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The Pale God

IsraelI secularIsm and sPInoza’s PhIlosoPhy of culTure

------------------------------- GIdeon KaTz -------------------------------------

Israel: Society, Culture and History

Yaacov Yadgar

(Political Studies, Bar-Ilan University), Series Editor

Editorial board

Alan Dowty, Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Notre dame

Allan Silver, Sociology, Columbia University

Tamar Katriel, Communication Ethnography, University of Haifa

Avi Sagi, Hermeneutics, Cultural studies, and Philosophy, bar-ilan University

Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism and Ethnicity, london School of Economics

Yael Zerubavel, Jewish Studies and History, rutgers University

Nationalism and Ethnicity, london School of Economics Yael Zerubavel, Jewish Studies and History, rutgers University

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The Pale God

IsraelI secularIsm and sPInoza’s PhIlosoPhy of culTure

-------------------------- GIdeon KaTz --------------------------------

Translated by Miriam Ron and Jacky Feldman

Boston

2011

a catalog record for this title is available from the library of congress.

copyright © 2011 academic studies Press all rights reserved

IsBn 978‐1‐936235‐38‐4

Book design by olga Grabovsky on the cover: Sunrise with Sea Monsters, William Turner

Published by academic studies Press in 2011 28 montfern avenue Brighton, ma 02135, usa press@academicstudiespress.com www.academicstudiespress.com

conTenTs

Introduction .

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chapter 1: Three oPTIons for secularIsm In Israel .

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I. foreword.

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II. Judaism as

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III. reservations about Judaism.

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IV.

spiritual

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V.

The distress of

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chapter 2: Why sPInoza?

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I.

The historical-cultural context.

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II.

special philosophical relevance .

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chapter 3: ImaGInaTIon and The masses:

 

an ouTlIne of The oBJecT of PolITIcs

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I. non-reflective consciousness and the image

 

of the dream: the epistemological aspect.

 

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II. Instability, associations and egocentrism: the psychological

 

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III. Inconsistency, conformism and hostility in the life of

 

the masses: the political

 

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chapter 4: PolITIcal secularIsm .

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I. undermining

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II. rationalization of the masses and political power.

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III. does rationalization mean overcoming religion? .

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IV.

The importance of religion in the establishment of political

 

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. VI. Invigorating the life of the masses and the spirit of obedience.

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moderating religious

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chapter 5: The role of The PhIlosoPher In hIs socIeTy In TImes of secularIzaTIon .

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I.

The “healthy Judgment,” the radiance of theology and the problem of the philosopher’s

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— v—

-------------------------------------------------------------------------- conTenTs -------------------------------------------------------------------------

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II. The resonance of truth. III. metaphysical

. IV. The schematic nature of spinoza’s thought.

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chapter 6: TradITIonalIsm as an oPTIonal form of secularIsm In Israel.

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. II. spinozian articulation and the secular nature of traditionalism.

I. Traditionalism in Israel.

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179

conclusion .

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189

Bibliography .

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Index

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— vi —

--------------------------------------------------------------------- InTroducTIon --------------------------------------------------------------------

InTroducTIon

among many Israeli intellectuals, secularism arouses discomfort. for them, the secular public—and Israeli society as a whole—has become devoid of the legacy of Jewish culture, and remains without roots or a substantive identity. other Israeli intellectuals claim that the incessant search of secular Israelis for new relationships to Judaism is a result of a misunderstanding on the part of the secular. They demand a writ of divorce from religion, and from Judaism in particular. common to all is their distress with Judaism; for some, Israeli society has abandoned Judaism and, consequently, is impoverished and bereft of a past. for others, Judaism is a burden which prevents the creation of a new national society. These thinkers have proposed solutions to resolve these problems. The aim of this book is to present their approaches, explain why their proposals lead to a dead end, and suggest a solution derived from spinoza’s philosophy. In these few sentences, we have hinted at the subject of the book and the assumptions upon which it rests. as we all know, secularism is a complex concept. It refers to behavior and identity, to historical processes and changes. The object of this book is thought, and it deals with the views of men of letters and philosophers on the question of the worthy place for Judaism in the lives of secular people. The basic principle underlying this research is that, whatever be the elements of thought included in it, secularism is not just an abstract topic. It takes place in a concrete context and can only be analyzed within that context. This concreteness is relevant for the contents of thought, just as it is relevant for understanding historical processes or

— 1—

--------------------------------------------------------------------- InTroducTIon --------------------------------------------------------------------

sociological facts. The reason for this is simple: many of these contents criticize a particular religious tradition. It is specifically because of the specific, concrete context of our book that the contents of thought we will examine are not limited to what has been produced in Israeli culture. zionism, especially the thought of spiritual zionist thinkers, is important for the secular public in Israel, if only because this is the thought of the “founding fathers” of Israeli society. from what has already been claimed, and even from the title of the book, it becomes clear that the web of thought discussed here is not homogeneous. We will deal here with the thought of Israeli intellectuals and the philosophy of spinoza. In spite of the differences between these kinds of thought, their relationship is not artificial, and the justification for this pairing will be presented later on in the book. for the moment, I will suffice with one brief comment. The problem is evident in the thought schemes of Israeli intellectuals. The investigation of the thought of spinoza is part of the development of its solution. This is not a philosophical recommendation that falls like a note from heaven. This solution is rooted in Israeli culture, and may shed light on trends rooted in that society. It gives rise to severe criticism of the approaches of Israeli intellectuals. The solution I will provide here not only breaks through the impasse to which the approaches of Israeli intellectuals lead, but also helps us in understanding this impasse. In order not to leave things unclear, let me now specify their principles. There is a wide variety of approaches among Israeli intellectuals, but they all share a common basic assumption — that Judaism as a set of contents bearing religious significance can no longer serve as a basis for the Jewish collective. secularization, the establishment of the state of Israel, liberation from the oppressive rule of the halakha — all these have given birth to a new national identity. The common religious sources are not included in it. To our great surprise, this assumption — which would seem to be self- understood — is not part of the secular position which may be developed from spinoza’s thinking. What he calls “secularism” suits his efforts to provide a basis for political authority. such authority enables the striving for the creation of autonomous, secular human life. But

— 2—

--------------------------------------------------------------------- InTroducTIon --------------------------------------------------------------------

such an effort does not require the rejection of religious tradition. on the contrary, such life necessitates a “common spirit.” an essential part of this spirit is the images that are part of religious tradition. Thus, spinoza’s thought, according to the explanation I will provide here, strives towards something complex: the fostering of religious tradition on the one hand, and the rationalization of the image of God and the neutralization of religious experts on the other. for spinoza, secularization is at base a political project. In the framework of this process, there is no need to kill God—as in the well known slogan of nietzsche—but to moderate him. It suffices to transform him from an unknown and capricious God, who cannot be worshipped without the leadership of religious virtuosos, into a “pale God”: the image of a transcendental power that has become rationalized and can be easily placated through accepted morality and the ways of the fathers. This moderated tradition can serve as a common culture and as the basis for political authority. This is the gist of secularism according to spinoza. This option is especially germane to the changes wrought by zionism among the Jewish people—after all, zionism sought to redefine the Jewish people and place it in a political framework. The materialization of this change does not necessarily involve the abandonment of religious tradition and, consequently, the forsaking of the spiritual content common to Jews gathered in Israel. a better option is the rendering of religious tradition more malleable and better adapted to political life. But for various reasons, some of which will be explained in the conclusion, this is not the accepted model of secularism in Israel. We have already hinted that it clashes with the views of Israeli intellectuals with respect to the place of Judaism in the world of secular people. In the course of the book, we will show that it also conflicts with the positions taken in zionist thought with respect to these questions. let us now define several of the key terms. as we wrote, the concept “secularism” implies a view, a position and a content of thought. any concept which fulfills these two criteria will be designated in this book as “secularism.” first: it expresses the modernist ethos that man creates his life autonomously, both as an individual and as a collective. Thus,

— 3—

--------------------------------------------------------------------- InTroducTIon --------------------------------------------------------------------

it rejects the validity of transcendental authority. second: it negates religious tradition as a normative content whose interpretation is in the hands of a monopoly of religious experts. This definition, of course, demands justification. It has two advantages: it suits all the webs of thought cited here, i.e. the main views of Israeli intellectuals; and it provides a solution to the problems they raise. unlike overly abstract definitions — like the identification of secularism with immanence — the conditions for this definition are faithful to the concrete nature of secularism. It does not impose upon it general formulas, but leaves ample room for the polemic element of the secular position as a reaction to certain religious transitions (especially the second condition). another phrase which calls for explanation is what we term spinoza’s “philosophy of culture.” The term “secularism” does not appear in spinoza’s work, nor, certainly, does the term “philosophy of culture.” These do, however, fit the analysis which I attribute to him in my explanation. In my understanding, the special quality of his thought is the great attention he devotes to the consciousness of the masses and their spiritual life. The political philosophy of spinoza has an epistemological and an ontological basis. The establishment of authority and the lack of stability inherent to that authority cannot be understood in isolation from the spiritual traits found among members of society. Thus, spinoza’s philosophy contains a “philosophy of culture” — a broad reflection on the roles of traditions, contents and images in social life and the examination of their relevance for the establishment of rational authority. This is also, as we will show at length, the most productive framework for viewing the problems of Israeli secularism. The order in this book is as follows. In chapter 1, we describe the positions of Israeli intellectuals with respect to the relation of the secular Israeli to Judaism. here we describe three options: “Judaism as a culture”; a position taking exception to Judaism; and “spiritual secularism.” The chapter concludes with a description of the difficulties of each of these options; furthermore, this difficulty is compounded by the fact that this repertoire of options continues what were

— 4—

--------------------------------------------------------------------- InTroducTIon --------------------------------------------------------------------

considered, at the beginning of the 20 th century, to be the solutions expressed by the spiritual zionism. Thus, we come to understand the need for the development of another option. This alternative option is developed in chapters 2 through 5. There we describe the nature of the masses according to spinoza—their spiritual life and the reasons for its instability and passivity. special attention is required to clarify the nature of spinozian secularism: the striving for the formulation of a rational authority and the harnessing of a moderate religious tradition to undergird it. chapter 6 returns to the Israeli reality, and it consists of two parts: the first section describes the nature of the traditionalism in Israel, while the second chapter explains why this option may be considered as an example of spinoza’s proposals and how it may be reconstructed from this philosophical perspective. It is not understood — as is accepted among its researchers — mainly through the religious practices inherent in it, but in epistemological and political categories. These categories enable us to understand “muted” secularism and the profound significance inherent in it. Thus, the intense study of the philosophy of spinoza is the basic foundation of this book: the metaphysical issues in his thought shed light on concrete phenomena in Israeli society. It also enables us to reject more vehemently its accepted secular options.

*** I am very grateful to the Posen foundation which assisted with the writing of the book, and to Ben-Gurion university of the negev, which assisted with its publication.

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--------------------------------------------------------------------- InTroducTIon ---------------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------- chaPTer I

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Three oPTIons for secularIsm In Israel

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----------------------------------------- Three oPTIons for secularIsm In Israel -----------------------------------------

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------------------------------------------------------------------------ I. foreWord -----------------------------------------------------------------------

I. foreWord

Israeli intellectuals are deeply concerned over the potential meaning of Judaism for the Israeli secular public. In the course of their deliberations, they deal with a wide range of topics—the Jewish identity of secular people; the proper place for Jewish studies within the educational system; the Jewish library; the Jewish roots of Israeli culture; the development of non-orthodox Jewish traditional alternatives, such as the traditionalist (masorti) movement, the reform and conservative movements, Judaism as culture, and secular Judaism; the shaping of a Jewish Israeli public space, and more. These intellectuals fear that the secular public, and the entire Israeli society in its wake, have renounced their intellectual assets and, in doing so, their future as well. as pointed out earlier, not all share this view: some intellectuals claim that in order for Israeli society to fully mature, it must cut itself off from its religious heritage, which they view as oppressive. all the intellectuals expressing these views—whether they call for a rapprochement with Judaism or for further distancing—share a common focus, i.e. the potential significance of Judaism for the Israeli secular public. Before describing and analyzing these notions, I would like to propose some preliminary comments. The ideas we will be discussing are part of a lively debate on the Jewish identity of secular Israelis. This debate is not identical to the one on the relations between religion and the state, which is a political issue. What the sides in that conflict seek to clarify is the nature of the threat between the parties and the proper distribution of power. That debate does not attempt to clarify

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----------------------------------------- Three oPTIons for secularIsm In Israel -----------------------------------------

the significance of Judaism for the non-religious public, nor does it attempt to define the nature of any secular position. In other words, the discussions on the relations between religion and state in Israel revolve around the presence of religion — the position of its contents and institutions in Israeli public life. on the other hand, the discussion on the significance of Judaism for the secular public focuses on the meaning of secularism (which is linked to philosophical issues) and on the question of the Jewish identity of secular Jews (which is linked to cultural issues). It is therefore not surprising that this discussion found no place in the public conflicts between the religious and the secular in Israeli society. The opposite is true as well: as the issues linked with the problems of religion and society were linked to power struggles among the parties, the main debate concerned the parties’ demands and their justifications rather than any examination of secularism or of the values of the secular public. moreover, as indicated in the introduction, Israeli culture expresses the secular Jew’s distress as his estrangement from his past — a widespread phenomenon in the spiritual life of Israeli society. This is the subject of numerous essays, songs, and literary works. 1 This distress can be apprehended in a number of ways. The secular person’s limited affinity with tradition is often likened to orphanhood, its main expressions being his ignorance of Judaism and his alienation from the sources of humanistic hebrew culture. a similar claim is that the alienation of the secular from their past relegates Judaism to the ultra-orthodox, thereby damaging the richness of Jewish culture. signs of distress arising from the weakness of the attachment to the past were already manifest during the early years of the state. Two significant examples were Baruch Kurzweil’s book Our New Literature — Continuity or Revolution? and nathan rotenstreich’s essay entitled On Jewish Existence at the Present Time. as is well known, the two authors — one religious and the other secular — were particularly sensitive to the superficiality of Judaism among the secular public. Both sides were concerned that

1 These things are true for the hebrew culture, in general. for an extended analysis of this, see schweid, Three Night Watches. I expanded this point further in the hebrew version of this book. see Katz, Core of Secularism, chapter 10.

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------------------------------------------------------------------------ I. foreWord -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Judaism would have no real significance for Israeli society. This distress is the background for the intellectual ideas discussed in this book, and both those who seek to liberate themselves from the hold of Judaism and those who fear for the destiny of a collective without roots relate to these feelings of distress; it is their reaction to it that sets them apart. Those who call for a rapprochement with Judaism seek to infuse it with new meaning and adapt it to the secular public, while those who wish to liberate themselves from Judaism seek to escape it once and for all and create a post-Jewish collective experience. This chapter has two goals — the first is to present the views of Israeli intellectuals on the relation between secularism and Judaism (for the moment, we will postpone the question of their image of Judaism); this task is more challenging than it seems at first. most of the expressions we will describe are fragmentary in nature; the intellectuals who write on these topics do so because the significance of Judaism for the secular public and for Israeli society concern them personally, even if it is not the main area of their interest or expertise. Thus, their expressions do not generate a broad, comprehensive debate about Judaism or about its potential significance for secular people — they are mostly sporadic expressions of opinion. In order to deal with these sporadic and fragmentary expressions, we need to examine the entire discourse and the types of positions expressed there. By examining several of these positions together, we may more easily identify them as efforts to describe Judaism as a human cultural creation in order to present it as a palatable option for the secular public. This holds true with respect to other positions as well. The second aim of this chapter is to identify the dead-end of the various paths of Israeli secularism, as will be clarified in the last section. for now, we will simply state a few general points. These options exhibit severe weaknesses: one option is foreign to the inclinations of Israeli society; another neutralizes the basic meaning of the Judaism it sets out to investigate; while the third ignores the fact that Judaism — in all its shapes and forms — represents a content shared by the Jewish collective. We will now describe the three options, which will provide a key to understanding the development of the chapter. The first model we will

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----------------------------------------- Three oPTIons for secularIsm In Israel -----------------------------------------

be looking at can be summed up under the slogan “Judaism as culture,” 2 and its main contents are as follows: the ensemble of contents unique to the Jewish people and perceived as having been created by flesh and blood Jews. In Israel, this view of “Judaism as culture” is infused with a national tone, according to which Jewish creations (i.e. works created by Jews) are the property of the nation. The representatives of this model struggle to provide a literary or philosophical interpretation to religious contents and thus account for or strengthen their affinity towards them or their legitimate “ownership” of them. The philosophical ideas that serve as a framework for their interpretations are anthropocentrism and humanism. one can find countless examples of these views; 3 all share the notion that the secular person shapes his life without any transcendental authority, and that he no longer views tradition as content deriving from divine revelation, but rather as the creation of the Jewish people. “Judaism as culture” represents the most important tendency in Israeli society. It is widespread among Israeli intellectuals, politicians and jurists, and within the secular education system. another set of views we will present here claims that secularism implies alienation from Judaism. The arguments put forth by some proponents of this view focus on the ideal individual attitude of the secular person towards his tradition — that the adoption of Jewish contents on the part of secular people conflicts with an honest recognition of their secularism. other intellectuals focus on the public-political sphere. They claim that a genuine secularism requires that that the state of Israel dispense with

2 The attempt to describe Judaism as a culture derives from a long and complex tradition within Jewish thought, including some of the Wissenschaft des Judentums ideas, the ideas of the haskala, and a long list of zionist thinkers (ahad ha’am, zeev Jabotinsky, Berl Katzenelson, micha yossef Berdichevsky, haim nachman Bialik, mordechai Kaplan, and many others). on the history of the notion of Judaism as culture and its various versions, see schweid, Towards. The discussion here focuses on the expressions of this idea among Israeli intellectuals.

