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Unread 09-10-2010, 01:05 AM   #1
phillip2072
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Correct me if I am wrong about Jewish society.

I am attracted to Rabbinic Judaism after reading professor Levine article ( here: http://www.umass.edu/philosophy/PDF/...to-s-final.rtf), and watching http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogPXTUNjjTo. Correct me if i am wrong, but it seems to me that Judaism is unique among the western religions in that intellectual activities is used as a mean to achieve some sort of religious/spiritual gratification, while the ******ians, and Muslims uses faith as a mean to satisfy the same religious need. So, the more intensely focused a pious Jew is in understanding an argument in the Talmud, the most closely he come to satisfying his spiritual need. Now, I am certain a lot of Jews also see intellectual activities as a chore, or necessary condition that must be met to be a pious Torah Jew, but since the most respected members of their community are scholars. This also lead to the less intellectual enlightened interested members of the Jewish community to pursuit the Talmud, because of status( The is a common social pattern in all great apes primates). Thus, I claim that many Jews also pursuit the Torah, because they see that being a Torah scholar gives them status within their community. This is similar to how black people in Los Angeles see being a Gangster as highly Honorable. Thus, I suspect many Jews becoming Talmudic scholars because they see it as a status symbol. They do it because, their parents want them to.

It is interesting for me to contrast Jewish society, with East Asian societies. In ancient Chinese society, they instituted a program where by any person , across all social classes in China could take part a highly complicated exam. Should a person pass this test, he would become a tax collector for the government. This is a mean for a person from a lower social class to move to a higher social class. The program was highly successful, and had spread into Korea, and Japan. This program had created a scholarly class within East Asian societies. Thus, the notion of a "scholar" is highly attached to material wealth, and status in this countries. The act of "studying" for east Asians is highly pragmatic, and social-economical. So, what can we deduce? In both societies, the scholarly class is highly respected. In the Asian case, the "scholar" is associated with wealth, and status. In the Jewish society, the notion of a "scholar" is also associated with status, but in addition, a spiritual/religious dimension.
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Unread 09-12-2010, 04:47 PM   #2
mvakeshet
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Philip, your post brings to mind 2 quotes from the Mishna.

1. One whose good deed exceed his wisdom, his wisdom will endure. But anyone whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds, his wisdom will not endure.

It is definitely true that Judaism highly values wisdom. But in judaism, knowledge is not valued for its own sake.

Jews value knowledge that leads to actions. We learn so that we should know how to ACT in a more spiritual and enlightened manner.

Learning any (authentic) part of the Torah teaches us how to act a way that will make us become better (more spiritual, if you want) people.

It is in actions that we find the ultimate spiritual satisfaction.

It should be noted though, that in Judaism there does exist the concept of learning Torah for its own sake, or simply for the sake of learning. If fact, it is the one commandment that is considered equal to all the other commandments!

But even here, in the case of learning for its own sake, the purpose is never simply to amass knowledge. Rather, being that Torah is the wisdom of Hashem, as it has been communicated to us, studying this Torah is a means to connecting and communing with Hashem's wisdom.

The second quote that it brings to mind is:

"Hillel said:...do not make [the Torah] a crown for self glorification."

further: "He who exploits the words of Torah [for his own gratification] shall fade away. From this you derive that whoever seeks personal benefit from the Torah removes his life from the world."

(translations from Artscroll Siddur)
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Unread 09-15-2010, 03:56 PM   #3
phillip2072
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I wonder about the notion of "learning that lead to action". You might engage in a moral problem. There might not be any clear cut solution at all. What do you do? You can stop the debate, and side with the majority, or you question the solution from the majority. If you opt for the latter, then you are not being practical. Imagine a person deciding between the color of socks to wear. Does he choose the black, or the white? Every decision starts a regress of questioning that would never end.


There are many reasons people would learn all day long. Some do it, because they want to pass an exam. Some people do it, because it is fun to do so. What can you tell me about the latter?


What can you tell me about the social structure within Talmudic academies? I suspect the social structure is similar to that of professors at research universities. The rabbis are judged according to their scholarly output.
If the rabbis are judged according to their scholarship, then this means the social group value scholarship over obeying the laws.

For the normal Jew, i suspect life is tedious, since they have to obey so many laws. They gain status in their community by becoming rabbis. So, Jews go train at a Yeshiva, and study all day long. Not everyone can be a rabbi. There must be a mechanism in place to rank the students. What better way, but to give them exams? When they graduate to the rank of a rabbi. They still need to be judged.
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Unread 09-19-2010, 12:35 PM   #4
mvakeshet
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Quote:
I wonder about the notion of "learning that lead to action". You might engage in a moral problem. There might not be any clear cut solution at all. What do you do? You can stop the debate, and side with the majority, or you question the solution from the majority. If you opt for the latter, then you are not being practical. Imagine a person deciding between the color of socks to wear. Does he choose the black, or the white? Every decision starts a regress of questioning that would never end.
I'm not exactly sure what you are asking here? Are you asking how the Torah helps us solve seemingly unsolvable dilemmas?

