Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Indigenous Rav Soloveitchik

The Emergence of Ethical Man, R' Joseph B. Soloveitchik: pages 52-59
At this point, we may examine the unique relationship that prevails between man and earth.

First, the earth claims man; he was taken out of Mother Earth, and to her he must return.
...until you return to the ground; for out of it you were taken: for dust you are, and to dust shall you return (Gen.3:19).
mitzvah of burial indicates the validity of the demand the earth makes on man. She insists upon the return of a part of her own self. As soon as the ruah E-lokim departs man, his inanimate body must be delivered to its rightful owner.

Let us penetrate more deeply into this mysterious man-earth relationship. God put primordial man in paradise for the specific purpose of tilling and keeping it:
And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to till it and to keep it (Gen. 2:15).
Obviously the prime task of man was to cultivate the ground:
And no plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet grown: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the earth (Gen. 2:5).
The close, intimate association between man and earth is already formulated in unequivocal words. The earth serves man; as long as there was no man, vegetative life did not emerge. On the other hand, man serves the earth ... the expressions
la-avod et ha-adamah and le-ovdah u-le-shomrah both mean "to serve the earth." Paradoxically, man both serves Mother Earth and subdues her (Gen.1:28). Apparently there prevails harmony between Mother Earth and her children. They both need each other. ... Because man was created out of the earth; there was a common ontic basis of man's existence and nature-reality...

Yet this state of peace and harmony did not last long. Paradisical man enjoyed the friendship and good will of his Mother-Earth. The first sin disturbed this beautiful harmony. Man sinned in the paradise and betrayed nature...

The earth was burdened with a curse
ba-avurekha, "because of your deed." You defiled the soil, you contaminated her... "Work" no longer describes a cooperative effort on the part of man and nature; it is now a struggle with nature, a mutual dislike. Man eats the fruits of Mother Earth in sorrow and by the sweat of his brow... Nature does not trust man any more; she hates to feed him or comply with his desires. Now man begins to fight nature, to conquer her by stealing her secrets, by spying on her, by compelling her into submission... man confronts nature in a hostile, fighting mood...

Earth, nature and man flow into each other. There is complete identity of man and earth. Let us not forget that by the word "earth", we understand not just the land but nature as a whole, the entire complex of physical conditions that make man's existence possible...

...Coexistence results in co-responsibility... Man's sins as well as his good deeds are also nature's. Man can either corrupt and defile nature or sanctify her...

...Man is not a universal abstract being who roams along the infinite lanes of the cosmos without finding attachment to any part of it. He is confined to a determinate finite world; he must, like the plant, be rooted in an enclosed part of the soil and live together with nature. For man, therefore, the greatest curse is to wander from place to place, unable to take root anywhere.


Blogger The back of the hill said...

I see SOMEONE is getting psyched up for yeshiva.

Especially noteworthy is the author's ability to interweave sets of symbols to deliver an integrated idea.

8/09/2007 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Elie said...

Great stuff! Thanks for posting it.

8/09/2007 1:40 PM  
Blogger Lipman said...

Don't like it that much. Not that I shout "Efowtesohkhe!" right away, but there's a bit too much of Gaia in it.

8/10/2007 5:58 AM  
Blogger Michael Koplow said...

My reaction is sort of the same as Lipman's. The "Mother Earth" business (which seems not to have been a slip of the tongue, since it occurs a lot, along with attributing wills and desires to "her") seems mighty odd.

8/13/2007 11:06 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

איפה מה מה מה?

I also thought the Mother Earth anthropomorphistic language was weird, but i liked it because i have hippie treehugging tendences (a.k.a. "Indigenous Judaism"). What i found more odd was later in the book the constant use of the term 'original sin', even though it is introduced with a long explanation contrasting the Jewish and Christian views of what the sin was and what its significance is.

8/14/2007 11:00 AM  

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