Thursday, March 12, 2009

Purim and Aviner

Barukh Goldstein's memory lives on. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leader of the rightwing settlers, said that while Barukh Goldstein was a tzadik, he shouldn't have killed all those Arabs without first getting the permission of the Oomah. Now, the Hebrew word, in the sense he gives to it, is taken from the German, i.e., das Volk. (Actually, the word was originally from the medieval Arabic ummah, but the term in medieval times simply meant "religious community." It took German romanticism to turn Das Volk into a metaphysical concept that, when merged with racism, culminated in Nazism.) The modern use of the Hebrew term in Zionist ideologues comes from German romantic nationalism. It is one of the not-so-subtle ironies of history that the only people who still use these volkish metaphysical notions that were discredited by Nazism, are Jews like Aviner. You see, he is a disciple of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, who managed to imbibe the volkish concepts of his father, Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, a mediocre and confused thinker, who is considered profound by other mediocre and confused thinkers.

Aviner's hiddush was not his praise of Goldstein but his criticism of him, i.e., of his "unlicensed" action. (In Aviner's community, nobody criticizes the tzaddik Goldstein.) And what Aviner seems to be saying is that had Goldstein been a soldier sent by the IDF (the army of the oomah) he would have been justified in murdering innocents.

Silverstein writes me that it's people like Aviner that keep him (and presumably others) from being orthodox. That is one way of coping with it. But I prefer my way. I consider him to be a deeply sick man (He used to impersonate a young girl named Yael in his parsha column, until he was apparently warned to stop, and he has been accused of sexual harrassment), and if there are many people who agree with him, then they are sick too, or brainwashed by an idolatrous, i.e., immoral ideology. But while I won't daven with Aviner (his Judaism is suspect, in my opinion, because he is cruel), that doesn't mean I will cease observing commandments because of him. The two of us have this is common – we think that the other is a tinok she-nishbah, a captive child raised among the idolaters. Where we disagree is what constitutes idolatry. For Aviner it is Western liberalism and culture; for me, it is the Judaism of Gush Emunim. Among my culture heroes are the German rabbis of the nineteenth century whom he despises for their diaspora mentality. Why should I cede my Judaism to him?

Forget about the Oomah. Let's talk about Uman. Like Pharoah, Rabbi Aviner is disturbed by masses of Jews leaving the country to worship their god in the wilderness, only for him, country is Israel and the wilderness is in the Ukraine. Now, I must admit, that I, too, don't like the cult of Rabbi Nahman of Braslav's grave. The sort of avodah zarah that goes on in Uman is enough to make a Maimonidean scream. Still, there are three good things about it: first, it pumps money into the Ukrainian economy, which sorely needs it; second, if the Braslav crazies are there, then they do less mischief in Israel; and third, it upsets religious Zionists like Aviner. After all, how dare all those frum moonies leave the Land of Israel for the Ukraine, just because a tzaddik is buried there.

So there you have his character -- upset that orthodox Jews leave Israel to go to Uman for the holidays but content that, had Goldstein received permission from the Volk, he could have slaughtered all those innocents.

I love orthodox Judaism too much to let it be profaned by the likes of Aviner.


Anonymous said...

Silverstein's excuse that he won't become Orthodox/observant is because of people like Rav Aviner, is just excuse. If he wanted to, he could join your Yedidyah congregation, they are mostly if not entirely "progressives" like yourself. He could join the anti-Zionist Satmar Hasidim, they don't like AIPAC and what Silverstein calls "the pro-Israel crowd" any more than he does. I have heard there is a congregation in the Washington DC where several of the "progressive" advisors to Clinton daven, (Kurtzer, Miller, Zackheim - I am not sure exactly which ones, but whoever they are they don't like settlers any more than Silverstein does).

Ultimately, you are right, one's committment to Torah and mitzvot transcends whatever foibles any particularly observant Jews do, so if Silverstein is not simply lazy then he should be able to find some "progressive" form of Orthodox Judaism to suit him.

Jerry Haber said...

Y. Ben David, I will pass over your slurs of Silverstein, who, in my opinion, speaks with more moral authority than all of the orthodox rabbis in Israel put together. But, of course, that is not saying much, is it?

But some corrections.

First of all, Miller is not orthodox, and he doesn't daven with Zakheim and where Kurtzer used to daven (Kurtzer teaches at Princeton and lives in New Jersey.)

Secondly, Zakheim an advisor to Clinton? Hah! He is as republican as they come, and served in both the DOD for both Bush av and ben.

Thirdly, I don't belong to Yedidyah, but if you must know, I belong to Ramban on Amazya, and did so before Benny Lau became the rabbi there. I did belong to Yedidya once, but that was years ago. For that matter I belong to the minyan at Pelekh, and the Baka Shivyoni minyan. As they say, 1 Jew, many shuls.

Avram said...

"In Aviner's community, nobody criticizes the tzaddik Goldstein."

That's sad and disgraceful. When I visited Hebron/Kiryat Arba the first time after I made aliyah, I discussed that. Most people I talked to were sickened by the actions ... There were some that defended it and called me a 'left winger' in the process. I never quite got that but oh well.

I guess just like we rarely hear the moderate voices of the Arab world, we rarely hear the 'moderate' voices of the Religious Zionist world ...

B.BarNavi said...

"He could join the anti-Zionist Satmar Hasidim"

WOW could that ever be dense. Everything Satmar stands for goes against all of Silverstein's progressive ideals. You can't expect an anti-racist feminist to join a gang of misogynistic bigots just because they share the same views on some marginal issue.

B.BarNavi said...

Besides, when it comes to Iran and the Middle East, Satmar are MUCH closer to AIPAC than Silverstein is.