Thursday, September 11, 2008

On Ishim V' Shittos

If one has, as I do, theological mentors from across the ages, then it is valuable to realize that their insights on spiritual matters come framed by their particular personal and cultural circumstances... Everything is, of course, time-bound and there is a danger for us who are so shaped by historical consciousness to dismiss every authority from the past once we have understood the peculiarities of the historical, personal, or theoretical factors that shaped its outlook. A far more profitable approach is to employ historical consciousness for developing more discriminating (emphasis in original) assessments of the wisdom of the past. The point of historical scholarship should not be, as it so often is today, simply to take things apart, to destroy myths, or to say that what looks simple is really quite complex. It should also be to help people see how to put things back together again. We need to use history for the guidance it offers, learning from great figures in the past -- both in their brilliance and in their shortcomings. Otherwise we are stuck with only the wisdom of the present.

George M. Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 502.

quoted in Y. Mirsky - An Intellectual and Spiritual Biography of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhaq Ha-Cohen Kook from 1865 to 1904, PHD Harvard (highly recommended!!)

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