Thursday, October 23, 2008

Shul bans "racist" Tanya

Shul bans "racist" Tanya but see here.

I believe that this is a basic Kabbalistic doctrine and is not specific to Tanya at all.

For instance from Eitz Chaim (R' Chaim Vital) 48:2 -

אמנם עכו"ם אין בהם רק בחי' נפש לבד מצד הנוקבא של הקליפות

R' Kook

בס' 'אורות', אורות ישראל פ"ה פיסקה י (ע' קנו) כותב הרב קוק: "ההבדל שבין הנשמה הישראלית, עצמיותה, מאוייה הפנימיים, שאיפתה, תכונתה ועמדתה, ובין נשמת הגוים כולם, לכל דרגותיהם, הוא יותר גדול ועמוק, מההבדל שבין נפש האדם ונפש הבהמה, שבין האחרונים רק הבדל כמותי נמצא, אבל בין הראשונים שורר הבדל עצמי איכותי".


And many more - see here

[See LazerA's insightful comment. I saw something similar in the Ben Ish Chai's ShuT Teshuvas Torah L'Shmoh (see the last מקבציאל) in which he suggests that someone with small handwriting is only "b'bechinos nefesh" whereas someone with big handwriting is "b'bchinos neshomoh" and another similar analysis based on the shape of the beard.

It is further important to note that many of the peasants in pre-modern times were "illiterate, unwashed, permanatly drunk" and similar adjectives and so it is not hard to understand where the above sentiment is coming from. (cf. the following from H. Soloveitchik's - Halacha, Hermenutucs and Martyrdom:


Then there was the revulsion. Franco-German Jewry saw themselves as living among murderous barbarians, little different from beasts [emphasis mine - W.]. The pride of place given to the warrior in feudal society was in their eyes an endorsement of violence and bloodshed. Judgment by ordeal revealed a people bereft of rational thinking and a society devoid of justice. Christians of the Midi, proud heirs of a millennia old Roman culture, despised the northern barbarians, Jews even more so. Perhaps the view of the ‘‘natives’’ held by white settlers in Africa in the late nineteenth century came closest to those of Jewish parents in the medieval German Empire. The thought that their child might grow up a murderous savage must have filled them with horror.)

See Kevin's post for an excellent, nuanced presentation of the position of the Gentile in the world-view of the Sages (based on J. Neusner's Theology of the Oral Torah).

See also Emes L'Yaakov Genesis 9:25 for a very sharp refutation of the claim that Judaism is a "racist" religion.]

9 comments:

Moti said...

I guess the difference is that no one is printing and distributing Kisvei Ha'arizal en masse in English translation. It's in the form of Tanya that ordinary people have this stream of thinking put before them because of Habad's proselytizing.

From the link you chose to give, it seems you're aware of how damaging these ideas are. I don't think there's anything wrong with a community shunning them. Just one stream of ideas from among our vast culture.

On the other hand, if you can be open-minded enough to approach a work with the attitude that you'll take what good you can from it, then Tanya, etc, will be enriching.

LazerA said...

The Kabalistic idea that גוים do not possess a נשמה is not as radical or racist as it sounds given that Kabalistic doctrine teaches the same regarding most Jews as well. Thus, for example, many kabalisticly oriented siddurim (e.g. אור זרוע, הרי בשמים) include the following note as a preface to אלקי נשמה:

איתא בכתבים אע"פ שרוב ב"א אינם זוכים לנשמה והלואי שיהי' להם נפש שלימה עכ"ז אנו מברכים ברכה זו כי אין אדם שאין לו חלק נשמה בנשמתו שמאדה"ר אע"פ שלא זכה עדיין אליה עכ"ל

(Also see similar notes in Siddur HaGaonim v'ha'Mekubalim and the Siddur Kol Yakov.)

I think the main point to take from this is that when kabalistic texts speak of the נשמה they are doing so in exceedingly technical terms and interpreting such concepts in simple terms will cause no end of trouble.

(Incidentally, given that זכייה לנשמה is apparently acheived primarily through the proper recognition of God (ראשית חכמה, קדושה ז:צז), this would explain why the Jewish people, as a whole, are said to possess a נשמה as opposed to גוים. (See משך חכמה, שמות ד:כג)

This would also explain why we find sources that indicate that לעתיד לבא the גוים will also be considered בנים למקום (e.g. אזנים לתורה, שמות ד:כב), as the status of בנים למקום is closely related to the concept of נשמה (e.g. תולדות יהושע, אבות ג:יד).)

Moti said...

Dor shvi'i le-ba'al ha-tanya:

http://www.philipweiss.org/.a/6a00d8341cc8ad53ef010535b27463970b-pi

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

I'd just like to clarify that my post Chaim links to is just a summary of Jacob Neusner's work, nothing original in thought, per se. I wholly agree with what I posted, of course, and find the action mentioned above short-sighted and unfortunate. A teaching experience has been missed, or rather forcefully set aside, in favor of an uninformed genteel sentimentality.

Wolf2191 said...

Thanks! I updated the post.

moshe said...

honestly - if ur quoting from Kook to "support" (?!) the Tanya at least write LEHAVDIL in between !!
I wonder if that ius Kook's reason as to why jewish soccer is so holy as he so famously said in his infamous heretical intro speach at the opening of hebrew university

andy said...

I'm all in favor of free speech but the preceding drivel should be deleted.

wolf2191 said...

Blogger ban idiot commenter, Huh? No need, that slander has already been refuted 500x over, he's simply making himself look silly commenting like that.

lone_voice_of_reason said...

thanks for some insightful comments (though they further the debate rather than resolve it in my view) and the link to the daatemet site which I find disturbing

the discussion continues see http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/may/16/israel-shahak-orthodox?commentpage=3

 
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