3 for example: nathan rotenstreich’s writings on the renewal of the halakha today; menachem Brinker’s claims on the cultural war in Israel; the debates on the teaching of the Bible in Israel and the attempts at analyzing it as a literary work; the attempts to turn the halakha into the basis of Israeli law; and some of the cultural experiments made by the kibbutz movement.

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------------------------------------------------------------------------ I. foreWord -----------------------------------------------------------------------

all religious and Jewish symbols. The intellectuals who voice these ideas present Judaism as a threatening entity which is intrinsically in conflict with political life. These positions figure in the debate on “Israel as a state of all its citizens,” as well as among some of the supporters of a bi-national state or of multiculturalism. The third model to be discussed could be entitled “spiritual secularism.” This model has been gaining popularity in the last decades within so-called “new-age” circles, although it has roots in spiritual zionism (particularly in the work of a.d. Gordon) and in some esoteric ideas from the 1950’s found in the works of yosef schechter and Pinhas sadeh. These views are of a highly religious tone, which is characterized by the striving towards being aware of the “other,” transcendental dimension of life. This dimension, however, does not resemble the transcendental images of accepted religion; in many cases, it is also presented to the individual through an eclectic reservoir of symbols and teachings of various origins, but including Jewish contents, taken mainly from hassidism and the Kabbalah. from the discussion above, it is clear why intellectuals who call for “Judaism as culture” or who express reservations about Judaism address the secular public in Israel. however, how is the last model — “spiritual Judaism” — at all suitable for the world of secular people? The answer derives from the definition which was formulated in the introduction. The spiritual approaches presented above choose contents and symbols from mystical Jewish trends, albeit without granting them any normative significance. What is described in the introduction as one of the characteristics of secularism — the negation of religious tradition as a content whose interpretation lies exclusively in the hands of religious virtuosi — does not vanish as a result of the interest in religious symbols. moreover, such views express the notion of man’s autonomy, as arises from their eclectic nature. In presenting the interested person with a mélange of sources, they actually call upon him to shape his spiritual world for himself. This demand is not limited to a single act of choice; rather, he is required to choose over and over again. In this way, the modernistic view of man as a self-generating autonomous subject makes up for the contents taken from various religious and

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mystical traditions. 4 In any case, the secular nature of these views is not neutralized by the overwhelming presence of mystical symbols and religious contents, because the focus is on the relationship between man and these contents. man is presented as shaping his own spiritual world; what is borrowed from religious tradition is borrowed as a result

of his autonomous choices, and does not express his subordination to

tradition. In fact, the transcendental dimension present in the reservoir of symbols fills a rather passive function; it does not represent any authority empowered to command. It becomes a kind of mirror through which man can identify the depths of his life. as indicated above, thought on the meaning of Judaism for the non-religious public does not originate with Israeli culture — the proponents of spiritual Judaism were deeply involved in it. Therefore,

a presentation of the views of Israeli intellectuals regarding the

significance of Judaism for secular people must include the thoughts

that were expressed in zionism, and which are still perceptible in Israeli intellectual life. This will be discussed at length in the last section of this chapter, its main point being as follows. spiritual zionism reacted

to the break with Judaism in three different ways: in the eyes of yaakov

Klatzkin and, to a great extent, yosef haim Brenner, national revival means that Judaism should not serve as a basis for the identity of the Jewish collective; ahad ha’am’s secular position is based on the annulment of the religious meaning of Judaism, and on the latter’s affirmation as a national culture, which is to be apprehended in secular

categories; 5 and a.d. Gordon presents a paradigm in which the cosmic force of life replaces the transcendental dimension of traditional religion. In this way, Judaism is transcribed as a religious-cosmic content. Klatzkin proposed abandoning Judaism altogether; ahad ha’am formulated Judaism as a form of human tradition; and Gordon, for

4 Both the post-modern approach to truth and the capitalistic market view resonate in this eclecticism. for more on this, see Tavori, New Age in Israel; ruah-midbar, Tarbut; heelas, New Age.

5 This position was also accepted by the supporters of political zionism, although they were opposed to the precedence ahad ha’am granted to Jewish secular culture over social and political action.

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------------------------------------------------------------- II. JudaIsm as culTure ------------------------------------------------------------

his part, attempted to infuse it with a new religious meaning that was not based on traditional divinity. each of these paradigms presented a particular approach to Judaism, which was suitable for those who had turned their backs on religious tradition as a normative system originating in divine revelation. The fact that this repertoire of solutions still prevails in Israeli intellectual life has many implications: if, indeed, we become convinced that the secular paths commonly found in Israeli culture all lead to some type of dead end, we will be forced to reach the conclusion that this dead end did not start with Israeli culture. The roads that were paved within the spiritual world of zionism, the paradigms outlined at the time, all failed. It will then be our duty to reach beyond them and develop a new option.

II. JudaIsm as culTure

as mentioned above the common points shared by the various proponents of “Judaism as culture” lie in the attempt to present Judaism as a human creation whose uniqueness stems from the fact that it was created by Jews. The Bible is perceived as a wonderful literary text; the Jewish way of life embodies moral or other values (not only for ahad ha’am, as we know, but also in the eyes of, for example, a.B. yehoshua and amos oz). 6 In this section, we will examine statements made by Israeli intellectuals on three main topics: the efforts to determine the identity of Judaism as culture as a legitimate alternative to traditional Judaism; the way in which they deal with the consciousness of the break with historical Judaism; and the possibility of expressing this identity in the Israeli public sphere. We will start with menachem Brinker’s article on the limits of the culture war in Israel. In Brinker’s view, the culture war stems from the dispute over Jewish culture, in the contrast between the ways in which

6

I do not presume to present all the relevant theories linked to the “Judaism as culture” approach. What will be missing here—as in academic research in general—is a description of the thoughts on Judaism among the members of the kibbutz movement.

This thinking is interesting not only because of the nature of its participants, but as

a reflection on one of the most intensive attempts in Israeli society at formulating a Judaism geared towards secular people.

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it is perceived by the religious, on the one hand, and by the secular, on the other. he formulates the core of this dispute using the terms “origin” and “originality”: 7

a consistent secular approach emphasizes the fact and the value of

originality, i.e. that every Jew is also a potential source, and not only a

passive tool for the transmission of Jewish culture; a religious-traditional approach, for its part, will emphasize that whoever considers himself as the bearer of Jewish identity takes part in a given culture, which does not originate with him, and which has, according to traditional Jewish faith, an absolute origin. according to the latter approach, Jewish culture

is not a historical adventure, whose future cannot be predicted; one can

distinguish a stable pattern, which is persistent across all its changes and upheavals, and which also shapes the future in advance. This distinction is particularly salient in the attitude of Jewish culture towards its past. for the secular creator of culture, such as Bialik or the Kibbutz movement, for example, the texts, ceremonies and customs of the past are, first and foremost, material that will lead to the making of new creations that will be different, in one way or another, from those of the past. for the guardians of the traditional culture, the texts, religious rituals and customs of the past—at least the main bulk of them—represent binding

models and norms that may not be tampered with.

In the above words, Judaism as perceived by secular people is compared to Judaism as perceived by the religious. The conflict between these two approaches results from their extreme difference:

the secular approach attributes the creation of culture to man, granting importance to the fact of his originality; the religious approach, for its part, attributes the contents to one absolute source. The secular approach is open and dynamic, whereas the religious approach exhibits permanent patterns, and those who maintain it have a passive role. another formulation of this opposition is found in the claim that the past is only raw material for the secular, while for the religious people the past is perceived as a norm which they must maintain. Through these binary oppositions, Jewish culture is presented as an alternative to traditional Judaism. The contents of these pairs of

7 Brinker, Culture War, p. 279.

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oppositions (original versus origin and dynamism versus passivity) express Brinker’s preference for secular culture, and his analysis is an attempt at legitimizing it. This portrayal of secular Jewish culture as dynamic and creative accurately reflects the widespread image of the secular person among Israeli intellectuals. The secular person is presented as someone who does not embrace traditional contents, but as someone who scrutinizes them and shapes them according to his choice. This is, for example, s. yizhar’s main claim, in his famous article entitled “The courage to Be secular” 8 : “The secular person is someone who takes upon himself to be constantly in a revolutionary situation […] thus the secular person

is aware of his duty to decide, constantly, about the issues at stake. The

fact that people once acted as they did is not sufficient reason for us to

act this way today.” 9 Brinker speaks in similar terms, although he uses

a slightly different tone: “a secular person lives by his thought more

than by his instinct of belonging. he comes to terms with the dictates of modernity invoking the absence of a single life-style for all human beings. he demands and, in fact, takes on the freedom of determining for himself and by himself, from his intellectual and psychological sources, what is good and what is bad in his tradition, as in any other human tradition.” 10

The secular person is presented as having set himself free from the bonds of tradition. Thus, we should not be surprised that he is also described as the one who discovers its hidden treasures and, in fact, who saves Jewish tradition from the ongoing repression perpetrated by the orthodox. as put by journalist yakov rabi: 11

during most of diaspora history, and particularly during the hundreds of years prior to the haskala, the path of Jewish heritage was narrow, albeit deep: serving God in two ways—prayer and supplication, fasting and other religious rituals, on the one hand; and the Torah study, on

8 yizhar, Courage, p.75. This rather famous article appeared in the early ‘80s, at a time when the return to religion was widespread within the secular population.

9 yizhar, Courage, p. 75.

10 Brinker, Without Doctrine, p. 57.

11 rabi, Knowing Judaism.

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the other. In other words, Torah study, which is essentially and mainly the oral law, the Talmud or large chunks of it, the debates of abaye and rava, the deliberations of the halakhahair-splitting longwinded debates. only those who left the fold, adopting a so-called bad lifestyle, free of the suffering inflicted by the tyranny of the halakha—expanded the domain of our cultural assets; it was they who enabled the Bible, the Kabbalah and religious philosophy to regain their pride, and clarified and refined the meaning of all Jewish religious contents. These things could take place only within a liberal-scientific, historical-philological or esthetic approach. even halakhic research—the foundation and institution of the rabbinate and learning—was expanded and clarified only outside the confines of the yeshiva and the beit-midrash, under the wings of modern scholars (regardless of whether or not they observed commandments in their private lives) and in academic research centers, seminars and university libraries. Woe unto us as Jews and woe unto Judaism as a cultural system if the orthodoxy of the pious faithful were to continue to rule. 12

This type of argument is the backbone of the claims made by historians, such as Josef dan and amos funkenstein, claiming that they are the keepers of Jewish tradition, and better keepers than the ultra-orthodox. 13 The statements brought forth so far represent the effort to present secular Jewish tradition as an alternative to traditional Judaism. What they imply is the claim that the bearers of this culture should be thought of as the faithful followers of historical Judaism. This issue vaguely expresses the second point we mentioned above — coming to grips with the awareness of the break from traditional Judaism. This issue directly concerns some of the intellectuals writing about these topics, who express opposing views: some speak of the power of this break and, based on this recognition, try to clarify the possibilities open to them; others, on the other hand, claim that this break is non-existent. The words of meir ayali, a member of Kibbutz yifat, are an example of the first position. his fear is that the members of the kibbutz movement will lose their “post-biblical literary-cultural” heritage. 14 In

12 Kedmi, Jewish Identity, p. 62.

13 dan, Collapse; funkenstein, Secular Judaism.

14 ayali, Religious Tradition, p. 20.

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his view, Judaism is fraught with religious symbols and, therefore, “it is absurd to demand from someone whose heart has emptied itself of religious faith to return to the faith.” The possibilities that open to the secular Jew who wishes to return to his sources are the following: “to adopt a purely religious approach and ‘fake’ faith, or to define Judaism as a purely national phenomenon, without any spiritual attributes or specific values.” 15 This dichotomy expresses the awareness of the gulf between the secular person and Judaism. ayali attempts to overcome this by suggesting a third option: “Great spiritual and moral values appeared among this nation and became its heritage, and they are what determined its unique character. They found their expression in numerous cultural creations — not only in the Bible, determined day-to- day behavior and were symbolized in a number of commandments that determined our mentality. can a return, even partial, not be possible for

a person who strips away the trappings of simple faith from all these, a

faith which has also undergone change from generation to generation?” 16

ayali provides further details on his proposal as he proceeds. The contact with the sources of Judaism requires that their spiritual

significance be clarified. In order to do so, we must revert to study as

a basic value, and return to the symbols of Judaism: “By renewing the

existence of these symbols, albeit in a selective way only, we will grant a more Jewish character to our life […] and we will return the missing link from the chain that binds us to generations of our ancestors and branches of our brothers.” 17 It is doubtful if this suggestion of ayali’s provides any real solution — indeed, what return to Judaism can there be for the one who “does away with the trappings of simple faith”? how can selectivity help him in this endeavor? What ayali suggests is, in actual fact, not that different from the dichotomy he finds unsatisfactory. These problems, however, are not of our concern at this point; we only mention them here because they illustrate the difficulty of overcoming the break from religious tradition. Those conscious of this break are reminded of it not only when they reflect on their remoteness from tradition, but also in

15 ayali, Religious Tradition, p. 22.

16 ayali, Where is Honesty? p. 129.