Or are you asking what the Torah has to say about seemingly meaningless issues such as which color socks we choose to wear?

In any case, built into the structure of the Talmud are axioms for how to deal with legal and moral dilemmas.

Quote:
There are many reasons people would learn all day long. Some do it, because they want to pass an exam. Some people do it, because it is fun to do so. What can you tell me about the latter?
Again you are obscure. Are you saying that you suspect that some people study the Talmud for fun? Are you wondering how Judaism views those people?

Also, you sound like a sociologist of some sort. I'm certain that you are aware that in every society there exists a factual reality as well as an ideal that the society strives to achieve.

Quote:
If the rabbis are judged according to their scholarship, then this means the social group value scholarship over obeying the laws.
Rabbis should always be judged according to their piety. But as the mishna states, an ignoramus can not be pious.

You make many unfounded assumptions in the last segment of you post.
Care to explain where you got those impressions?
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Unread 09-21-2010, 06:34 PM   #5
phillip2072
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mvakeshet View Post
I'm not exactly sure what you are asking here? Are you asking how the Torah helps us solve seemingly unsolvable dilemmas?

Or are you asking what the Torah has to say about seemingly meaningless issues such as which color socks we choose to wear?

In any case, built into the structure of the Talmud are axioms for how to deal with legal and moral dilemmas.


Again you are obscure. Are you saying that you suspect that some people study the Talmud for fun? Are you wondering how Judaism views those people?

Also, you sound like a sociologist of some sort. I'm certain that you are aware that in every society there exists a factual reality as well as an ideal that the society strives to achieve.


Rabbis should always be judged according to their piety. But as the mishna states, an ignoramus can not be pious.

You make many unfounded assumptions in the last segment of you post.
Care to explain where you got those impressions?

My impression comes from reading professor Levine ` s article, and watching the youtube. Both sources are contained in the op post.

As an atheist, and a person born, and raised in the far east. I see Judaism as an intellectual tangent. I was interested in the emergence of the "alphabet" in the middle east, and the different ways people try to realize "transcendence" through religion. Those two inquiry lead me to an interest in Judaism.

My interest is not at all about Torah( i am an atheist), but rather the sociology of the Jewish group as a whole as inspired by the religion. I also love to study, and read about the society structure of the great apes. This is no different from my interest in the jewish social structure. i wonder about the society structure of Jews. It seems the Jews can be model as a band of hunter gathers. There is a strong affinity to group identity, and this group seems to reinforce, and maintain the group identity by compliance by norms ( Jewish laws). The unique emphasize on compliance to norms lead to an emergence of class of rabbis.
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Unread 09-21-2010, 07:05 PM   #6
mosheh5769
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I am wondering if this kind of discussion belongs to this forum...whatever! You have no idea what you are talking about. You're unsourced, and much of what you believe about us is simply incorrect (to say the least). You are not interrested in the Torah as you admitted yourself and I wonder what are you doing here on a Religious Jewish forum. There are many other places where you can philosophize and share your ideas stranger to Judaism.
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Unread 09-21-2010, 11:44 PM   #7
phillip2072
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Why am i incorrect? If i said something factually incorrect, then please correct me. Some people like to study ancient cultures, and sociology. I am not at all unique. I don ` t know much about Jews, so that is why i come here.
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Unread 09-22-2010, 11:10 AM   #8
Shabbos
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phillip2072 View Post
What can you tell me about the social structure within Talmudic academies? I suspect the social structure is similar to that of professors at research universities. The rabbis are judged according to their scholarly output.
If the rabbis are judged according to their scholarship, then this means the social group value scholarship over obeying the laws.

For the normal Jew, i suspect life is tedious, since they have to obey so many laws. They gain status in their community by becoming rabbis. So, Jews go train at a Yeshiva, and study all day long. Not everyone can be a rabbi. There must be a mechanism in place to rank the students. What better way, but to give them exams? When they graduate to the rank of a rabbi. They still need to be judged.
It seems that what you are trying to get at is that Judaism has "classes" - the higher, scholarly class who makes the laws, and the lower class who is still striving to become a learned rabbi and be at the top, which meanwhile follows the laws made by the rabbis. Correct me if I'm wrong...ths is just my impression of what you said.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. There are many so-called "normal Jews" (i.e. not Torah scholars) who follow Judaism with a passion for its own sake and for the sake of becoming closer to G-d. They have no intention of learning more in order to gain more status and power; they learn for G-d, not for their own selfish reasons. To someone who does not observe Judaism, such a lifestyle can seem tedious - who would spend their whole life restricted by so many rules? Especially if they don't get money, power, or social status for it? But we actually find the laws to be beautiful and holy.

It is true that scholarly rabbis who follow the Torah's commandments are admired and honored in the community, but that is not why they learn Torah. Every Jew, rabbi or not, is encouraged - in fact, required - to learn.
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