R' Micha Berger has a very interesting post
over on his Aspaqlaria
blog, about differences between the Semitic
(=Jewish, Eastern) and Yefetic
(=Greek, Western) perspectives on the world.
Yefes is reductionist, believing the world can be understood as the sum of its smallest pieces. Sheim is holistic, looking at the interconnections between those pieces, and the pieces only gaining meaning from the relationships in which they partake.
He also discusses the ability of the Jewish holistic way of looking at the world to accept multiple contradictory premises, something impossible in Greek logic. I discussed this in one of my earliest posts, calling it the issue of P and Not-P
What I find incredibly interesting about R' Berger's post is that he associates the Semitic/Jewish perspective with the perspectives of other cultures, such as the Hindu and Buddhist cultures of South and East Asia, in distinction to the Yefetic/Greek perspective of European/Western cultures. In fact, in a response
to a comment of mine, he explicitly states:
I was intentionally implying that Judaism is an Eastern Religion. The Zohar does too, by saying that the meditative arts were the gift that Avraham gave the children of Keturah before sending them east to India and China.I'd actually like to respond to something RM"B said parenthetically, since it didn't seem so relevant to put in his comment stream, although it probably was. Maybe I just didn't want to risk getting into one of those debates on reading Bereishit non-literally and reconciling it with secular sources of knowledge.
Anyway, what he said was:
And besides, even though Canaanites were around Semites enough for their language to look Semitic, they are Hamites according to the the chumash.Now, all the archeological evidence I've ever seen seems to indicate that the Kena‘anites were just as 'Semitic' as we were; our language, the language God picked to give the Torah in, is a dialect of the Cana‘anite branch of Northwest Semitic. It makes much more sense that our Aramaic- or Hurrian-speaking Ancestors picked up Canaanite when they arrived in The Land, rather than the other way around. That said, as a person who leans towards what Godol Hador calls 'moshological' readings of the Primal Narratives, I feel that the familial connection between Hham and Kena‘an is probably meant to represent the Egyptian cultural-political influence on the inhabitants of The Land during the Patriarchal period. And since the Torah writes Kena‘an out of the House of Sheim, it would seem to be writing them out of the 'Semitic Worldview' as well. I guess then the only question is, we know what Sheim and Yefet stand for — what's up with Hham? R' S. R. Hirsch identified Hham as representing the emotional component of human civilization, but that wouldn't really fit in this system. Anyway, back to the topic...
What struck me about the post was that it seems to be a good representative of "Indigenous Judaism" — the idea that Yahadut
a [blasé] universally-leaning Western religion like a certain daughter religion with which it is all-too-frequently bundled והמשכיל ייקח לקח וייזהר בדבריו
, but is instead an [exotic] ethnic religion whose primary concern is with the life of a certain People and their relationship to their Land and to the God who gave it to them. Therefore, Judaism should not be contemplated in relation to Christianity, but instead in relation to other indigenous ethnic religions of the world, from Native America to Africa and all over the world. Now, R' Berger is not endorsing Jewish Shamanism
, but it comes from the same basic shift of perspective — as Jews, Judeans, Israelites, Hebrews, we (ironically enough) actually have more in common with cultures that frequently seem very idolatrous than with those more identifiably monotheistic faiths that appropriated our Scriptures and identity but missed the all-important connection to People and Land, and (depending on how exclusivist you want to be) God.
Now, there are many expressions of Indigenous Judaism; after all, it's not a movement or a philosophy, it's a lens. Secular Zionists celebrating the regalim
as the harvest festivals that were once a central part of their identity; 'Hilltop Youth' sprouting across the West Bank (whatever we think of their politics); Kabbalists innovating T"u biShvat seders; "Jewish Pagans
" instilling traditional rituals with 'holy passion'; Jews in the Woods shabbatons; and any number of other things.
Some of these ideas may be heretical, or come straight out of traditional sources. Rituals and practices may be mutar
according to Halakha. But it all stems from the same realization — the Old-New appreciation of Judaism as our ancestors felt it, following the cycle of life and nature, tracking the pace of the year and worshipping God in The Land, with the produce of The Land as God commanded, davar yom beyomo
everything at its proper time.
Building on that, let us now contemplate Hhanuka. I always felt that the Festival of Light and Guerrilla Warfare was a fairly simple holiday, tied to a specific historical event and to the hidden and obvious miracles that accompanied that event. Then I discovered the aggada told in the Talmud Bavli, masekhet ‘Avoda Zara 8a
Our Rabbis taught: When the first Adam saw the day getting gradually shorter, he said, ‘Woe is me, perhaps because I have sinned, the world around me is being darkened and returning to its state of chaos and confusion. This then is the kind of death to which I have been sentenced from Heaven!’ So he began keeping an eight days’ fast. But as he observed the winter equinox and noted the day getting increasingly longer, he said, ‘This is the world's course’, and he set forth to keep an eight days’ festivity. In the following year he appointed both as festivals. Now, he fixed them for the sake of Heaven, but the [heathens] appointed them for the sake of idolatry.(translation from here)
While the context is unmistakably giving an etiology for idolatrous Roman holidays, from the first time I encountered this aggada I couldn't help but associate it with Hhanuka. Eight day festival of light, during the darkest part of the winter. Adam Harishon celebrating the re-lengthening of the days after the solstice. Remember that for next year, when we once again count up
in candles, following the opinion of Beit Hillel...