17 Ibid., p. 129.

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their attempts to overcome it. The poet avraham shlonsky presented a totally opposite view. he questioned the fact that the continuity of Judaism represented a unity:

“What continuity is there, for example, between a chapter from amos, or from the song of songs, Job and the Psalms, and ‘the bull that gored the cow’? even from a formal point of view, other than style and syntax, there is, so to speak, no unbroken link between the Bible, the mishna and the Talmud.” 18 This general objection leads shlonsky to claim that the problem of the secular is not the break but, in fact, “the loss of faith in continuity”:

The question of culture is that of the active inheritance. our generation has enjoyed a generous portion of it—because this is the generation of a great tikkun. Whoever does not live today’s events—in the destiny of the world and in the destiny of Israel—as a period of revolution, will never comprehend the theory of the stages of the changes also taking place within us. he will see what is new and claim: “Blasphemy.” he will hear the other and say: tradition is being abandoned. But tradition does not amount to a fixed and stable sum of significant values that need to be maintained—rather, it is a power pushing towards continuation, in which imagination and difference, in their unaggressive opposition, create continuity. To quote lenin: “maintaining a tradition does not mean in any sense being satisfied with it.” 19

shlonsky does not see the secular as having squandered away their tradition, but rather as carrying out, unknowingly, a tremendous revolution within this tradition. The main reason for their distress stems from their lack of understanding of their role, and from the misunderstanding of the dynamic nature that characterizes every tradition. The claim that tradition, by nature, is comprised of a wide range of contents leads many intellectuals to think that they are standing on the threshold of a new Jewish culture whose entire image will only take shape in the future. Therefore, the construction of a continuous and unified Jewish culture is a task that necessarily surpasses their activities and their time period. This same tone is

18 Kedmi, Jewish Identity, p.112.

19 Ibid., p.113.

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also voiced by daniel Ben nahum, a member of Kibbutz mizra, who translated the work of Ber Borochov into hebrew:

a new, integral Jewish culture will develop here, built on the foundations

of Jewish heritage. The ones who were right were those who claimed that this heritage comprised both religious Judaism and the haskalah, as well as the history of emancipation, and even the Bund, with all its mistakes; and spinoza and marx, as well. a new, integral Jewish culture will arise

here, one that is synthetic in the deep sense of the word. how will it grow? This is a question for the generations to come, a very difficult issue. This

is an endeavor that is no less grand and important than the economic

establishment of the Jewish people on productive grounds. The task is

not for us to complete. 20

The words spoken by the people presented above — ayali, shlonsky and Ben nahum — illustrate their opposing views, along the continuum that stretches between secular Judaism and Jewish tradition. some, like shlonsky, feel that secular people are located along this continuum, while others, like ayali, feel that they are outside it; one party emphasizes the existence of the break, whereas the others believe that the awareness of the break shows a misunderstanding of the ways a culture is created. some intellectuals, however, found another way of dealing with the awareness of the break: they attempt to clarify which life experience in Israeli society can best perpetuate Jewish tradition. Their focus is not on a general evaluation of the break from Jewish tradition, but rather on the attempt to clarify how a secular person can connect to tradition. for example, in eliezer schweid’s book, Judaism and Secular Culture, he presents the humanistic secular approach, as well as the potential place of religious contents within it. 21 he opens with the following question:

“Is it not possible to define the notion of secular culture in a positive way, without casting away religious contents that seem positive from the point of view of this culture?” 22 The answer he suggests is based on his evaluation of human life. faith is not meaningless for the non-believer,

20 Ben nachum, Judaism, p.77.

21 schweid, Secular Culture, pp. 221-248.

22 Ibid., p.223.

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as it is “an alternative that interprets the meaning of his decision to take the opposing direction.” 23 Therefore, faith and the absence of faith do not contradict each other; they represent “conjoining spiritual worlds.” 24 choosing one of them throws light on the meaning of the alternative choice: “no human decision is totally devoid of ambivalence. The road not chosen is felt through pangs of pain that we experience at every crossroad.” 25 according to schweid, the secular person can find religious tradition interesting, since through it he can reach a deeper understanding of the significance of his decisions. In other words, the secular person’s affinity with religious contents — with his past, his culture and its various traditions — implies the actual fulfillment of his identity. In this way, the secular person contributes genuine meaning to the world of tradition — a world he can no longer accept in all its simplicity — which becomes part of his consciousness as a secular person. a similar attempt is found in the book On Jewish Existence at the Present Time by philosopher nathan rotenstreich, who suggested an interpretation of the relevance of the halakha in the life of the secular person. The gist of his thought is as follows: the contents of tradition have been expropriated from the regular authority and submitted to the judgment of the individual (the examples of yizhar and Brinker cited above illustrate this point very well); the religious meaning of tradition has gone. What does rotenstreich propose to the secular person interested in tradition? he starts by claiming that the main point of Jewish religious tradition is the halakha rather than the Bible. 26 This claim stems from the role filled by the halakha in the life of the Jewish people in the past, as well as from the contents to be found in it, which are relevant for the modern Jew. In his view, the halakha is what enabled a unified national life to take place in the past. In the present, this unity is achieved through the framework of a sovereign state. This outcome enables a change to take place in the attitude towards

23 Ibid., p. 236.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid., p. 237.

26 rotenstreich, Jewish Existence, p. 51.

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the halakha: rather than looking at it as a unifying factor for life as a nation, one should examine its philosophical importance. 27 how can a renewed affinity with religious Jewish tradition, i.e. with halakha, take place? rotenstreich’s reply is that the halakha tends to judge the present in light of the past. lighting a fire on the sabbath is forbidden; therefore, turning the light on is forbidden today. In other words, the inflexibility of the halakha stems from the fact that it is anchored in the past. 28 The devotion of the modern Jew cannot be attributed to the obedience to the authority of past generations. The inflexibility of the halakha means it cannot serve as a foundation for the perpetuation of tradition, although the ideas it contains can serve as a genuine basis for the modern Jew’s interest in his religious tradition. To quote rotenstreich: “The modern Jew is likely to find reason and justification for his allegiance to Judaism, not because it is a given system, but because it contains ideas and thoughts that are meaningful to him.” 29 What are these ideas that rotenstreich finds in the halakha? modern-day life is based on scientific culture, which abstains from taking a moral stand. In other words, scientific culture measures man according to his ability to act, to turn potential into reality. It does not bother to clarify which potential element would be worth realizing. scientific culture generates a lifestyle that is universal and which the modern Jew is called upon to digress from, in order to fulfill a tradition that is his own. how can religious Jewish tradition serve as the modern Jew’s own tradition and extricate him from the universal culture of science, according to rotenstreich? his answer is that the philosophical ideas invested in a life of halakha call for a critical look at the necessary limitations of “shapeless spontaneity” or “spontaneity without boundaries,” 30 which characterize a science-based lifestyle. What the scientific culture lacks — pointing to the limitations of the fulfillment of possibilities — is a basic principle in the Jewish halakhic life.

27 Ibid., p. 53.

28 Ibid., p. 52.

29 Ibid., p. 53.

30 Ibid., p. 76.

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according to rotenstreich, “The limits of man’s action are determined by scientific and technological knowledge. Jewish tradition, for its part, sets boundaries to man’s action, not determined by the possibilities enabled by his knowledge, but based on the orders incumbent upon him and the responsibility he is required to take upon himself.” 31 Thus, the main idea proposed by rotenstreich is based on the fact that the halakha contains a dimension that is critical of the culture of science. In his view, the adoption of this dimension is a highly significant spiritual act: it has the power to connect the Jew to his tradition and set ethical limitations on the culture of science and technology. The adoption of this critical dimension contained within the halakha is likely to express the main value of secular life — the shaping of human life in an autonomous way, insofar as man fulfills his own sovereignty by imposing limits upon himself. rotenstreich addresses himself to the individual in his attempt to delineate the secular Jew’s relation to Judaism. Judaism can assist the secular person in shaping his spiritual world and nurturing his autonomous life. In this way, according to rotenstreich, he can perpetuate religious tradition, while shaping his secular life. schweid suggests a similar schema — he also addresses himself to the individual. In his view, the contents of religion and a life of faith are relevant for the secular person since they enable him to grasp the significance of his own spiritual decisions as a secular person. In other words, the solutions suggested by rotenstreich and by schweid — if we are willing to consider these as real solutions — are suitable for secular people whose spiritual life is sufficiently vibrant, for those who reflect on their spiritual choices and on their spiritual world. not all Israeli intellectuals address themselves to this group of secular people — some strive to find the relevance of Judaism for wider realms of being, i.e. for Israeli society or for the state of Israel. We will now observe two examples that illustrate this last point. amos oz expresses the secular person’s sense of belonging to Jewish tradition, in the following way: in his view, the culture of the people of Israel is made up of a hodgepodge of contents. “The history of the culture of Israel over the last thousands of years is made up of

31 Ibid., p. 61.

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a series of bitter quarrels […] Jewish culture at its best is a culture

of cooperation, of negotiations, of looking here and there […] It is a spiritual essence which goes hand-in-hand with the idea of democracy like a polyphony — a choir of different voices that are orchestrated

by a system of accepted rules.” 32 and what does this anarchic culture

contain, according to oz? “all that the people of Israel has, all it has accumulated over the generations, what was generated inside as well as what was absorbed from the outside and became a member of the household […] what is in hebrew and what is in other languages. What

is written and what happens outside the written texts.” 33

according to oz, the nature of Jewish culture grants the secular authority a central and vital role. since the halakha rejects variety, the various factions within Judaism cannot coexist without a “secular” authority or a non-Jewish authority. The secular state is the framework that perpetuates the richness and variety of Jewish culture; it maintains the multiple currents and contents as a shared experience. a.B. yehoshua goes one step further, and claims that it is the Israeli state and society that have the power to fully enable the unfolding of Jewish culture. yehoshua’s starting point is that the Jew is defined in two ways — both as member of a nation and of a religion. one of the achievements of zionism is to liberate him from religion and to define him based on his belonging to a nation. on this basis, yehoshua presents a hierarchy between the Jew and the Israeli: the Jew always represents a partial way of life, whereas the Israeli represents the full measure of the Jewish

experience within a binding framework. “The word ‘Israeli’ represents a total Jewish lifestyle […] This totality stems first of all from living within

a specific territory, which is the main basis for identity; from a popular

language, and from a well-defined lifestyle and society, which is called

upon to provide answers for each individual within its framework.” 34 how does the Jewish way of life come about as part of the Israeli way of life? yehoshua’s answer is that the person living in the diaspora cannot realize his Jewish values within his life’s frameworks. The Judaism of

32 oz, All the Hopes, p. 43.

33 Ibid., p. 48.

34 yehoshua, In Praise of Normality, p. 126.

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the Israeli is fuller — he can express his Jewish values within the Israeli experience. This is how he illustrates this point: 35

Is an Israeli jail, for example, managed according to the system of Jewish values? This is a real question. When Idf soldiers keep combat ethics, Jewish values are strengthened; but when Idf soldiers commit atrocities — Jewish values collapse. There is no longer any separation between a closed spiritual world, where ideas are discussed, and reality, where this is irrelevant. large sections of our spiritual heritage were only theoretical, and the fascinating and painful thing in Israeli reality is the exposure of theory to life.

yehoshua’s ideas represent an attempt to explain how Israeli society, which is of a secular nature, can express Jewish tradition. In the description we provided here, his position is close to oz’s position: both characterize Judaism in some way (pluralism, ethics) and designate Israeli society — a society of Jews organized within a political life that is unique to them — as the framework in which it can be expressed. until this point, we have been examining a number of Israeli intellectuals who express, in various ways, the idea of “Judaism as culture.” These intellectuals present Jewish culture as an alternative to Jewish tradition, and attempt to explain how the former is a continuation of the latter. This is what all of them attempt to do: by juxtaposing the opposing terms “source” and “originality,” Brinker opposes Jewish culture to religion in general; rotenstreich claims that the secular person’s delving into the halakha will serve as a source for the formulation of norms within a scientific culture; shlonsky believes that the revolution taking place in this generation is part of Jewish tradition as a whole; while yehoshua aims at realizing Jewish values within the Israeli experience. These intellectuals did not focus on what the Jewish people created in the course of the process of secularization as the basis for the identity of the secular Jew. This focus, which is exceptional within the discourse of Israeli intellectuals, is the key purpose of the secular encyclopedia New Jewish Time (Zman Yehudi Hadash), an enterprise that aims at

35 Ibid., p. 133.

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strengthening the identity of the secular Jew. What is proposed to the secular person who consults it is not a transcription of Judaism as a culture, but rather the creation that developed in the course of the “new Jewish Time.” This is what the initiator and editor of the project, yair Tzaban, writes in the introduction to the project volumes. he writes about the famous meeting between david Ben Gurion and rabbi yeshaya Karelitz (the chazon Ish), in which secularism was spoken of in terms of an “empty cart.” Tzaban expresses his surprise at the fact that, in voicing his defense of secularism, Ben Gurion spoke of the settling of the land, of its building and development, but did not emphasize the “achievements of the new Jewish culture, particularly of the hebrew culture, in all its aspects.” 36 according to Tzaban, another example of the disregard for the secular culture is the absence of the word “secularization” or “secularism” from the Hebrew Encyclopedia. This leads him to the conclusion that underlies the foundation of the project of this encyclopedia: “The public that defines itself as secular should learn about the meaning of secularism, and how the processes of modernization and secularization unfolded in our nation and in other nations.” 37 ahad ha’am, of course, was the first to voice the idea of compiling an encyclopedia that would incorporate all the knowledge necessary for the construction of the identity of the secular Jew. This notion was behind his writing The Treasury of Judaism (which, ironically, was finally published in russian) Thus, the idea of compiling the New Jewish Time stems from ahad ha’am’s thought: the secular person should try to overcome his difficulties by compiling texts that build his identity and by familiarizing himself with them. however, the difference between the two projects is significant: ahad ha’am sought to encompass all of Jewish tradition, as familiarity with the works of people of ancient times was a central axis in the creation of the non-religious Jew. The writers of the New Jewish Time disagree with this view; they strive to define the secular Jew’s identity on the basis of secular Jewish culture. 38

36 yovel, New Jewish Time, p. XI.

37 Ibid., p. XI.

38 see Jobani, Models of Secularism.

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What is the significance of this change? What does the focus on modernity — or perhaps, confining oneself to modernity — teach us regarding the strengthening of the secular person’s identity? naturally, one can look at is as an expression of the secular public’s growing self-confidence as it generates its own culture. The process of secularization undoubtedly involves tearing oneself away painfully from Jewish tradition; over the course of the generations, however, there has been an accumulation of rich cultural creation in all realms of life — literature, thought, ways of life, politics, and more — which is deep enough to enable the secular person to take root in it. The focus on secular culture can also be a kind of acknowledgement of the futility of the attempts to rewrite traditional Judaism as a culture. This project most likely implies that the attempts on the part of ayali, rotenstreich, schweid, Brinker, rabi, and of many others who are not mentioned here, have failed. The contents of Judaism are religious contents; as such, they settle easily into the heart of the simple believer. removing the religious significance from these contents has turned them into artificial symbols, fraught with explanations and justifications, and they are no longer indispensable. locking oneself up within secular creativity thus expresses a sign of this disappointment. It could also illustrate the two possibilities that were just mentioned: given the self- confidence of the secular culture, the editors of the encyclopedia do not hesitate to abandon the pointless efforts of rewriting traditional Judaism as a culture.

III. reserVaTIons aBouT JudaIsm

The views presented in this section share the call to dispense with Judaism as the basis for the identity of secular Jews, both at the individual level as well as at the level of society. This claim is not new: as we remember, yaakov Klatzkin expressed it very strongly. he believed that religion, which helped the Jewish people survive both spiritually and in its political life, has vanished forever; therefore, the Jewish people recreate itself on the basis of secular elements — a shared territory and the hebrew language. another more familiar expression of the alienation from Judaism is linked to the group of the “young

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hebrews” (best known by the derogatory name “The canaanites,” coined by avraham shlonsky). This group included yonathan ratosh and adia horon, the linguist uzi ornan, the poet aaron amir, the historian and journalist Boaz evron, the journalist and public figure uri avneri, and others. one expression of the young hebrews’ sharp disagreement with Judaism appeared in aaron amir’s article in Aleph, the movement’s journal, in 1950: 39

Judaism in its entirety, all the values and creations of its history’s tradition, is foreign to the generation of its youth, the sons of the land (bnei ha’aretz), not because they have grown to hate the teachers or as a consequence of a defective teaching method; rather, it has become foreign in spite of those who strove to make them love Judaism. It is essentially foreign to them because the social reality which they come from and into which they are growing is naturally and essentially opposed to the Jewish experience. It is strange to them because they are strangers to it.

all the members of the young hebrews shared these reservations concerning Judaism. They also believed that Jewish heritage was retarding the formation of an Israeli nation. however, all the persons mentioned here did not share the same view on every topic; for ratosh, horon and amir, Judaism should be rejected in favor of a primeval hebrew culture, which they hoped to return to as the basis for the identity of the immigrant society that would crystallize in Israel. This culture, however, was not the final destination for intellectuals such as avneri — he followed ratosh’s trend by rejecting Judaism, but drew away from the latter’s cultural visions and called for the creation of a hebrew collective, which would blend into the political space surrounding it, and whose identity would be shaped entirely within a secular-national framework. The importance of the approaches mentioned above — both that of Klatzkin and that of the young hebrews and their followers — does not lie in their impact on the public, nor in their adoption by intellectuals:

Klatzkin’s analyses of the loss of Judaism have been forgotten; the visions of ratosh and his friends about the “new hebrew” drew few

39 Gretz, The Canaanite Group, p.5.

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followers and certainly did not develop into a politically significant ideology — the details of these approaches have become dim and their plans seem like naïve daydreaming. The claim contained in these approaches, however, gave rise to a certain option within the ongoing debate on the future of Judaism among Israelis. In other words, those who believe that in order for Israeli society to crystallize it must cut itself off from Judaism are not formulating a new claim. This option has many predecessors, who grant those calling for alienating oneself from Judaism a certain historical and ideological depth. We will now expand several of these ideas. as we proceed, we will be able to see that the reservations concerning Judaism were shared by intellectuals who are very distant from one another: zionists, who fear for the secular future of the state of Israel (such as Gershon Weiler and yigal elam); the perpetuators of the canaanite idea (Boaz evron, uzi ornan); and anti-zionists who strive to eradicate from Israeli society nationalist myths that originate in Judaism (adi ofir). The reader will also notice that a secular philosopher (Gilad Bareli) and an orthodox philosopher (yeshayahu leibovitz) both claim that the religious meaning of Judaism is unaccessible to the secular person who strives to acquaint himself with it. 40 a partial characterization of the model of the views we will be calling “reservations about Judaism” can be found in charles liebman’s article on the culture wars in Israel. 41 In this article, liebman distinguishes between two secular cultures present in Israeli intellectual life — the first he calls “Jewish secularism” (which can serve as the general term for the secular cultures that maintain a positive link with Judaism); the second, which is alienated from Judaism, liebman links with “Western post-modern consumer culture.” This is how he describes it:

“This culture is, at best, indifferent to Jewish tradition and in certain aspects, even hostile to it. at the level of the individual, its most extreme supporters avoid celebrating any Jewish tradition or ceremony.

