Sunday, February 15, 2015

200th Post: Judaism Builds on Culture It Does Not Destroy It

This is the blog's 200th post. Granted the posts here are not lengthy ones, but still, that's a lot of clicking. 

"Culture starts the work of educating the generations of mankind and the Torah completes it; for the Torah is the most finished education of Man. The fig-leaf and apron, those first gifts which Man possessed on his way to education, were the first appurtenances of culture, and culture in the service of morality is the first stage of Man’s return to God. For us Jews, derech eretz and Torah are one. The most perfect gentleman the most perfect Jew, to the Jewish teaching, are identical. But in the general education of mankind culture comes earlier….Therefore Jews, too, are to attach themselves to, and love all good and true culture and by the ways and manner of their behavior and demeanour appear as educated people and show that being Jew is only a higher state of being a man. (Rav Hirsch on Bereishis 3:24)" 

So how does one reconcile this with an approach found in many quarters of hostility towards everything gentile and secular. This Shabbos, I sat with some men over kiddush and found myself in a 'discussion' about world history where I had to endure essentially a view that everything and anything, every icon and achievement of the gentile world was a fraud. They ripped them to shreds. Not really ripped to shreds in an substantive or factual way, just disparaged with generalities and ignorance, the same way people assault Torah Jews. Of course you can't reconcile Hirsch's approach with that one. They're opposites. 

Nevertheless, the hostility approach is so prevalent. The kiddish I referenced was in a Modern Orthodox synagogue and one of my table companions was a Maggid Shiur at a far-left institution. What happens to the minds of people, most commonly baalei teshuvah, who have been edified by secular studies, by high culture, science, et. al when faced with such an outlook. I know of one person who became frum through the secular studies, specifically British poetry and conservative political thought, rather than through kiruv people whose ideas he found somewhat boorish. What happens is that they can become very confused, trying to eradicate good that they have accumulated and may even rely on. Thank the Lord for Rav Hirsch who comes to the rescue and relieves us of the requirement to tear down civilization like Visigoths.


1 comment:

  1. Great Rav Hirsch quite- maybe it should be enlarged and hung in places where such foolish comments are made. Really, it is a Chilul Hashem to disparage everything that is secular, as Hashem made gentiles and secular thoughts as well as Jews and Jewish thought.