Winner gets a free Nextbook Press book appropriate to his or her comment (if he or she emails me at [email protected] with his or her mailing address).
This week’s winner is “YoDoe” with a comment that is a column unto itself, which shows a remarkably perceptive and sensitive appreciation for the dialectic, particularly in Judaism. Writing about Adam Kirsch’s report that the Jewish Left is on its way out, YoDoe notes:
Jewish leftism is based in the memory of the lived cultural experience of Jews in poverty and deprived civil rights for hundreds of years. That’s what forms the soul of Jewish leftism. Rabbis were sometimes part of the oppressive structures that Jews were trying to escape. There is no appealing to them as the exclusive definition of what Jews ought to think to be authentic, although the case for appealing to them is considerably stronger than appeals to the prophets or the Torah. It’s what they thought about the Tanaq that matters, not what Tanaq says.
So even Rabbinic thought, which, unlike “the bible”, is the authentic philosophical expression of Judaism, is not necessarily the authentic expression of the cultural knowledge of the Jews as a people across historical time in recent centuries. It is that cultural experience which makes Jewish leftism authentic, and in it even the Rabbis are sometimes the problem and the oppressors, not the voices of authentic Jewishness. Arguably we can see that with blinding clarity in modern Israel.
YoDoe gets Elie Wiesel’s Rashi, because that’s some Talmudic stuff right there.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.