40 This last example shows us that, although this chapter deals with the secular thinkers, the nature of their thought is not determined exclusively by their personal identity. We limit ourselves to this group because it suffices for the drawing of a schematic picture of the Israeli debate on the meaning of Judaism for the secular public.

41 liebman, Culture War.

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Its extreme political expression is post-zionism, i.e. the objection to the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish state.” 42 liebman believed that this trend was prominently represented in the media and among academics in the humanities and social sciences departments. In characterizing the nature of this culture, he quoted ha’aretz journalists. for example, Gideon samet described secularism as an experience superior to nationalism: “The new language is made up of new forms of consumption of culture and leisure, which are transnational. This is the case, for example, in popular music, cinema, travels abroad, fashion, and even in the way people talk.” 43 orit shohat writes that “from that day [when rabin was murdered] onwards, Israeli society should have split, primarily based on this criterion: democrats on one side, and all the others on the opposite side; democrats versus royalists (david’s royalty which is being renewed in hebron), democrats versus fascists, democrats versus the religious.” 44 We will now turn to more detailed expressions of reservations about Judaism, in which the renunciation of Judaism is presented as the conclusion of an analysis — examples of this can be found in the writings of post-zionist intellectuals. In his book The Work for the Present, adi ofir analyses the secular people’s use of texts from the religious tradition. 45 he devotes one chapter to the Passover haggadah, opening with a question pertaining to the unique status of this text for the secular public, most of whom read the Passover haggadah on the night of the seder. This is highly surprising, for a number of reasons: the text is not easily accessible to the average Israeli reader — the language is difficult and the text is made up of an assemblage of pieces, which makes it hard to understand; contrary to many other religious ceremonies that are celebrated by secular people (such as circumcisions, bar mitzvahs, and weddings), the haggadah is not read under the auspices of a religious figure who leads the ceremony and determines its contents — in other words,

42 Ibid., p. 9.

43 samet, Advance One Class.

44 shochat, Fascist Ecology.

45 ofir, Present.

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secular family members read the haggadah of their own free will; and in Israeli culture, and particularly in Kibbutz society, attempts have been made at creating alternative, secular Passover haggadot. The secular person could have chosen texts which he feels closer to and which reflect his own world. Why then are secular people attached to the Passover haggadah? ofir attempts to answer this question by looking at its core significance. In general terms, his claim is that “one can identify the entire structure of a discourse that revolves around the opposition between the Jew and the Gentile, whose main outline has been preserved, not only in the rabbinical discourse but also in the secular nationalistic discourse, which rebelled against it and tried to replace it.” 46 The aim of this discourse is to organize Jewish self-consciousness and the Jewish historical experience as it has been experienced throughout the generations. 47 according to ofir, the links between Israel and the other nations are shaped along the plot which is told in the haggadah. Its main lines are as follows: the Gentiles oppress the people of Israel; the people of Israel turns to its God, who responds to this call by humiliating the oppressive Gentile. as stated, this narrative determines the Jewish people’s self-consciousness, and is ahistoric in status:

The entire history of Israel is the history of the descent from egypt, enslavement in egypt and the exodus from egypt. henceforth, Israel has no history, only stories whose beginning and end are foreknown, since they are generated as analogies to the first and last historical event, ‘history’ with a capital ‘h’. henceforth, each story will be a reflection of the first story and will serve as a concretization, at different times and in various places, of the eternal return of the paradigm: Israel/Gentile/God .48

The call for the release from these texts is the conclusion drawn from the analysis of the politico-cultural function of Jewish sources, which have caused tremendous damage. The narratives they formulate nurture Israeli nationalism, and particularly the notion that peace

46 Ibid., p. 53.

47 Ibid., p. 85.

48 Ibid., p. 102.

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threatens the existence of the Jewish people. The danger such sources entail is particularly severe because they are shared by the various camps of Israeli society, both religious and secular. What does ofir suggest should be done? one suggestion is “to maintain at all costs the threatening presence of the Gentile and the fundamental role of every external threat that is perceived as an expression of essential otherness.” another way, which ofir believes best describes his proposal, is to try to liberate the discourse or change it. 49 In ofir’s case, the alienation from Judaism is justified as a way to “liberate the discourse.” other justifications for the desired liberation from Judaism are found in the works of sociologist uri ram. In his view, hebrew secular nationalism contains a blurred or repressed form of Judaism — this must be the case, since Judaism is what justified its act of colonization. however, democracy and the secular values underlying this secular nationalism clash with the presence of Judaism in Israel. ram describes this conflict as follows:

secularism implies the recognition of the absence of any given meaning in the world. freedom implies generating meaning out of free will. democracy is a form of regime that is based on secular freedom. There is a basic contradiction between a democratic regime and collective faith, whether it is defined as religion or as nation (naturally, religion and nation can coexist in a democratic regime, however the latter cannot exist within a religious or nationalist commitment). religion and nationalism strive to mold the individual existential “void” according to the fixed patterns—which are invented every now and again—of collective memory: whether through following the commandments and believing in an eternal omnipotent God, or by striving towards a unique national-historical goal, like the “values” which principals instill in the minds of young children in dark totalitarian countries, God forbid. In order to maintain a democratic life, i.e. a secular and free life, a clear and deliberate act of ‘forgetting’ must be initiated .50

Thus, the strong claim for alienation from Judaism stems from the contradiction which ram sees between Judaism on the one hand, and

49 Ibid., p. 56.

50 ram, In Praise of Forgetting, p. 357.

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democracy and the secularism which underlies it, on the other. he thus offers the reader three possibilities:

In Israel, a cultural struggle is taking place over collective memory, both theoretically and concretely. It is a struggle between three main historical approaches: the national approach to history, which contains the unsolved contradiction between democracy and Judaism; the nationalistic approach to history, which solves this contradiction by renouncing a democratic future; and the civic approach to history, which solves this contradiction by renouncing the ethnic past. This is a struggle taking place between a past which calls for burying the future and a future which calls for burying the past. The choice is: a tormented past or a reasonable future .51

It is clear to the reader which possibility ram favors: Judaism is an obstacle to the creation of a democratic and secular future for Israeli society, and it is essential that it be renounced. The intellectuals presented in this section are post-zionists — their dissociation from zionist ideology is perceptible even in the short extracts cited in this section. The dissociation from Judaism, however, is not limited to these circles; this conclusion is arrived at through a variety of different and even conflicting arguments, including those marshaled by persons who identify deeply with the zionist enterprise. Philosopher Gershon Weiler is one such example. In his view, the Jewish halakha is in fundamental conflict with the state as a secular entity:

The halakha recognizes only slaves. It recognizes no national will; it relies on the slave’s will whose aim it is to please his master. There is no room in the halakha for the citizen who is free to choose his lifestyle within the framework of laws that he legislates by way of his freely elected representatives. hence, it is diametrically opposed to the principles that inspire the state, and his life as a person and as a citizen. Perhaps the position of the halakha is that a person need not be a citizen at all; this is the problem of the halakha. The problem of the state is that a person cannot be a citizen and the slave of a being whose representatives claim his supreme authority. 52

51 Ibid., p. 349.

52 Weiler, Theocracy, p. 291.

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Weiler knows very well that his claims about the halakha are but one of its many aspects (he even indicates this prominently in his book, on the text appearing on the back cover). his position, however, that Judaism is dangerous for the state of Israel because of the tension that exists between its basic values and the secular state, is based on the recognition of one of halakha’s aspects. In his view, the mere presence of this trend in Judaism endangers the state of Israel. historian yigal eilam expresses a similar view of the struggle between the state and Judaism, and thus his book is entitled “The end of Judaism.” 53 Weiler and eilam’s views differ greatly from those of ofir and ram. The differences between them are reflected in the nature and intensity of their dissociation from Judaism. for ofir, for example, Judaism mutilates the Israeli, in the sense that it contributes to his holding of distorted views; it is at the root of nationalism and stirs up war. In Weiler’s opinion, Judaism as the religion of halakha undermines the existence of the state. In spite of the differences between them, these intellectuals express a shared view: Judaism is perceived as an ensemble of contents which, given what they are, endanger the values of secular life. We will now turn to the last example of the representatives of the position we called “reservations about Judaism.” We are referring to the provocative article written by philosopher Gilad Bareli, entitled “on the secularized study of Torah.” 54 Bareli directs his claims — and, in fact, his criticism — at the cultural phenomenon of the spread of the study of religious texts among secular people (whether it is the Talmud, the agadah, traditional biblical exegesis, etc.) This learning takes place in secular batei midrash and in colleges, such as alma. In his article, Bareli defines the secular person as follows: “[he] is not a person who considers himself as exempt from the fulfillment of religious obligations, but someone who does not recognize these obligations or the source of their validity in any way; he does not recognize them because, for him, they are groundless, which is why they are obligatory for no one. from his point of view, they are not obligations which, for some reason, are not applicable to him or from which he is exempt: they

53 eilam, The End of Judaism.

54 Bareli, The Study of Torah, pp. 9-23.

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are not obligations at all — neither with respect to their contents, nor with respect to their validity.” 55 The aim of Bareli’s article is to show that this secular person — someone for whom the basic concepts of Judaism are meaningless — is a stranger to Judaism. even if he desires, the religious contents are inaccessible to him. Bareli’s central assumption is borrowed from russell’s and frege’s philosophy of language — more specifically, the claim according to which understanding of any content depends on the conditions in the world and on previous assumptions: “The very existence of a content […] and the possibility of it being understood depend on the presence of specific concrete conditions in the world […] in such a way that it is doubtful that whoever rejects them can, in a coherent way, hold on to the possibility of grasping these contents.” 56 since the secular person, according to Bareli, is not someone who rejects the existence of God, but someone who rejects the meaning of the concept of God — he cannot understand texts that revolve around this and similar concepts:

What can the totally secular person understand when studying the midrashim on the Vision of the chariot and the creation, the laws pertaining to prayer and intention, sacrifices and sacred things. all of these are imbued with religious concepts which, in order to be understood, call for the acceptance of a system of presuppositions, beliefs, and a way of life; they are based on behavioral patterns and the experiences they imply, which are entirely foreign to the totally secular person, who denies and rejects them .57

In other words, the secular person, if indeed he is genuinely secular, the “totally secular person,” in Bareli’s language, must reject any study of religious contents as such, or he must admit that he is not secular in the full sense of the term. one way or another, genuine secularism and any approach to Judaism as a collection of religious contents are two contradictory possibilities. The genuine secular person must avoid

55 Ibid., p.10.

56 Ibid., p.15.

57 Ibid., p. 17.

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studying Judaism; naturally, he can study it as historical material or as an ensemble of cultural expressions, but Judaism as a religion is inaccessible to him. although this chapter deals with the positions of secular intellectuals, we should deviate for a moment from this frame in order to take a look at the deep similarity between Bareli’s claims and yeshayahu leibowitz’s position. In one of his articles, leibowitz responded to the question as to how the secular person could celebrate the Jewish holy days. 58 he claimed that there are two ways of understanding the Jewish holy days:

as “permanent formulas expressing service to God, which are imposed upon man” or “as human-popular institutions, which were meant to fulfill the needs of man or of the nation.” This dichotomy is essential for leibowitz’s categorical analysis: “The entire meaning of the holy day lies in its religious content, and any cancellation of this content (which is often euphemized as ‘innovation of content’) is nothing more than the annulment of the meaning of the holy day and its transformation into a pointless festival, devoid of any value or meaning.” Therefore, the Jewish holy days are necessarily foreign to secular people. In a nutshell, it is impossible “to bring free young people to the traditional holidays.” The traditional holy days have no meaning for them and, therefore, “a person cannot feel any affinity towards them, if he does not take upon himself the yoke of the heavenly Kingdom.” leibowitz leaves no possibility of affinity with the Jewish holy days — and with tradition, in general — for the secular person. for him, religion has meaning only for the one who believes in its divine origin; the secular person must alienate himself from it if he intends to remain secular. until this point, we have cited a number of claims made by Israeli intellectuals, all of whom reach the conclusion that the secular person and his world are in conflict with Judaism. The reader may claim that the inclusion of these intellectuals in the same category — Klatzkin, the canaanites, ofir, ram, Weiler, and Bareli — distorts their work, and puts forth a single position entitled ‘reservations about Judaism’ by ignoring or blurring the differences between these figures. This claim must be rejected for two reasons. firstly, although it can be assumed

58 leibowitz, Faith, pp. 67-69.

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that Gershon Weiler had a more positive attitude towards Judaism than uri ram, he invested much intellectual effort into clarifying the dangers of Judaism for the existence of the secular state, rather than on delineating a possible meaning of Judaism for secular people. Weiler’s warm feelings towards Judaism are, therefore, outside the realm of our discussion. naturally, our study is limited to the contents of the remarks made by these intellectuals, rather than to their full understanding in light of the authors’ identity or personality. secondly, the differences between the intellectuals do not annul the fact that they reach a common conclusion. This conclusion — reservations about Judaism — is of considerable public significance; therefore, if an intellectual holds this view, we should consider it, rather than the justifications he brings to support it, as sufficient basis for characterizing that view.

