or at our home alter-screens? Do we not shower the priests who bring us their words- writers, actors and producers – with adoration, prestige and even gold statues? Are we not rewarded for our service with entertainment, inspiration and even hope?
One could argue – with some degree of truth – that Torah’s issue with polytheism was as much a moral one as a theological one. To them I’d say, are the stories of these modern made, false gods, not filled with violence, sexual misconduct and immorality? Does this not – on some level – legitimize these behaviors for us mortals, as well?
I can’t help but think that Western Civilization has not come as far as it thinks in abolishing idol worship and may have just substituted one form for another, more subtle, one.
Judaism’s call to attribute divinity, “other-worldliness” and – as a consequence – origin of morality, to any but God himself is as load and necessary as it ever was.
Pay close attention to what you – and your children – are watching.

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Filed under Halacha, Theology

Post Modernism and Jewish Legitimacy

There seem to be a lot of arguments, especially within Orthodox circles, regarding what is and isn’t a “legitimate” Torah opinion. I find myself increasingly perplexed in face of these discussions. In a social reality where everyone chooses for themselves what, how, when to do things and the concept of identity so individualized and fluid, what relevance does the term ‘legitimate’ even have any more with regard to religious belief and practice (other than societal association)?
You may say – the discussion is “what is Halachically legitimate”. Here too, the variety of opinions on so many major issue are so great that – (and this is a key element in this argument) without a Sanhedrin or other centralized Halachik authority – the term seems to loose its meaning.
There are attempts to draw general lines between those who are “out” and those who are “in” but that, too, is an illusion – depending on who you ask, the border of the consensus shifts drastically.
If Rav Nachman said that people who learn Guide to the Perplexed “have an image of idol worship on their face”, Rav Elchanan Vaserman said that Religous Zionism is “joint idol worship” (עבודה זרה בשיתוף), Rav Shach called Chabbad a “cult similar to Judaism” and in return was identified as a force of ‘The Other Side’ (סיטרא אחרא) and let’s not even start on what some rabbis – through the ages – said about Kabbala, I find it futile to speak of a consensus.
Even Rambam’s 13 principles of faith have been disputed and interpreted to such extent that make them mute as a binding creed and the Shulchan Aruch expounded upon to the point that we no longer have (if we ever did) a unifying code of normative practice.

One can argue for or against this reality but it does little good to act as if there is still such a thing as “THE Halacha” or “THE Jewish opinion”.
Even if many Torah Jews (think they) have escaped post modernism, Torah and Judaism have not. (250+90)

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People don’t follow Halacha because of God

Ask any 3 observant people what they mean when they say “God” and you’ll get 3 different answers. Even so, they’re all leading observant lives. This leads me to understand that it is not theology that causes people to follow Halacha. All theology – Jewish, non Jewish, different streams within Judaism – can be understood and logically defended. Meaning, it is something else that causes people to follow Halacha and that is that they choose to take upon themselves a certain way of life for all kinds of reasons: they want to be part of a generational continuum, it fills their lives with direction, it’s what they’re familiar with, they don’t want to get smote by lightning, they want to be told what to do, they want to be part of a community, or whatever. The important thing in this idea is that it is all a choice. That becomes even truer in today’s day and age when people have the ability to choose what they want, when they want, how they want with little consequence other than the choice itself. And all these myriad of choices make up the phenomena which is The Jewish People which seems to be the point of it all. The only question is – to what degree do I choose to participate and take part. (218)

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Filed under God, Halacha