IV. sPIrITual JudaIsm

over the last few years, Israeli culture — and many other cultures in the West — has been marked by a blossoming of the new age trend, which includes familiarization with oriental meditation techniques, numerology, alternative therapy methods, esoteric teachings, ecology, and even Judaism — mainly the Kabbalah. as indicated at the beginning

of the chapter, this eclecticism is an essential feature of the new age:

it enables the individual to express his selfhood, as well as the modern

ethos of man as a self-fashioning subject. The individual explores the various possibilities, “meanders” among them regularly, and chooses according to his taste. These trends — and, apparently, their predecessors as they appeared in Israeli culture of the late 1950s — can be characterized as follows: unlike the secular positions described above, here the Jewish

contents are not voided of religious meaning; while “God” still refers to

a transcendental being, this does not imply an acceptance of tradition

or a return to it. religious tradition, as perceived by the bearers of spiritual culture, has no collective meaning, and its interpretation is

not given to the rabbis. In fact, God no longer serves as a source of authority with the power to guide the believer through life, but as a being whose presence is mysterious. Thinking about this presence is

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likely to rescue man from the sphere of his everyday life, where his soul dwells in exile, and help him discover “another dimension” of his life. religious symbols are thus integrated into a project whose main focus is to help man discover his individuality, and to discover the divine within him. In other words, as mentioned above, the representatives of this trend seem to have nothing to do with our topic of interest; those advocating a “spiritual” path towards Judaism seem to represent a religious current that has nothing in common with the world of secular people. But how then are we to understand why most representatives of

these trends are perceived as secular and that their readers and students are also identified as such? Perhaps this reflects the superficiality of the secular-religious classification or, more precisely, the flaws in the use of the term “secular”? I do not think so. spiritual trends proliferate among the secular public because some of their key values reflect the secular way of life: they perceive religious contents as raw material for the fulfillment of the idea of autonomous human life. religious contents are not perceived as a call to respond to the commands of a God who reveals himself to his people and whose will is transmitted through a common and binding tradition; rather, the divinity and its presence are more like a resonating box through which it is possible for the individual to feel his individuality, as well as the depth of his life, rather than ordering a specific lifestyle. The secular nature of the spiritual approaches is determined on the basis of the role played by religious contents, and is not undermined by their presence. We will now investigate these approaches through the prism of the world of several such intellectuals, beginning with Pinchas sadeh in the late 1950s. In the last two decades of his life, sadeh was deeply involved

in editing and publishing religious texts for the secular public, including

a collection of prayers, and collected stories about rabbi nachman

of Breslov and the Ba’al shem-Tov. his interest in and admiration for Judaism were very uncharacteristic of his early days: in his well- known book Life as a Parable, published in 1958, he sharply criticizes Judaism, highlighting its flaws. This followed the rejection of his first published collection of poems, Masa Dumah. sadeh characterizes the critics’ coldness towards these poems as a misunderstanding, which he explains as follows: “I don’t think that the misunderstanding towards

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me was accidental. I think it had — and still has — a deep reason. I believe that the reason lies in the fact that the Jew […] is essentially non-religious, whereas I am essentially religious.” What is the meaning of “religious” for sadeh? “The supreme value in my world is the soul, which God created in all its uniqueness, and to whom he gave every fruit of the Gardens’ trees to eat, and every animal and fish to rule over. The world is the soul’s landscape.” 59 Judaism, on the other hand, is a collective and suffocating religion — in fact, not a religion but the oppression of the religious feeling. sadeh explains this as follows:

how can something that is not individual be religious? life, which is God’s world, is directed towards the individual! But do Jewish religious texts contain any recognition of the individual? do they include any hint of the soul’s everlasting nature? Judaism could only understand the notion of redemption as social redemption, because it understood guilt only in terms of social, criminal guilt; Judaism never gave birth […] to any real genius in literature, philosophy or art unless the individual, by accident or as a result of persecution, sought beyond its borders. […] Judaism is irony, politics, vulgarity, nullity, science, materialism, i.e. everything that seals the source of life, that freezes the heart and shuts any door leading to the Kingdom of heaven; it is the enemy of greatness, of love, of longing, of charm, of the real sin, of truth itself.

What characterizes sadeh’s world throughout his oeuvre is his unequivocal reduction of religion to the individual’s attachment to God, and his indifference and even outright mockery towards any broader social context. In his view, life is the story of the individual facing God:

“man is a cosmic being, he exists within the infinite, i.e. within God; he is not a social being, he does not exist within the city or the state.” 60 his faithfulness to himself echoes nietzsche’s motive of “self-creation,” which sadeh presents as an act of religious significance: “I want to be faithful to life. This is my criterion. I have no other way of coming into contact with God […] only through life […] this is the only contact I have with the divinity, of which I know nothing, and this I want to express.” 61

59 sadeh, Life as a Parable, p. 185.

60 Ibid., p. 414.

61 Ibid., p. 36.

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as mentioned above, sadeh’s deep interest in Judaism, particularly in hassidism, in the final period of his life, does indicate a change in his religious world. What sadeh found at the start of his journey in thinkers such as friedrich nietzsche, friedrich hölderlin, and herman hesse, he found in old age in hassidic works and in the corpus of Jewish prayers, as is witnessed through his project of editing Jewish books. as we recall, sadeh edited these books for the secular public. his role as mediator was the creation of a rapprochement between the secular, who had become estranged from the spiritual world, and the language and contexts of those books. Through his editing and in the essays he appended to them, he granted them a new meaning, expressing secular values. for example, his editing work made the prayer book (Aneni [“answer me”] — A Selection of Prayers and Religious Poems of the People of Israel, from the Covenant of the Pieces to The Present Day) into a series of poems whose common denominator was the potential link between them and the individual’s world. sadeh states this clearly in the epilogue:

naturally, I had no specific intention of giving this book the shape, even if partial and limited, as a prayer book or a mahzor [festival prayer book], which is why I made my choice without any obligation to normative values. for example, I did not include the amidah [the 18 daily blessings] although, from the normative point of view, it is the fundamental prayer in the prayer book; of course, as such, it has become rote. What I chose was what evoked in me a feeling of wonder, of magic, of respect, a sense of “how awesome is this place” or “how beautiful is this place.” In other words, my true interest was in prayer as an expression of individual faith, of mental enlightenment or spiritual creation. as for the social or psychological role of prayer […]—that did not interest me in the least.

In spite of his religious state of mind, sadeh assumes that religious tradition is raw material subject to his judgment and taste. The fundamental justification for the choice of certain texts is the extent to which it corresponds to the world of the individual. These elements — if we return to the example we cited above — stand out in the personal essays included in the book Aneni. Personal moments in sadeh’s life shed light on the prayers; the meaning attached to them is in fact their power to express the murmurs of sadeh’s soul,

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as is all great poetry. What, then, is the difference between sadeh and the representatives of “Judaism as culture”? Those intellectuals seek to infuse Jewish contents with new meaning, having rejected their religious meaning. In their world, God has lost his status as superior transcendent being and becomes a kind of “literary hero.” sadeh, on the other hand, cleaves to God; in his world, however, God becomes a means towards sensing one’s own unique existence. The individual’s truthfulness in relation to himself, his uncompromising self-fashioning — this nietzschean tendency is expressed in a religious tone. To this tendency he adds the expropriation of tradition from the hands of religious authorities: the Jewish books which sadeh edits are not presented to the reader as part of a religious tradition expressing God’s will, as interpreted by accepted figures of authority; they are presented as spiritual works that have the power to generate “spiritual enlightenment, spiritual creation.” Thus, the ideas found in the forewords to the books edited by sadeh are expressions of the secular ethos of the individual who creates his own world. This ethos is reflected in the individual choice of the contents of tradition; vowels and punctuation are not the only things that render these texts comprehensible to secular people — they simply make them more accessible. What actually makes them more understandable is the individualistic approach to them, through which the secular project of self-fashioning is expressed using religious language; thanks to these ideas, it is clear and even obvious to sadeh that his work is suited for secular people: “It seemed to me like I was taking someone, who was locked up inside some ultra-orthodox ghetto — I’m referring to rabbi nachman — to bring him to the secular reader so that the latter would be able to read him, just like he’d read secular masterpieces like Pascal or Tristan and Isolde.” 62 another intellectual expressing a spiritual approach is writer and educator yosef schechter. as a Bible teacher at the re’ali school in

62 reuveni, Interview, p. 61. naturally, the assumption that these books were geared for secular people was not sadeh’s alone; he published them through publishing houses directed towards secular people (carta, schoken). The editors working for these publishing houses shared in his assumptions by agreeing to publish these books, as did the secular people who purchased them.

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haifa, schechter gathered around him a group of youngsters who were involved in spiritual study. Towards the end of the 1960s, some of them went on to establish yodfat, a settlement in the Galilee. schechter never moved there but the yodfat residents continued corresponding and meeting with him, and he came to stay with them several times a year. 63 The main idea emphasized by schechter in his writings is that God exists in man’s soul — or “the divine in man,” as he calls it. man’s goal is to identify this dimension of his existence, which he tends to forget in his everyday life. In other words, religious life is characterized by a constant awareness of the fact that man lives on two planes: on the psychological-biographical-social plane, and on the plane of “internal meaning,” whose discovery schechter and his students called “internal work.” The plane of “internal meaning” is the bridge between the world of Torah and our contemporary world, so that instead of saying “I believe” (ani ma’amin), one should say “I am aware.” schechter explains the principles of Judaism for his contemporaries and replaces “I believe” by “I am aware,” as follows:

I am aware of the fact that within myself there is a plane of life other than the plane on which I make do in my daily life at home, at work, etc., and it is the plane on which I become aware of the meaning of my life; I am conscious of the fact that I need to rediscover this meaning constantly; I am conscious of the fact that there is a divine force whose radiation I feel in situations of love, vital spontaneity, responsibility, etc.; I am conscious of the fact that the meaning of my life lies in the wholeness that is in the present; insofar as memories from the past and expectations for the future strengthen this wholeness, I use them. 64

similar to what takes place today in new age circles, schechter suggests that Judaism is one among many spiritual contents. he strives to illustrate the similarities between hassidism and various foreign teachings. In his view, the teachings that call for “internal work” and those that call for man’s improvement (tikkun) share a common denominator. This emerges from the numerous explanations

63 Tadmor, The Divine in Man.

64 Ibid., p. 148.

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he provided his students regarding the meaning of the commandments or other Jewish contents. In answer to the question as to whether there is a parallel to the mantra in Judaism, he replied that in Judaism there is a visual mantra: “I have set the lord always before me.” 65 In an article he wrote on “The Phylacteries from a symbolic Point of View” (1976), 66 he indicated that “the phylactery placed on the head symbolizes human awareness, willfulness, and man’s intention” and added that its place between the eyes represented the center, as mentioned in Indian and chinese literature. When asked about the importance of the link with oriental doctrines, he answered: “In our technological and bureaucratic world, most people have distanced themselves from God as well as from the god inside themselves, and these methods are designed to bring individuals and groups closer to the divine within themselves. With the assistance of these methods, any Jew can achieve partial understanding of hassidism, understand the shabbat and yom Kippur from an internal aspect, and may be enabled to seriously advance towards internalizing Judaism as a whole.” 67 Through all these explanations, schechter tried to bring his students closer to Judaism, albeit without leading them towards becoming observant. This he viewed as unacceptable, since it was an extreme reaction to “the ignorance of the religious, internal aspect. In reaction to this, people started leading extreme ritualistic lives. This return to religion has a destructive aspect, it has a measure of superficiality, of fashion. It’s for the masses.” 68 schechter opposes superficiality and the masses to internality and the individual. following the rabbis and adopting “extreme rituals” are not the desirable path for man to follow in nurturing his spiritual world. In his view, Judaism is part of the discovery of “the divine within man”; “internal work” has no source of authority outside the individual who discovers his hidden existence, the divine within him. What expresses the autonomist ethos of the individual is the eclectic nature of the spiritual tendency, thanks to which secular people can accept it as part

65 Ibid., p. 85. (The biblical citation is based on the King James translation).

66 Ibid., p. 247.

67 Ibid., p. 306.

68 Ibid., p. 302.

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of their world. The student is exposed to a multitude of doctrines and contents, from which he chooses; through these decisions, he creates his own unique world. Judaism is no longer perceived as a religious tradition, whose interpretation is in the hands of rabbis. It becomes raw material; the individual has to examine for himself which contents are not “worn out” and give them meaning. 69 schechter’s attitude towards Judaism is not very different from that of sadeh. Both emphasize the existence of God, while transferring the focus from God to the autonomous individual. The divine represents the other dimension of the soul’s life; man discovers its depth and mysteries. The individual’s autonomist position is also perceptible from the status of religious tradition, which is subject to his judgment and affinities; he chooses from that tradition based on his preferences and infuses meaning into its parts. It is therefore clear why schechter’s and sadeh’s views on Judaism are convenient for secular people, or at least why we are entitled to call their views “secular,” as per the definition submitted in the introduction: they denounce religious tradition as a set of contents whose meaning is left exclusively in the hands of an accepted religious authority, and express the modernistic ethos, according to which man shapes his own life autonomously.

V. The dIsTress of secularIsm

as we have already mentioned, secularism gives rise to feelings of discomfort among intellectuals, and even among its proponents; although the Jewish collective has liberated itself from an oppressive religious tradition, it has remained rootless, with a weak sense of identity. In addition to this deep discomfort, we should note the difficulties inherent in the three approaches mentioned above, as well as in the traditions of zionist thought that preceded them. We shall start with the “Judaism as culture” approach. It seems to me that the weaknesses of each of the ideas included in the discussion of this approach above are quite obvious. Is the individual indeed an active agent only in secular Jewish culture — as claimed by Brinker — while

69 Ibid., p. 293.

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in the religious approach the static and passive aspects are central? Where then, according to this taxonomy, are we to place revolutionary religious creators, such as the maimonides and rabbi nachman of Breslov? rotenstreich’s ideas give rise to another series of issues: can halakha serve as a source of inspiration for the secular person striving to contain the all-invasive scientific culture? To what extent will he be able to delve into the fine details of the halakhic discussion if most of its significance is foreign to him and its main call is for man to restrain himself? yehoshua’s claims are also insufficient: how is Judaism to be fulfilled within Israeli reality? his own examples demonstrate the extent of the difficulty: are battle ethics, for example, a Jewish issue at all, and what are the Jewish values that underscore a prison warden’s proper behavior? The weaknesses inherent in the option of “Judaism as culture” stem not only from the problems exhibited by certain specific ideas; more serious problems are linked to its essence. The main point of this option lies in the effort to extricate the contents of Judaism from their religious meaning; it proposes a mixed bag of interpretations for these contents: from the search for a “secular” meaning of the religious symbols found in religious texts (birth, bar mitzvah, marriage and death) to the literary interpretation of the chapters of the Bible. The strong rejection of these religious contents, which is the basic premise of the “Judaism as culture” approach, is deficient in three points. first, as we have learned from works written by sociologists of religion in the last decades, and from the debated of the “secularization thesis,” religions have not disappeared; indeed, they are widespread across Western societies. In spite of the criticism of religion and the decline in the status of religious authorities, people are in need of religious symbols in order to express their deepest inner being. rewriting Judaism as a human creation amounts to erasing these vital meanings. second, the spiritual assets of the Jewish people are for the most part religious; these contents are not perceived “from within” as a cultural work, as a whole whose main value is contemplative and aesthetic. The self-perceptions of these contents are religious; they testify to the will of God rather than to the acts of creative persons. In other words, the attempt to conceptualize Judaism as a culture implies a

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level of contradiction: its proponent is asking to recognize the very thing he is castrating. 70 In my view, these problems are attested to by the weak status of the Bible in Israeli society. as everyone knows, it was zionism that granted the Bible precedence among Jewish sacred scriptures; this was, however, accompanied by a total disregard for its religious significance. exalting what had already been castrated was an unstable endeavor: the denial of its religious contents weakened the strength of the Bible and turned it into one more book among many literary masterpieces. finally, Jewish religion — faith, the image of God, and the lifestyle that derives from these — form the common spiritual basis for all Jews. The attempt to formulate Judaism as a culture means erasing the single layer of meanings that is shared by the entire Jewish collective. The second option presented above — the negation of Judaism — meets with another difficulty: the distancing from Judaism is foreign to the tendencies found within Israeli society. according to the Guttman Institute reports, Israel is one of the most traditional Western societies; thus, intellectuals who call for divorcing Israeli society from Judaism are estranged from the fundamental tendencies rooted in the society. We can see this not only in the ideas of the canaanite movement and the reaction to them, but more recently, in the protest brought forth in the articles of Bareli and ofir: the latter condemns the attachment felt by the majority of the Jewish public for the Passover haggadah, the prayer book and the yom Kippur mahzor; Bareli, for his part, objects to the rapidly spreading study of religious texts among secular people. The phenomena opposed by these intellectuals are the reflection of a shared tendency — the secular public’s search for its religious roots without renouncing its secular identity. “spiritual secularism,” the third option described above, seems to present an advantage over the two other approaches: it enables secular people to express their values and fulfill their lifestyle without negating the religious meaning of Jewish tradition; it somehow manages to bring together secularism and Judaism as a religious tradition. This

70 strong formulations of this type of criticism, although slightly different from those brought here, can be found in Kurzweil, Ahad Ha’am.

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impression soon dissolves under closer analysis: Judaism, as proposed in this option — at least as proposed in the writings of the intellectuals we have discussed — is not perceived as the spiritual baggage belonging

to a collective, but merely as part of the world of the individual. In other words, what is suggested in the approaches of spiritual secularism is

a kind of “private Judaism.” This is true for two reasons. first, these

approaches do see the spiritual contents that a person finds relevant as part of a culture or of a national tradition, but deliberately suggest something eclectic. The contents of Judaism are included in a trans- national repertoire, from which the individual person is requested to choose in order to shape his own world. second, authenticity and autonomy are the key values in these approaches. They are expressed

in the call for the individual to decide what contents to adopt, and to continuously reconfirm his choices. The result is that the affinity of the secular to religious tradition is reduced to the individual; this relation has to express his own self, his changing tendencies, and does not imply the acceptance of any external burden. Judaism is included as part of an eclectic repertoire. The relation to Judaism is not based on the acceptance of an external authority but on the secular ethos, whose values are autonomy and authenticity. The writings of sadeh and schechter reflect these points, which is why

I claim that for them, Judaism does not represent a content shared

by a collective. The fact that these circles speak of the divinity does not alter my claims. The subjective nature of their views — the fact that the focus of religious life is not God but, rather, his presence within man — means that the divinity cannot function as a source of authority; it is not a transcendental being that shows men how to live. religious tradition does not indicate what his will is; it is part of an eclectic repertoire which the individual chooses from as he wishes, as he sets out to fashion his own world. from the things I have so far described, we can see what was meant by the “dead-end” — each of these options exhibit essential problems:

one, in its attempt to understand Judaism, it castrates its fundamental meaning; another is foreign to the inclinations of Israeli society; and the last ignores the fact that Judaism, in all its shapes and forms, is a content shared by the Jewish collective. The differences between these

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options can be summed up as follows. “reservations about Judaism” differs from the two other approaches: it calls for the Jew to renounce tradition, while the other two strive to define his relation towards it. The difference between the two approaches which we grouped together, i.e. between “Judaism as culture” and “spiritual secularism,” is evasive, but remains strong: the representatives of Judaism as culture relate to Judaism as the bearer of a common national content, while emptying it of all religious meaning; they link it to a collective by accounting for its creation and continuity in historical categories. spiritual secularism, at least as expressed by the intellectuals we have cited, retains the religious significance of Judaism, but deconstructs its collective identity. Thus — and this conclusion has surprising political significance — spiritual secularism is close to the position expressed by the secular intellectuals who reject Judaism; both deprive Judaism of any public status — one neglects the collective aspect of Judaism, so that it not restrict of its adaptability to serve the individual, while the other opposes the public status of Judaism for political reasons. In other words, the various explanations lead to a common position — Judaism is no longer the common basis for Israeli society. It thus emerges that the main weakness of the position which we called “reservations about Judaism” is not exclusive to this position; most surprisingly, this problem is also true of “Judaism as a culture” which, as we recall, proposes to treat Judaism as a national culture. however, can a Judaism whose religious significance has been uprooted serve as genuine basis for society? What Jews coming from distant places have in common is a tradition of religious symbols; in all other aspects, we find only multiplicity. Therefore, any attempt to base the identity of the Jewish public on a national culture, in which secularism must be perceived as the total annulment of any religious meaning, willfully ignores any shared meaning while highlighting the mixed bag of cultural traditions (esthetic, literary, linguistic, etc.) among the various members of the Jewish people. To sum up, the positions we described here present various problems, but they all share one important weakness. The intellectuals who express them attempt to formulate something suitable for their society. Their proposals, however, are sterile, as they are opposed to

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prominent inclinations of the society (“reservations about Judaism”) or because they do away with what is shared by the members of this society (“Judaism as culture” and “spiritual secularism”). Therefore, in spite of all the efforts of intellectuals to come up with formulas expressing the secular public’s spiritual world, the secular public remains cut off from their past and from the possibility of formulating a common culture and identity. The significance of the claim that these options lead to a dead-end becomes more serious when we recall that this repertoire of solutions did not originate in Israeli culture; these approaches were first formulated as part of spiritual zionism, in light of the crisis brought about by secularization. as mentioned above, the “reservations about Judaism” approach is clearly expressed in the thought of yaakov Klatzkin. another important representative of this approach is yosef haim Brenner — this is the gist of his scandalous article “on a Vision of conversion to christianity.” according to Brenner, it is a mistake to base the life of the collective on Judaism; identifying with the world of the Bible is a private issue; neither this world, nor any other Jewish content, has any special status. The individual’s identification with specific Jewish works is the only justification for his affinity with them, just as it is the only justification for his affinity with any intellectual work, whatever its national identity. Thus, the claim that the secular person should liberate himself from the burden of his inheritance was not first uttered as part of Israeli culture. This is also true of the position of “Judaism as culture.” ahad ha’am’s position was highly important in establishing this approach; he suggested the following model: Jewish culture is the result of the activity of a national spirit which is unique to the Jewish people. This basic assumption does away with the religious significance of Judaism, which is perceived as the creation of the Jewish people. Its moral significance,and the historical value of its works and symbols form the basis for the secular-national meaning attributed to Judaism. The national Jew, i.e. the secular Jew, is called upon to follow it, as a kind of analogy to halakha’s normative lifestyle. The “Book of Books,” however, is no longer a sacred text, and “God” is just another superior being, which the Jew happens to believe in. The duty of the national

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Jew to familiarize himself with these contents is justified by the latter’s national status. The main herald of the spiritual position in zionism is aaron david Gordon. This thinker considered the relation to cosmic life as the main action required in order to revive Judaism. Generally speaking, he identified the return to nature with the return to Judaism; Jewish creation, including religious creation, can only occur as a result of the proper assimilation into the life of the universe. only the return to nature and the devotion to work, particularly manual labor, can assure the vitality of Jewish creation. Gordon’s view is the example of the spiritual position similar to what was described above in the thought of sadeh and schechter. all these thinkers rewrite Judaism in religious terms, as it becomes loaded with new religious meaning, different from its traditional form. It no longer depends on divine revelation; its contents do not reveal his will. Judaism becomes a repository of symbols expressing the individual’s position facing the transcendental or cosmic dimension; its gist lies in the subjective meaning of religious experience. In short, the classification suggested above does not represent Israeli culture alone — to a large extent, Israeli intellectual life perpetuates the trends found in spiritual zionism. how are we to understand this point? does this continuation stem from the tremendous impact of zionist thought on Israeli intellectuals? I do not think so, although these thinkers did leave their mark on the thought of Israeli intellectuals. The thinker who influenced them the most was ahad ha’am, if only because his thinking shaped to a large extent the commonly accepted view in Israel of the secular-national position towards Judaism. Gordon’s thought has substantial presence among certain Israeli intellectuals not discussed here, 71 and he clearly had a deep influence on schechter, who wrote a book about him, taught him at the re’ali school (instead of teaching ahad ha’am), and who expressed clearly Gordonian thoughts. 72

71 for example, eliezer schweid, avraham shapira and the “shdemot circle.”

72 for example, when he explains that those possessing an atheistic conception have no internal relation to society or to nature. In an article written on the 50th anniversary of Gordon’s death, he remarks that “work, and especially agriculture, has two important elements in the internal life of man: the conquest of the universe and the merging into the universe.” Tadmor, The Divine in Man, p. 165.

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There is no point expanding on the important role played by Brenner in Israeli culture. however, notwithstanding all the influences we mentioned, I do not believe that the positions voiced by Israeli intellectuals are conscious or unconscious reproductions of the possible solutions of the previous generation. The canaanites did not formulate their position by absorbing Brenner’s arguments, or even Klatzkin’s pessimistic views. It would be pointless to try to name a single source for the entire range of views expressed by the representatives of the “reservations about Judaism.” could it be that the canaanite movement, Gershon Weiler, Gilad Bareli, adi ofir, a few journalists from the ha’aretz newspaper, Boaz evron, yeshayahu leibowitz, and others all reached their conclusions regarding Judaism, based on one or two zionist thinkers? The ideas of the representatives of the option of Judaism as culture may have been based upon the cultural concept of ahad ha’am, but they derived different conclusions from it; moreover, this certainly cannot be the case with respect to the thinkers whom we called “spiritual” (Gordon is totally foreign to Pinchas sadeh, who never alludes to him in his writings). In other words, the intellectual constructions of Israeli intellectuals were not formulated as a result of the impact of members of the previous generation. This “repeat performance” should be described as follows: Israeli intellectuals share the same repertoire of positions in relation to Judaism as those who preceded them, but did not inherit it from them. contemporary intellectuals reiterate the same reactions towards an identity crisis that gives them no respite — their sense of estrangement from their ancestors’ religious traditions. They react to this crisis in three ways — expressing reservations about Judaism, formulating it as a culture, and granting it meaning in a spiritual way — all of which attempt to deal with the problem of their identity. In other words, Israeli intellectuals did not develop the answers provided by their predecessors. This limitation — so it should be called — most likely does not stem from an overenthusiastic adoption of zionism but rather from its abandonment: if these intellectuals were to take a closer look at the solutions offered in the zionist schools of thought, they might feel the need to go beyond what the latter had to suggest.

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Why sPInoza?

--------------------------------------------------------------------- InTroducTIon ---------------------------------------------------------------------

one should not interpret the focus on spinoza * as indicating that his thought alone can contribute to the discussion of the problems of secularism; in 17 th -century philosophy, there are various formulations of secular theologies that introduce the notion of individual salvation independent of divine truth. These philosophical approaches can provide an interesting perspective for examining the problems faced by secularism at any time and in any context. This is the case with Kant’s definition of enlightenment and in his views on establishing ethics through religion; it is also the case with mill’s and rousseau’s political ideas. our preference of spinoza’s notions for our discussion has both historical and philosophical reasons. The historical reasons lie in the unique cultural context in which his thought developed. Judaism and Jews occupy a special place in his world, while he himself has played a unique role in Jewish consciousness in recent generations: spinoza is the person who endless numbers of Jewish heretics, lost souls, “free people,” secularists and nationalists have turned to in order to define their individual identity, as well as the ever-changing identity of their people. 1 In other words, his thought is intimately linked to the problems of Israeli secular society, although this does not imply that it is philosophically privileged in any way. This claim must be demonstrated by examining spinoza’s thought, which is the aim of following chapters.

* I quote from spinoza’s Ethics with the common abbreviations; I use page numbers from other books by spinoza as they appear in the quotations.

1 naturally, nietzsche’s thought has been another important philosophical reference for secular Jews in their attempt to solve various questions of identity. nietzsche’s impact on hebrew culture and Jewish intellectuals is discussed by Golomb, Nietzsche.

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In the first part of this chapter, I will be discussing the historical context and describing the unique place spinoza’s thought occupies in the Jewish search for identity in recent generations. The following section will discuss the philosophical reasons, and will be limited to a few general remarks. The discussion that ensues in the remaining chapters will contribute towards clarifying these points.

I. The hIsTorIcal-culTural conTeXT

spinoza played an important role in the thought of many Jewish philosophers, such as moses mendelssohn, moses hess, hermann cohen, solomon maimon, nachman Krochmal, leo strauss, 2 martin Buber and emmanuel levinas, and intellectuals, such as abraham Krochmal, samuel david luzzatto, meir letteris, aaron zeitlin and others. 3 It is a known fact that spinoza’s thought and, more specifically, his political ideas deeply influenced the founders of zionism: nachum sokolov and yaakov Klatzkin wrote books about him; 4 Joseph Klausner referred to him with admiration; and david Ben Gurion viewed him as a guide and encouraged the translation of his works into hebrew. 5 on a number of occasions, he has been described as one of the fathers of political zionism. 6 spinoza’s life and work also play a role in Israeli culture. In the introduction to his book entitled Jewish Theocracy, Gershon Weiler describes the discussion in his book as a footnote to spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise. 7 “Boundless happiness,” a film on spinoza which shows the philosopher living in an apartment

2 for an interesting analysis of spinoza, his Jewishness, and its significance, see an early article by leo strauss: strauss, Early Writings, pp. 216-223.

3 This is only a partial list. The following people also felt a strong attachment to spinoza’s thought: albert einstein, henri Bergson, sigmund freud, heinrich heine, as well as leaders of the religious zionist movement. several examples of researches dealing with spinoza’s impact on Jewish thinkers are: schwartz, Religious Zionism; Goetschel, Heine; Goetschel, Modernity; yakira, Strauss; melamed, Maimon; motzkin, Luzzatto; Kaplan, Freud; lachover, Haskalah; levy, The Notion of Judaism; and navon, Herman Cohen.

4 sokolov, Spinoza and his Time; Klatzkin, The Life of Spinoza.

5 see the note that introduces the hebrew translation of spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise, opening page.

6 see for example strauss, Early Writings, 216-223

7 Weiler, Theocracy, p. XIV.

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building in holon, the publication of a collection of poems dealing with ethics, 8 academic papers and university courses, the activities held at the Jerusalem Spinoza Institute, numerous discussions on hebrew internet sites that are devoted to his thought, his position regarding Judaism, and his special relevance today — all of these are only some of the many cultural activities relating to spinoza in Israel. We cannot provide a detailed description of all the above. however, we can provide a brief illustration of the tremendous importance of spinoza for non-religious Jews: the exceptional work of the hebrew translators of the Ethics as agents of ideas. The Ethics, spinoza’s most important work, was translated into hebrew three times 9 (few philosophical works have been translated this often). 10 The first translation was by the Galician intellectual shlomo rubin, the second one was by yaakov Klatzkin, and the third translation was carried out by yermiyahu yovel. 11 as claimed above, the approaches of the hebrew translators of the Ethics to the object of their work are entirely different from those

8 eliraz, Spinoza and Friends.

9 rubin, Research of a God; Klatzkin, Ethics; yovel, Ethics. These translations were carried out over the last hundred years, a period of great intensity in the history of the Jewish people. rubin’s translation was published in 1885, in the heart of the haskala centers in eastern europe; the second one was published in 1925, when the zionist idea was gaining strength; the third and final translation one was published in 2003, in Israel.

10 The hebrew readers are not “spoiled” as far as translations of philosophical works go; although Plato’s Symposium and maimonides’s Guide to the Perplexed were translated into hebrew three times, many philosophical works have never been translated, while others were translated once or not always fully, and these translations are often outdated. aristotle’s Metaphysics and his Physics, for example, were never fully translated; neither were hegel’s main works. hume’s Treatise of Human Nature is only partially accessible to the hebrew reader. The same applies to Jewish philosophy — one example is the outdated translation into hebrew of moses hess’s Rome and Jerusalem.

11 rubin was born in dolina, Galicia, in 1823. a prolific writer, he wrote extensively about Jewish folklore and traditions. he was deeply interested in persons who were persecuted because of their views or thoughts. he translated K. Gotchkov’s play Uriel D’Acosta. his interest in these persecuted thinkers accounts for his prolonged work on spinoza. In addition to various essays and articles he compiled about spinoza, rubin also translated his Grammar of the Hebrew Language. rubin’s life was characterized by endless wanderings and conflicts with the rabbinical establishment. he lived a long life and died in 1910. details of his wanderings and the campaigns against him can be found in Klausner’s preface to rubin’s book The Ethics and in dorman, Spinoza’s Disputes, p. 190, note 106.

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of translators of other works. 12 The translators of the Ethics, in the translation itself and particularly through what they wrote about it, function as active liaisons between the thought of the excommunicated Jewish philosopher — the “other,” the “first secular Jew”— and the modern Jewish reader. 13 The most important part of their work lies in their attempt to clarify the special relevance of spinoza’s life and philosophical work for the Jewish people today. each of these translators translated spinoza’s most important work into the hebrew language in full awareness that, in doing so, he was making a vital contribution to hebrew culture, and that the study of spinoza and his thought could help clarify questions pertaining to a Jewish existence that was no longer based on a religious lifestyle. This awareness is clearly felt in the hebrew translators’ introductions and in the reactions these translations drew. 14 We will simply evoke some of the best-known reactions: samuel david luzzatto’s opposition to rubin’s first attempts at translating the book was based on the claim that the very act of translation would introduce hellenism — the opposite of Judaism — into the hebrew language. In his response, rubin tried to refute this claim by stating that, from a Jewish perspective, spinoza and his thought were legitimate. 15 The fact that Klatzkin’s translation was so deeply rooted in the hebrew linguistic tradition was the main point that drew franz rosenzweig’s attention to it. In a critical essay, rosenzweig expressed his wonder at the fact that such a translation was carried out by a representative of the formal zionist approach, which strived to free itself of the Jewish people’s religious baggage. 16 oded schechter, in his critique of yovel’s translation, speaks against the hidden zionist conviction, which yovel attributes to spinoza’s thought, and, surprisingly, opposes yovel’s translation to that of Klatzkin with respect to this parameter. 17 These various reactions

12 I expanded this point in my article: Katz, Spinoza’s Translators.

13 Particularly in these works: rubin, Six Paintings; rubin, A Decisive Answer; Klatzkin, The Life of Spinoza; yovel, Heretics.

14 see introductions to the following works: rubin, Research of a God; Klatzkin, The Ethics; yovel, Ethics.

15 regarding this discussion, see: motzkin, Luzzatto.

16 rosenzweig, The New Hebrew.

17 schechter, Yovel and Spinoza.

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revolve around similar issues: secularism, the attitude towards tradition and religion, spinoza’s affinity with Judaism, etc. These issues arise both in the translator’s and in the critic’s minds as they attempt to mediate between spinoza and his hebrew-speaking readers. one must remember that these acts of mediation between spinoza’s thought and the hebrew reader took place in differing historical contexts: rubin’s translation appeared towards the end of the period of the haskala; Klatzkin’s translation appeared in the formative years of the zionist movement; and yovel’s translation was published when

the state was already in existence. Therefore, the differences between these translator-mediators transcend their individual differences (such as their intellectual abilities, level of education, and spiritual affinities); they also reflect broader differences that stem from the conditions that characterized the various periods. rubin’s attempts at legitimizing spinoza reflects the distress of an oppressed, educated person living in

a traditional community who wishes to remain faithful to his people,

although he has no clearly-defined nationalist approach. Klatzkin, for his part, sees great similarities between spinoza’s thought and Judaism, while he predicts that both will be totally annihilated. This prediction leads him to expect an entirely new beginning for the Jewish people in the land of Israel, where it will succeed in liberating itself from its past. such a momentum stems from the promise contained in the zionist idea, which had yet to be fulfilled. on the other hand, some element of the concrete fulfillment of secular Jewish life in the state of Israel is reflected in the search for the historical roots of Jewish secularism suggested in yovel’s translation. In this sense, we can say that the various translators’ approaches are infused with a broader significance, and that the introductory sections to the Ethics serve as platforms for the expression of the searchings and questionings of secular Jews over the last hundred years. The hebrew language itself and its status in translations became

a special topic of interest in the study of spinoza. as we all know, spinoza had an excellent command of the hebrew language — he even wrote a hebrew grammar book. some of the translators have raised the hypothesis that there is a special connection between the Ethics and the hebrew language, and view the translation into hebrew as

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an act of restoration of stolen property to its owner. rubin believed that spinoza would have written his book in hebrew had he not been persecuted by the rabbis. 18 according to Klatzkin, spinoza formulated his philosophical thoughts in hebrew. In Klatzkin’s view, the affinities between the words and the hebrew language are crucial when seeking to understand spinoza’s method; therefore, the hebrew translation should be considered the source of the Ethics, and “it is to the credit of the hebrew language, rather than to the credit of the translator.” 19 In other words, the first two translators viewed their task not as an act of translation, in the usual sense of the term, but as the restoration of

a major asset of the hebrew culture to its rightful place. The original

hebrew character which these translators attribute to the Ethics, as well as the sense of reparation which they attribute to the “return” of the Ethics to the hebrew language, stem from their understanding of the link between spinoza and Judaism; it is also colored by their view of the relevance of spinoza for the Jews of their time. The myth of the hebrew origin of the Ethics no longer serves as a motive for the last translator of the Ethics. In yovel’s eyes, a new translation is called for because of reading requirements, because of the changes undergone by the hebrew language, and because of the need to correct the inaccuracies found in his predecessors’ translations. 20 yovel translated spinoza into

modern hebrew, a hebrew very distant from that of the middle ages, which Klatzkin used in his translation. The fact that modern hebrew replaced ancient hebrew drew much attention on the part of critics of yovel’s translation. according to schechter, the critic mentioned above, yovel’s new translation into secularized Israeli hebrew, the language of

“Protestant nationalism,” 21 silences the ancient layers of hebrew, i.e. the Jewish past. The fact that schechter’s claim is totally unfounded 22

is irrelevant to us; more important is the nature of the issues that arise

naturally when we deal with spinoza: zionism, secularism, the hebrew

18 rubin, A Decisive Answer, p. 23.

19 Klatzkin, The Ethics, p. XIX.

20 yovel, Ethics, p. 59.

21 schechter, Yovel and Spinoza, p. 107.

22 a critique of this appeared in schmidt, The End of the Road; Katz, Spinoza’s Translators, p. 60, note 78.

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language, the attitude towards tradition, the status of religion, the roots of Israeli culture, etc.

II. sPecIal PhIlosoPhIcal releVance

as we have indicated above the fact that spinoza’s thought and identity occupy a significant place in the discussion of the identity of the modern Jew is an important point in any attempt to determine the cultural and historical context of his thought. It does not, however, grant his philosophy any particular theoretical status. This status was achieved thanks to other unique qualities that characterize his thought — its relevance for dealing with the difficulties faced by secularism, particularly given its particular difficulties in the Israeli context. The special patterns of analysis in spinoza’s works also make them particularly germane. What then are these basic issues which make spinoza’s thought relevant to the problems faced by the secular Jew? The purpose of spinoza’s philosophical thinking is to help find a “new order in life” and to redeem man’s soul from its distress. The titles of his books testify to this, as do the introductions to a number of them. for example, spinoza opens his Treatise on the Improvement of Understanding (henceforth:

TdIe) by describing himself as akin to a “terminally ill person who sees his certain death in front of his eyes.” 23 Through philosophy, he strives to become attached to the eternal and infinite entity, and the permanent joy it entails. In this way, he can be redeemed from the vain desires that fill him, and from the disturbances that beset him endlessly throughout his life. a quick comparison with descartes’ well-known foreword to the Discourse on the Method highlights the therapeutic aspect of spinoza’s philosophy. In his foreword, descartes relates some personal issues, the aim of which was to seek the truth, and the method for achieving this. spinoza speaks of life’s instability and of the dissatisfaction with physical pleasure and with honor. descartes’

23 TdIe, chapter 7; on the philosophical importance of the introduction, see the comment of Joachim, TdIe, pp. 14-15. In his opinion, the Treatise was meant to be part of a larger work, so that the existing introduction was to serve as the introduction to the planed much larger opus.

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philosophical aim is to discover a theoretical truth and reinforce it, while for spinoza philosophy becomes a clearly therapeutic act aimed at saving one’s soul. In his foreword to the TdIe, yosef Ben shlomo emphasizes this point, 24 adding that descartes did not search for a cure for life in philosophy, since he found its meaning in religion. 25 on the other hand, the fact that spinoza was torn away from his community and from its commonly-accepted beliefs determined the purpose of his philosophy. an acute existential problem lies at the heart of spinoza’s philosophy, and his main purpose is essentially therapeutic; hence, this thinker is particularly close to the Jewish secular public. This is an important reason (though not the only one, as we remarked) why he and his thought have been quoted by non-religious Jews for many generations in their efforts to deal with their problems, which recall his own, and to define their new identity. The secular person has cast off a rich spiritual and religious tradition which determined the meaning of his ancestors’ life. although this Jew may long for tradition he can no longer find in it a refuge from his distress. Just like spinoza, he remains uncomforted by tradition and faces death alone. spinoza’s exceptional philosophical achievements make him a special asset for the secular Jew; indeed, the philosopher formulates an entire system of ideas that draw on historical religion and its values. divine protection, for example, is replaced by the conatus, while the comfort of the world-to-come is replaced by the immortal and by the rational love of God. The fact that spinoza suggests a comprehensive approach to all human aspects of life — ethics, politics, psychology, religion, tradition and the relation to God — means that the secular person tormented by the question of the meaning of existence can draw on an all-encompassing secular philosophical approach; he can adopt a total approach, as complete as religion, while remaining secular. he can achieve this with the help of a thinker whose image and thought he feels close to in a unique way. 26

24 TdIe, hebrew, p. 10.

25 from this point onwards, I will be using the term “religion” for either of the two revelatory religions: Judaism and christianity. for more on the meanings of religion for spinoza, see yovel, Critique of Religion; Guttmann, Spinoza.

26 smith, Spinoza and Liberalism, p. XII.

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another problem which underlies spinozian philosophy pertains to the issue of the masses, which renders it uniquely relevant for modern society in general, and for Israeli society in particular. spinoza was not the first Western philosopher to perceive the masses as a philosophical problem. Plato’s discussions in The Republic, which deal with the productive condition, as well as the political consequences of the soul’s division into three parts, may be considered as one such philosophical analysis. clearly, the interest of both philosophers in the masses stems from their view of philosophy as therapy. Their understanding that philosophy can cure man from his distress and save him from suffering obligated them to clarify what it could offer to the spiritually weak person, i.e. the masses. In any case, spinoza’s interest in the masses — his attempts to account for their inconsistency, to clarify their characteristic way of apprehending things, and to suggest ways of putting their life in order — all make him a highly relevant philosopher for modern mass society. moreover, his philosophical analysis of the masses takes their spiritual difficulties into consideration. What system of belief is required in order to establish a stable authority? What characterizes the mentality of the member of the masses, and what relief does he gain from being part of some futile religion? such questions take up a significant part not only of his Theological-Political Treatise (henceforth: TTP) and of the Political Treatise (henceforth: PT), but also of the Ethics. This focused attention derives from spinoza’s conception of the masses as those exhibiting limited spiritual abilities and confused tendencies; he saw the understanding of the nature of the masses as extremely important. To a large extent, spinoza’s analysis of questions pertaining to society and to power can be characterized as an epistemological-political analysis. The difference between spinoza and Plato is useful in order to clarify this point: Plato characterizes the average person as one whose desires control his soul; the member of the masses does possess understanding, but it is subjugated, and practically insignificant. What characterizes him is ravenousness. for spinoza, on the other hand, the masses are characterized by their mentality — the average person is led by his desires, but what characterizes him is his imagination, which is a form of consciousness. spinoza’s conclusions about the masses include spiritual problems — prejudice, confused

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ideas, as well as the nurturing of desirable beliefs; they are not limited to the clarification of the possible means of control of the uneducated mob lacking in any spiritual dimension, as we find in Plato. since these questions — existential distress and the question of the masses — form the basis of spinoza’s philosophy, it can be linked to two models of secularism. The first model could be entitled “metaphysical secularism.” This system comprises the terminology and the approaches which spinoza develops throughout the Ethics, and through which he suggests a full alternative to religion: the personal God, which stands at the heart of the revelatory religions, is replaced by an infinite substance. This concept of God is totally purified of any concrete cultural or religious aspect. The other key religious concepts are similarly purified: destiny and divine Providence are replaced by the conatus and by an infinite chain of causes expressing the necessary actualization of the substance. The philosopher’s life is secular in the sense that his knowledge is founded on the rejection of all revelatory and historical religions; the philosopher sticks to a logical-philosophical analysis that reveals his existence within the divine and the moral and political conclusions that derive from such an analysis. spinoza’s interest in the question of the masses does not enable him to suffice with this model of the abandon of revelatory religions. Those who are able to behave in such a way are those who follow the directives of reason. spinoza often emphasizes how rare such people are, and that society as a whole cannot be expected to act this way. 27 The difference mentioned above between Plato’s view of the masses and that of spinoza is relevant once more. Plato does not view the masses as people who need to get their spiritual life adjusted, but rather as a mob, frantically acting out their desires, who it is essential to suppress in order to create a united society whose pieces fit; the philosopher becomes king, since the masses serve mainly as objects to be controlled rather than liberated. Thus, the crux of the political problem in The Republic is the portrayal of the image of the ruler. spinoza, on the other hand, apprehends the masses as possessing reason, albeit of a lesser degree and needing to be regulated. The aim of political philosophy is to

27 see for example e 1app; TTP, pp. 76-77.

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rationalize the entire scope of society’s strengths. In spinoza’s case, this rationalization involves activation, improvement and intensification. The problem of the masses is not solved by finding the ruler to control it; rather, it implies an in-depth analysis of the mentality of the masses and of the possible ways to improve and empower them — a topic which spinoza reverts to continuously throughout his writings. Therefore, the validity of spinoza’s model of metaphysical secularism is very limited. although secular people who look to spinoza as a basis for formulating their views emphasize this metaphysical secularism, it cannot, due to its limitations, be considered as the main and most fruitful model found in his philosophy. This philosophy comprises another model, which can be entitled “political secularism.” This model includes his views on establishing the rationalization of society: strengthening political authority, undermining the authority of the religious establishment, and examining ways to formulate a popular religion or religious tradition that pose no threat to the ruling power. one final reason for discussing spinoza within the framework of our topic is the following: from what has been explained above, it is clear that spinoza’s philosophy discusses at length the question of the place of religious tradition, and clarifies the reasons for its survival. In the interpretations of spinoza, one often finds complaints as to the lack of understanding of man’s historicity. These interpreters claim that spinoza does not perceive man as a historical creature, but that man is only discussed on the basis of his ontology and of the epistemology that derives thereof. 28 as some interpreters have noted in recent years, this analysis is erroneous. 29 In the following chapters, I will attempt to address this question and will argue in favor of the important role played by spinoza’s historical consciousness. 30 In any case, and quite surprisingly, spinoza’s thought on questions pertaining to secularism and traditionalism is unique not because of its historicity, but rather as a result of its focus on ontology, which others see as a weakness

28 This view is expressed in, for example, hampshire, Spinoza, p. 194.

29 Preus, The Bible, p. 32 and chapter 5; smith, Spinoza and Liberalism, p. 63 and notes 16 & 17, p. 225; morrison, History.

30 chapter 8, particularly the end of the chapter.

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in his thought. spinoza’s ontological analysis is of particular value in the clarification of cultural questions. spinoza analyzes the necessity of tradition and the ways to moderate it, first and foremost within the framework of ontology. Passivity and being mired in imagination characterize man in general, and the masses in particular, not because of some specific historical link, but due to the structure of the finite entity called “man.” from the perspective of this philosophy, the obstinate existence of religions in the Western world, which perplexes some sociologists of religion, as well as the blurring of the sharp dichotomy between traditional and modern societies, are developments that are to be expected. There are fixed givens within the nature of man and society, in its finite existence, in its limited consciousness and necessary passivity that call for a permanent, continuous and all- penetrating influence of traditions, including religious traditions. This “eternity” which is revealed through spinoza’s ontological analysis was abandoned by modern thought on tradition, due to the latter’s over- sensitivity to historicity. This is another reason for seeking solutions to the questions this book addresses within spinoza’s thought.

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ImaGInaTIon and The masses: an ouTlIne of The oBJecT of PolITIcs

ImaGInaTIon and The masses

----------------- I. non-reflecTIVe conscIousness and The ImaGe of The dream

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This chapter focuses on imagination, i.e. the cognitive function characteristic of the masses. my intention is not to provide a comprehensive analysis of this concept, but to clarify certain issues relevant to the discussion presented in this section. 1 I will discuss the concept of the imagination under three rubrics, each focusing on a specific philosophical domain: epistemology, psychology and politics. This division is not justified methodologically: the first level of knowledge, centered on the imagination, like many other topics in spinoza’s thought, cannot be exhausted by an in-depth discussion within the framework of a single philosophical field. This division thus serves practical purposes and the sake of clarity, facilitating identification of the problems discussed in each of the following chapters, as well as the solutions I will suggest for them.

I. non-reflecTIVe conscIousness and The ImaGe of The dream :

The ePIsTemoloGIcal asPecT

spinoza presents his epistemological theory in the TdIe, in his Short Article on God, Man and his Happiness (henceforth: KV) and in the Ethics. 2 he describes the various levels of knowledge and provides examples of them. The first level of knowledge is based on the perception of single

1 The issue of imagination is often discussed in the interpretation of spinoza. see, for example: raven, Tradition; Blair, Imagination; de deugd, Imagination; Garret, Truth and Imagination; and Preus, Spinoza and Vico.

2 Particularly in e 2p40s2; e 2p41-43; TdIe in its entirety, where the degrees of knowledge are discussed in pp. 8-12.

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elements which our senses relay to us in a fragmented way. In the Ethics, this type of knowledge is entitled “opinion or imagination.” 3 This knowledge is based on vague experience (experientia vaga), on a perception arising “from hearsay” (ex auditu) or from some sign (ex aliquo signo) which all may employ as they see fit. 4 spinoza distinguishes three types of defective ideas that are included in the first level of knowledge: fictive, doubtful and false ideas; these are mostly discussed in the TdIe, pp. 50-69. 5 The second level of knowledge is entitled “reason”; it is based on the perception gained with the help of general concepts. 6 The third level is entitled “intuitive science” (scientia intuitiva) in the Ethics; it is described as the knowledge of something gained with the help of its “proximate cause,” i.e. through God. 7 In the TdIe, this type of knowledge is explained in terms of the individual’s self-perception. 8 In the TdIe, spinoza provides several examples for the first level of knowledge: the fact that I know my date of birth; that I will eventually die one day; that oil feeds fire; and that man is a thinking animal. 9 These examples are not similar: awareness of my date of birth is based on hearsay, whereas knowledge concerning the effect of the oil on the fire is based on vague experience. In the TdIe and in the Ethics, spinoza illustrates the difference between the three levels of knowledge through a single example — finding a fourth number with the help of three numbers and the proportion between them. 10

3 e 2p40s2. on the difference between spinoza and Plato in the understanding of the imagination, see de deugd, Imagination, p. 22.

4 TdIe, p. 8; KV, Part II, chapters 1 and 2.

5 Idea ficta, idea falsa and idea dubia are all opposed to idea vera. Joachim, TdIe, chapter 4, calls these types pseudo-cognitive types. de deugd, Imagination., p. 69, rightly criticizes this attempt.

6 There is a difference between the Ethics and the position expressed in the TdIe. The approach expressed in the latter is closer to the first degree of knowledge, whereas in the Ethics, it is closer to the third degree. The question as to how a person can surpass the third degree of knowledge is discussed in de deugd, Imagination, p. 185.

7 spinoza’s use of this term (for example, in e 1p28s), makes it clear that he refers to God.

8 TdIe, p. 9; Joachim, TdIe, p. 47.

9 TdIe, p. 8-9.

10 Ibid., p. 9-10; e 2p40s2.

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In presenting his epistemological theory, spinoza distinguishes between its three levels; many of his interpreters follow his lead and emphasize this division and the links between its elements. 11 In fact, spinoza’s epistemological theory actually suggests a distinction more basic than these degrees — that between non-reflective and reflective consciousness. The various divisions suggested by spinoza easily fit this dichotomy. Imagination, with all the faulty ideas it produces, is an example of non-reflectivity, while the two other degrees of knowledge, reason and the science of observation, are examples of reflective consciousness, albeit with varying degrees of intensity. 12 The importance of this distinction — between reflective and non- reflective consciousness — is particularly salient in places in which spinoza describes imagination as a kind of “dream” or “daydream” 13 — an image he often uses. In the TdIe when describing the false idea, he indicates that “falsehood, in itself, is not very different from the dream (non multum differat a somnio).” 14 The false idea is also described as “dreaming with our eyes open, or while awake.” 15 In TdIe, spinoza explains one of his main epistemological ideas — that truth is a test to itself — by using these images: “anyone who possesses the truth can therefore not doubt the fact that he possesses it, but whoever is deep into a lie or a mistake can easily imagine that he is in the truth. This way, the dreamer can dream that he is awake, but the person who

11 for the possible sources of spinoza’s epistemology, see Wolfson, Spinoza, vol. II, chapter 16, particularly p. 132, where he claims that spinoza adopts saadia Gaon’s understanding of the term “auditory knowledge,” i.e. what becomes known through hearsay. however, contrary to saadia Gaon, for spinoza this represents the lowest degree of knowledge, and is illegitimate from a philosophical point of view.

12 at this point, the reader may rightly wonder what a non-reflective idea refers to. Indeed, every idea contains some degree of reflectivity, or else one would not be able to describe it in terms of cognitive activity. The answer must take into consideration the possible centers of reflection rather than its degree alone and the means of confirmation included in the idea. This point will be clarified in the next chapter.

13 spinoza uses few images, and he certainly does not grant them any special status in the development of his thoughts, as Plato does in The Phaedrus, for example; thus if this image recurs, there must be good reason for it.

14 TdIe, p. 24, note 1.

15 Ibid., p. 25.

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is awake can never think that he is dreaming.” 16 he reverts to these images in a more careful and suggestive tone, in his description of the deeds of the prophets in TTP. 17 The aspect common to imagination and the dream is their state of consciousness. The mind is not active in combining ideas and creating links between them; they are created “without approval,” as thoughts wander about. The imagining consciousness is expressed in the dream and in the imagination by means of passive acceptance; 18 this passivity stems from the absence of the reflective dimension within it. as a result of this characteristic of imagination, spinoza emphasizes, through various examples, the absence of doubt of defective ideas. In the TdIe, he presents the day of birth and parents’ identity as examples of such ideas, and adds that what he means are “matters about which I have never felt any doubt.” 19 The absence of doubt, here, does indicate the presence of some nucleus of truth found in the defective idea — as de deugd (among others) believes; 20 rather, it points to the nature of the imagining consciousness. The fact that this consciousness is devoid of any reflectivity means that it neither negates nor imposes anything in any substantial way, but that in its passivity it accepts the external data as unquestionable. The absence of doubt, or the imaginary certainty, is similar to the absence of doubt that characterizes the dreamer’s judgment of the images of his dream. In other words, the absence of doubt points to the passive adoption of a datum external to consciousness, rather than its raw truth. 21 one could also add that this characteristic of doubtlessness points to the basic tendency of the non- reflective consciousness: due to its passivity, it tends to approve while

16 KV, p. 163.

17 TTP, pp. 13-16.

18 I will revert to this topic in chapter 4, section 5, and chapter 5, section 2.

19 TdIe, p. 8.

20 de deugd, Imagination, p. 22; such a claim corresponds to de deugd’s main tendency, which involves identifying the epistemic value of the first level of knowledge (see, for example, pp. 51-52).

21 e 2p49s: “When we say that a man rests in false ideas, and does not doubt them, we do not, on that account, say that he is certain, but only that he does not doubt, or that he rests in false ideas because there are no causes to bring it about that his imagination wavers .” see also e 2p44s.

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fully distracted, rather than to negate, since negation implies a greater measure of distinction concerning the negated object and the reasons for its negation, i.e. a greater measure of reflectivity — that is, unless the negation is already included in the idea that was accepted “without any doubt” by consciousness. In other places, spinoza distinguishes more directly between reflective and non-reflective consciousness without making use of the image of the dream; these examples may help us understand this distinction and its importance. In the concluding words of the Ethics, spinoza contrasts the ignorant and the wise man, writing as follows:

“for not only is the ignorant man troubled in many ways by external causes, and unable ever to possess true peace of mind, but he also lives as if he knew neither himself, nor God, nor things.” The wise man, on the other hand, “insofar as he is considered as such, is hardly troubled in spirit, but being, by a certain eternal necessity, conscious of himself, and of God, and of things, he never ceases to be, but always possesses true peace of mind.” 22 consciousness and the absence thereof are opposed to each other with respect to three entities: the mind, God and things. It is vital to mention these three since reflectivity, just like non-reflectivity, cannot become clear within the framework of consciousness alone, without its objects, so to speak, not even in relation to the link between consciousness and a specific object. 23 for

22 e 5p42s.

23 spinoza’s formulation in this concluding paragraph of the Ethics is very important. Two things can be said about the text at this point: 1. In this paragraph, spinoza draws a comparison between the ignorant and the wise man and describes their situation while reverting twice, and in the same order, to the objects of their consciousness (sui, Dei, rerum). The special position of this concluding paragraph and the exact and frequent repetition of these words grant them special importance. from an ontological point of view, the words should open with God and not with the self; spinoza, however, opens in this way in order to point to the reflective dimension of knowledge. This reflective dimension does not refer only to the internal mode of consciousness; it necessarily depends on the distinction of the external context. Therefore, the self is emphasized, while in the same breath it is repeatedly recognized in things and in the divinity — this time, of course, in proper order. 2. The ignorant is called “ignarus,” while his lack of self-consciousness is indicated by the words “quasi inscius sui.” The words “inscius sui,” as far as I know, is not found in classical latin. even if this is not an innovation of spinoza’s, this non-classical, “new” meaning of self-awareness, a form of subjectivity, is emphasized by the use of “quasi.” self-consciousness is also emphasized here by the

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spinoza, unlike descartes, understanding something in a clear and distinct manner is synthetic rather than analytic. 24 It is only by placing an element within its context and exhibiting its causal affinities that one can know it in an adequate manner. 25 The same is true regarding the mind’s perception of itself. Therefore, the mind’s knowledge of itself or absence thereof represents the immediate knowledge of its causal link to things and to God. reflection and non-reflection are therefore anchored in a general disposition, rather than in the internal situation of consciousness. 26 This disposition is determined by the context in which man apprehends himself and things; essentially, things can be conceived in two ways: through non-reflective imagination or reflective thought: “either insofar as we conceive them to exist in relation to a certain time and place, or insofar as we conceive them to be contained in God and to follow from the necessity of the divine nature.” 27 clearly, these two options represent the extremes. The total absence of imagination represents God alone: “If there is a God, or omniscient Being, such a being cannot form fictitious hypotheses.” 28 spinoza repeatedly formulates his considerations about man and his abilities, using quantitative conditional words (quatenus, eatenus). 29 man, including the ultimate philosopher, cannot extricate himself from his finite status and from his passive condition, while the common person also exhibits a certain degree of activity and reflectivity. This fact, that

pronoun in a reflective form and by the fact that spinoza speaks of the absence of knowledge differently from the way he refers to the ignorant.

24 see Gilad, Method, pp. 91-92. This is discussed at length there. on this point, spinoza’s claim in the TdIe, p. 37 is of great importance: “for the latter [from eternal things] are all by nature simultaneous.”

25 The epistemological ideal of descartes’s “clear and distinct” refers to synthesis because the knowledge of something implies the exposure of its causal context and the presence of its limits. The difference between descartes and spinoza which I remarked above is particularly relevant to the claim regarding the cogito: descartes points to the “I” as a thing whose necessary existence is detached from any context.

26 see note 23; compare: hallett, Spinoza, p. 66.

27 e 5p29s.

28 TdIe, p. 19.

29 for example, e 5p30,31; e 5p11,12. such examples are found on nearly every page of the Ethics. The use of these conjunctive adverbs (together and separately) is more complex, as is indicated, for example, in cassel’s dictionary.

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----------------

man’s consciousness is always found between these extremes, between full reflective activity and its absence, and between being aware of the fullness of the eternal context of things and failing to distinguishing it, does not rule out the importance of the sharp and primal distinction between these poles. only through this distinction can one understand the nature of man’s active and activated consciousness, as well as its status. The level of reflectivity of consciousness is perceptible at the psychological level as well. all of spinoza’s ideas on passions and passivity are linked to this topic. I will limit myself to a short remark and will expand further in the next section. In the extract from the final words of the Ethics, which are cited above, the tranquil wise person is contrasted with the ignorant person, who is ceaselessly tossed about by his thoughts. In the foreword to the TdIe, spinoza also emphasizes emotional turmoil and lack of reflectivity. after his description of the mind’s confusion, he adds that “this as a fact I suppose everyone knows, though few, I believe, know their own natures.” 30 Between the two parts of this sentence, there is an apparent opposition rather than a contradiction. Those who experience being tossed about are those who do not know themselves. more precisely: their excitement stems from the nature of their consciousness, just like the dreamer — to use spinoza’s image of the non-reflective consciousness — is moved by the images of his dream precisely because he cannot know himself or the way he is in the world. The distinction between reflective and non-reflective consciousness, as well as its description using the image of the dream, touch on essential points in spinoza’s thought. In using these motifs, spinoza perpetuates a long philosophical tradition which associates the ignorant with the dreamer and the goal of philosophy with awakening and the effort to live a life of wakefulness. 31 at this point, we should be more specific and clarify the role of this image in spinozian epistemology. as

30 TTP, p. 3.

31 Plato’s images of philosophy as a form of awakening are also applicable to spinoza’s philosophy. The non-philosophical person is caught in a deluding web of sleep; thus, imagination characterizes the cognitive activity of the masses.

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mentioned above, the types of human consciousness are not identical to either of the two extremes — absence of reflectivity or full reflectivity; moreover, we can assume that just as the human body is made up of different types of elements, so too man’s mind is also heterogeneous. 32 The nature of the ideas it comprises and the degree of intensity of reflection they entail are neither homogeneous nor permanent. 33 The heterogeneity of consciousness and the existence of secondary degrees of knowledge — not necessarily three or four — point to the rich and concrete aspects of thought, but do not rule out the validity of this basic distinction between the tendency of finite consciousness towards passivity or towards activity or between reflective and non-reflective consciousness. The image of the dream points to one pole of the repertoire of consciousnesses, and, its importance notwithstanding, bears a schematic role; the tendency of consciousness towards passivity rather than reflexivity is not necessarily simple or unitary, and is certainly not as transient as the dream situation.

II. InsTaBIlITy, assocIaTIons and eGocenTrIsm: The PsycholoGIcal asPecT

at the opening of TdIe and in the course of the Ethics, spinoza describes man’s sufferings (animi fluctuatio); he recalls the masses’ craving for things that “not only bring no remedy that tends to preserve our being,

32 “The human body is composed of a great many individuals of different natures”; “corpus humanum ex plurimis diversae naturae individuis componitur” (e 3p17s).

33 This point can be derived not only from the relation between the attributes, but also, for example, from the fact that the person living with the knowledge of “himself, God, and things” knows the structure of reality only as a sketch. he is aware of the existence of the infinite attributes, but not of their identity. he knows the logic behind the all- penetrating multiplicity of substance, although he does not grasp the concrete fullness of this multiplicity. TdIe, p. 37: “It would be impossible for human infirmity to follow up the series of particular mutable things.” This schematic aspect of the philosopher’s understanding leads him to notice continually the eternal existence of things, but leaves a large space for dim ideas and for varying degrees of reflective intensity, i.e. of heterogeneous consciousness. While I do not deny distinctions between different levels of knowledge, they should, however, be considered as the conceptual basis for understanding mental activity in light of spinozian ontology and psychology, rather than topics that exhaust all manifestations of thought.

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but even act as hindrances, not infrequently causing the death of those who possess them.” 34 These things that only seemingly satisfy the mind are “richness, fame, and the Pleasures of senses.” 35 The mind becomes totally addicted to these pleasures, and is loath to give up what is certain for something that is still uncertain, 36 i.e. to prefer an unknown pleasure over a known pleasure. however, once the mind has achieved satisfaction “… it is followed by extreme melancholy, whereby the mind, though not enthralled, is disturbed and dulled.” 37 In other words, the situation of the mind is that of someone unable to subdue his desires and hence is depressed due to his dissatisfaction. The turbulence — between uncontrollable desires and their pointlessness — only illustrates what spinoza often points to as the telltale sign of man’s distress: confusion, running around between opposite excitations, living between hope and fear, and not knowing the external reasons; “…like waves on the sea, driven by contrary winds, we toss about, not knowing our outcome and fate.” 38 at the beginning of the TdIe, he compares this existence to the situation of “a sick man struggling with a deadly disease.” 39 life experience acquaints all men with this inconsistency — even those who do not know themselves. 40 This is thus a starting point for philosophical analysis rather than a conclusion that emerges from that analysis. In the course of his psychological discussions in the Ethics, particularly in Book III , spinoza describes this inconsistency in what can be called “phenomenological” terms; he also explains it and the suffering it involves. It is important to recall that the aim of spinozian philosophy is not only to save man from the turbulence of his mind, but also to grant these phenomena a comprehensive articulation. This task is not a means only; it is an issue in itself. In the next section, we will discuss this in greater depth. at this point, we should simply recall

34 TdIe, p. 5.

35 Ibid, p. 3.

36 Ibid, p. 6.

37 Ibid, p. 4.

38 e 3p59s. The masses (vulgus, multitude, plebs) are characterized by inconsistency, an addiction to passions, foolishness and feelings of inferiority. spinoza refers to this repeatedly in his writings: see TTP, pp. 13, 57, 77, 81-82.

39 TdIe, p. 5.

40 TTP, p.3.

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that human faults are not, in spinoza’s eyes, disabilities that must be erased at once; they are necessary expressions of divine multiplicity. 41 This approach determines the non-judgmental tone that characterizes his analyses of human weaknesses and ailments. one example of this is his famous claim that he would seek to examine human feelings as people look at lines and volumes. 42 The main point in this statement is not the assertion of a logical and alienated analysis, as might be understood, but the emphasis on the suspension of judgment and the full commitment towards understanding people as they are, with all their weaknesses and in all their wretchedness. 43 The reasons for the inconsistency of the mind and for its sufferings can only be fully apprehended within the framework of spinozian ontology, 44</